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Hooked On… Pop ? A Playlist Of Classical Appearances In Popular And Rock Music

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Perhaps you caught the recent article here by our friend and Contributing Author Chuck Small:

Chuck’s piece included an instrumental pop version of “Jesu , Joy of Man’s Desiring” by J.S. Bach.

It was not something I had previously encountered, and it got my attention.

Soon after that, I started thinking about other instances where classical music can be heard in pop and rock. 

I compiled a list, mostly from memory, with a few added that I came across while digging around. Most of the references to classical works are obvious. But there are some songs that merely quote a brief snippet, often at the end. I’ve included a Spotify playlist below. 

A few notes…

  • There are many, many recordings of “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows.” Alice Cooper’s version is not the most popular, but I chose it because, well, Alice.
  • Also Sprach Zarathustra by Deodato was also (pun not intended) in Chuck’s article, but that one I knew very well.
  • For Emerson, Lake, and Palmer’s Pictures at an Exhibition (Live), being that it’s an entire album, I just included a couple of tracks on the playlist.
  • Scads of jazz artists have released covers of classical pieces. I’m not going to get into that world here… but it’s certainly a topic that could be explored in a future article.

And finally, and perhaps most importantly:

I have banned anything from Hooked on Classics from this list.

Because I can.

Okay, here we go!

  • “Could It Be Magic”– Barry Manilow (Prelude in C minor, Op. 28, Number 20)
  • “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows” Alice Cooper (Fantaisie-Impromptu, Op. 66)
  • “This Time”– David Meece (Étude Op. 10, No. 12 in C minor “Revolutionary”)
  • “The Minute Waltz” – Barbara Streisand (Waltz in D-flat major, Op. 64, No. 1)
  • “Till the End of Time”– Perry Como (Polonaise in A flat major, Op. 53)

– F. Chopin

  • “Midnight Blue” – Louise Tucker (Piano Sonata “Pathetique” No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13, II. Adagio Cantabile
  • “A Fifth of Beethoven” Walter Murphy (Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67
  • “This Night” Billy Joel (Piano Sonata “Pathetique” No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13, II. Adagio Cantabile)

L. van Beethoven

  • “Never Gonna Fall in Love Again” Eric Carmen (Symphony No. 2, Op. 27- III. Adagio)
  • “Full Moon and Empty Arms” – Frank Sinatra (Piano Concerto No. 2, op. 18, III. Allegro scherzando)
  • “All By Myself– Eric Carmen (Symphony No. 2, Op. 27- II. Adagio sostenuto – Più animato – Tempo I)

S. Rachmaninoff

  • Joy”– Apollo 100, Tom Parker (Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring
  • “Mystery of Love” – Donna Summer (prelude from Prelude and Fugue No. 2 in C minor, BWV 847 from “The Well-Tempered Clavier“, Book I
  • “Sing Your Praise to the Lord” – Amy Grant (fugue from Prelude and Fugue No. 2 in C minor, BWV 847 from “The Well-Tempered Clavier“, Book 1

J.S. Bach

  • “Kochajcie Bacha dziewczęta – Skaldowie ( Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major, BWV 1068)
  • “All You Need Is Love” – The Beatles (2-Part Invention No. 8 BWV 779)
  • “They” Jem (sample from Swingle Singers’ adaptation of prelude from Prelude and Fugue in F minor, BWV 881 from “The Well-Tempered Clavier”, Book II)

    J.S.Bach

“Russians” – – Sting (Lieutenant Kijé, Symphonic Suite, Op. 60: II. Romance)

S. Prokofiev

  • A Lover’s Concerto – The Toys (Minuet in G Major, BWV Anh. 114)

    C. Petzold
  • “Also Sprach Zarathustra” – Deodato (Also sprach Zarathustra Op. 30)

    – R. Strauss
  • Fanfare for the Common Man” – Emerson, Lake & Palmer (same title)

– A. Copland

  • “Tubthumping” – Chumbawamba (Prince of Denmark’s March (a.k.a. Trumpet Voluntary)

J. Clarke

  • “Ave Maria” Beyoncé (“Ellens Gesang III”, D. 839, Op. 52, No. 6, 1825)

– F. Schubert, adapted as “Ave Maria”

  • “Memories” – Maroon 5 (Canon in D Major)

– J. Pachelbel

  • “Pictures at an Exhibition” (live album)- Emerson, Lake & Palmer (same title)
  • Night on Disco Mountain”– David Shire (Night on Bald Mountain)

– M. Mussorgsky, arr. by N. Rimsky-Korsakov)

  • “Halelujah” (from Handel’s Messiah: A Soulful Celebration)– various artists (Hallelujah from Messiah (HWV 56)

– G. F. Handel

  • “In the Hall of the Mountain King– Thunderclash (In the Hall of the Mountain King from Peer Gynt, Suite No. 1, Opus 46)
  • “Asia Minor”Kokomo (Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 16, I. Allegro molto moderato)

– E. Grieg

  • “Nut Rocker” – B. Bumble & The Stingers (March from The Nutcracker, Opus 71, Act I, Scene 1: No 2)

– P. Tchaikovsky

I know there are more examples of this out there – things I have forgotten, or haven’t heard. 

I invite you to enlighten me as to anything I missed, and you may see it added to the playlist. 

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rollerboogie

Music is what brought me here, but I do have other interests. I like ill-advised, low budget movies that shouldn't even be close to good, but are great, and cats too.

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JJ Live At Leeds
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February 19, 2024 8:31 am

Great work. I suspect this is just the tip of a very large iceberg.

Wonder which composers would approve of their work being purloined and who will be turning in their graves?

I’ve another for Pachebel’s Canon In D Major. The chord sequence of Altogether Now by The Farm is lifted directly from it. Compare and contrast with your Maroon 5 example.

https://youtu.be/iRgtzZ-mOQo?feature=shared

And from their debut album, a ska version of Swan Lake by Madness

https://youtu.be/yI5IWk_UtpM?feature=shared

Pauly Steyreen
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Pauly Steyreen
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February 19, 2024 6:07 pm

Another Pachelbel appearance is the chord progression from Blues Traveler’s “Hook”

https://youtu.be/pdz5kCaCRFM?si=y_6AtKzJ7C2HgVdO

Phylum of Alexandria
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February 19, 2024 8:40 am

Nice, enjoying the playlist.
I’m not sure if you want Serge Gainsbourg’s trollishly creepy hit “Lemon Incest” on your mix, but it’s based on Chopin’s Etude 3.
 
(As an aside, there’s a great bit in the time travel comedy film Flashback where George Sand plays Chopin’s piece on the piano, and the protagonist sings along, excitedly proclaiming: “Gainsbourg!”)
 
Anyway, if you want a slightly more reined in Gainsbourg pick (relatively speaking), there’s “Wax Doll, Rag Doll,” based on Beethoven’s Piano Sonata 1.
 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRva0YOVtcI
 
JJ mentioned Swan Lake, and that was also used by PiL to great effect.
 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fiQk5hy54oE

JJ Live At Leeds
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February 19, 2024 9:44 am

The PIL version of Swan Lake is a much scarier prospect. Madness are here for a good time, PIL are here for the end of the world.

Phylum of Alexandria
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February 19, 2024 8:42 am

Also, not sure if you care for outright samples, but this was a fantastic use of Stravinsky’s Rite.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dI4wZxDWFqk

Napoleon of Birds
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February 19, 2024 8:55 am

First of all: the Get Bach single cover is a masterpiece. Shout out to mt for that one.

And as for classically inspired nuggets, the best I can do are songs that stretch the category a bit.

Kesha’s “Take It Off” samples the snake-charmer melody, a piece of music at least 170 years old with no known composer — or copyright.

Robin Thicke’s debut single “When I Get You Alone”, released at a time when his hair lived up to his last name and when he wanted to be Justin Timberlake without a Timbaland, samples “A Fifth of Beethoven” in truly strange ways and has a Beethoven songwriting credit as well as a Murphy one.

Lastly, we have Allan Sherman and the deathless 1963 novelty that is Camp Granada. (Since I am on mobile, I choose to reject its lengthy, parenthesis-choked release name.) You already know this, but it just uses Ponchielli’s “Dance of the Hours” as both a sample and the vocal melody. I love that ridiculous song.

mt58
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February 19, 2024 9:09 am

 🙏 

JJ Live At Leeds
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February 19, 2024 9:54 am

With Allan Sherman we may have an answer to my question of which composers would be turning in their graves at the use of their work. Then again, we appear to be light on historical records of Ponchielli’s sense of humour. Maybe that turning is writhing with mirth.

Low4
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February 19, 2024 11:38 am

I was going to say it’s good as long as kids go to camp, but then I realize that these days “camp” is likely to be something like “coding camp” with none of the joys enumerated in the Sherman classic.

Low4
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February 19, 2024 11:34 am

I will simultaneously apologize and beg forgiveness for this up front, but this reminds me of a really bad joke.

Q: What’s Beethoven up to these days?
A: Decomposing.

Virgindog
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February 19, 2024 1:08 pm
Reply to  Low4

Apologize? I won’t hear of it! Unfortunately, neither would Beethoven.

LinkCrawford
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February 20, 2024 9:58 am
Reply to  Virgindog

double-oof

AdaminPhilly
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February 19, 2024 1:17 pm
Reply to  Low4

Some years ago, I cited the classical composer Elliot Carter as an example of creativity in old age. I said, he’s over 100 years old and still composing. Without missing a beat, my friend said, “And soon he’ll be decomposing.”

AdaminPhilly
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February 19, 2024 1:46 pm

I keep track of the ones I have, so here are some additional ones:

“Same Old Lang Syne”; Dan Fogelberg; based on the 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky

“Stranger in Paradise”; Tony Bennett with Percy Faith & His Orch., Chorus;
adapted from “Gliding Dance of the Maidens” in Alexander Borodin’s opera Prince Igor [I’m skipping several other major hits by Sinatra, Como, Jo Stafford, etc. from the pre-rock era that would qualify.]

“Don’t You Know”; Della Reese; based on “Musetta’s Waltz Song” from Puccini’s “La Boheme”

“The Windmills of Your Mind”; Noel Harrison, Dusty Springfield, et al; uses parts of Sinfonia concertante in E-Flat Major, K. 364: II; Andante

“Night of Fear”; The Move; main riff was derived from Tchaikovsky’s, 1812 Overture

“A Groovy Kind of Love”; The Mindbenders, Phil Collins, et al; adapted from Sonatina in G major, op. 36 no. 5 written by Muzio Clementi

“American Tune”; Paul Simon; melody from Johann Sebastian Bach’s chorale from the St. Matthew Passion

“I’ll Stand by You”; Pretenders; melody from Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Minuet for Lovers”

“Just Because”; Lloyd Price and His Orchestra; adapted from “Caro Nome, aria from Verdi’s “Rigoletto”

“Isn’t Life Strange”; The Moody Blues; melody based on Pachelbel’s Canon In D.

AdaminPhilly
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February 19, 2024 10:02 pm
Reply to  rollerboogie

Dunno. Just going by SecondHandSongs.

lovethisconcept
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February 19, 2024 4:03 pm
Reply to  rollerboogie

One of my absolute favorites of his. I had no idea that it was derived from Bach.

Virgindog
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February 19, 2024 2:03 pm

In Yes’s cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “America,” they briefly quote “America” from Bernstein’s “West Side Story.” Does that count?

mt58
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February 19, 2024 2:38 pm

Have Yourself A Prokofiev Little Christmas:

https://www.tnocs.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/IBIFC.mp3

cappiethedog
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February 20, 2024 12:32 am

Oh, wait. Two Johann Strausses? Just like Devo has Bob 1 and Bob 2.

Johann Strauss II wrote “The Blue Danube, Op. 314”. Malcolm McLaren uses it in “House of the Blue Danube”. It’s from the album Waltz Darling. I checked Wikipedia. I don’t see Strauss II in the writing credits. That seems wrong.

LinkCrawford
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February 20, 2024 10:15 am

With all of these great suggestions, I can’t believe I still have one that hasn’t been mentioned. Perry Como’s “Hot Diggity (Dog Ziggity Boom)” quotes from Emmanuel Chabrier’s 1883 composition, “España”, which is a pretty fun piece on its own. Hot dog!

Here it is cued up to the recognizable melody:
https://youtu.be/0_aCpAcK4l8?t=59

Last edited 2 months ago by LinkCrawford
cstolliver
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February 20, 2024 11:37 am

Thanks for the shoutout, RB! Louise Tucker’s “Midnight Blue” is one of those great forgotten ’80s gems. It’s one of at least three songs on my iPod with that title, all of which I love. (That’s probably an idea for a future column … the song title with the strongest, completely different compositions.) Great job with this!

blu_cheez
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February 20, 2024 5:28 pm

Elvis’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love” is based on “Plaisir d’amour” (Jean-Paul-Égide Martini, 1784)

mjevon6296
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February 20, 2024 11:50 pm

Off the topic but just wanted to add that the best use (for me) of Apollo 100’s “Joy” was in the movie “Boogie Nights”. Early in the movie, young Mark Walberg walks into his bedroom and “Joy” starts playing and the camera slowly revolves around the room giving you the most 70’s male teen pop culture rush you have ever seen.

(I am sure the scene is on the YouTube.)

Last edited 2 months ago by mjevon6296
mjevon6296
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February 21, 2024 12:08 am
Reply to  mjevon6296

EDIT: Not that anyone will see this but the scene is NOT on YouTube. I am guessing there are several copyright issues with the posters shown as the camera zooms around.

panoramastitcher
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February 22, 2024 11:05 am

Depeche Mode have released a version of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” on a 12” of “Little 15”. (I played the b-side by mistake on 33 instead of 45 which made it a very interesting ambient version! Both tracks on the b-side are piano instrumentals, so you couldn’t tell by distorted vocals.)
Erasure have recorded a version of “In The Hall Of The Mountain King” by Edvard Grieg which was a bonus track on the CD version of the album The Circus. According to the wiki page of “In The Hall Of The Mountain King”, there’s tons of other versions of the piece or songs that incorporate it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_the_Hall_of_the_Mountain_King?wprov=sfti1#Music_2

panoramastitcher
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February 22, 2024 6:04 pm
Reply to  rollerboogie

The DM version is apparently just Alan Wilder on piano. Wikipedia says about it: “The 12″ b-side also contains a performance of Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata #14”. According to his website, Wilder did not intend for it to be a b-side, as he was merely performing it for fun, but Gore stealthily recorded it. Wilder did not perform the piece perfectly (his error occurs near the end of the song).”
(Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_15?wprov=sfti1#Release)

mt58
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February 22, 2024 1:27 pm

Hello, old friend ! We’re glad to see you!

panoramastitcher
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February 22, 2024 5:55 pm
Reply to  mt58

Hello, ! 🙂
It was about time that I joined here!
I’m really missing the TNOCS but I just don’t have the time anymore to participate regularly. 🙁

mt58
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February 22, 2024 6:06 pm

We understand. Everyone is so busy, but it is really nice to see folks come by whenever they have a chance.

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