10 Classic Melodies (You’d Never Know By Name)

10. Look Sharp/Be Sharp March, by Mahlon Merrick

WHAT IT WAS:
This charming little ditty was the theme to the Gillette Cavalcade of Sports radio and television program from the 1940s and 50s. For those of you too young to remember them, here they are in all their retro-glory:

BETTER KNOWN AS:
If that song sounds a bit familiar to you, congratulations on having access to an NES back in the day! The Look Sharp/Be Sharp March was eventually reused for the title screen theme for Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!, one of the most awesome sports video games of all time.

9. Gothic Power, by Christopher Field

WHAT IT WAS:
A song composed by theatrical trailer/television promo composer Chris Field, which apparently was a remarkably selective art before the advent of YouTube. This particular piece has since enjoyed eminence as…

BETTER KNOWN AS:
The single most epic trailer music in cinematic history. Even Requiem for a Tower pales in comparison, and how to do we know? When it came to announcing The Lord of the Rings trilogy for the world, this song is what they chose to go with the teaser.

8. Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor, Op. 35, by Frédéric Chopin

WHAT IT WAS: 
One of Chopin’s most famous–albeit somewhat awkwardly assembled–pieces. Its third movement is by far its most famous section.

BETTER KNOWN AS:
The Funeral March for every single non-Japanese cartoon in history.

7. Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary, by Henry Purcell

WHAT IT WAS:
The most self-explanatory song ever written. The dead Mary in question was the Mary II of England, who expired on December 28, 1694 at the age of 32 and the surprising height of 5 foot 11 inches. Mary was subsequently buried in Westminster Abbey on March 5 the next year to a full funeral procession accompanied by this cheerfully creepy beat composed by English organist Henry Purcell.

BETTER KNOWN AS:
The uber-eerie theme music to Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, which was made even more disturbing after Wendy Carlos had his/her way with it.

6. Bugler’s Dream, by Leo Arnaud

WHAT IT WAS:
A song commissioned by conductor Felix Slatkin, who was apparently too busy conducting to actually write music for himself. It was used for his 1958 album Charge!, which not that many people listen too nowadays. However, every two years, two of the world’s largest television networks like to dust off Leo Arnaud’s magnum opus for the most triumphant purposes possible.

BETTER KNOWN AS:
The music used for network coverage of the Olympic Games on ABC and NBC.

Sounds like the most spectacular feat in human history since Caesar marched on Rome—or at the very least since you first got laid, right? Well, that is the intended result.

5. Roundball Rock, by John Tesh

WHAT IT WAS:
Yes, John Tesh may be a far cry from the Mozart of his generation, but he did compose at least one musically piece in his career universally beloved and it is awesome. No, we are not talking about the theme song he wrote for Bobby’s World, but the surprisingly badass Roundball Rock. While this may not ring a bell, you may recognize it as the tune played more than 12,000 times from 1990-2002 as…

BETTER KNOWN AS:
The NBA on NBC theme song. That’s right. That theme which sounds like it belongs in the single most epic 16-bit game of all time was actually performed by none other than John Tesh.  And if you don’t think the man is milking that beauty for every time that it’s worth, here he is performing it in a concert hall to a packed audience:

4. Merrily We Roll Along, by Charlie Tobias, Murray Mencher, and Eddie Cantor

WHAT IT WAS:
A variation of the 1847 song Good Night Ladies by E. P. Christy, composed for Billboard Frolics cartoons in 1935, the later about a bunch of billboards that come to life and start dancing around. Of course, with both Good Night Ladies and Billboard Frolics have faded from memory, but you may still now these catchy tune…

BETTER KNOWN AS:
The theme song for Merry Melodies, one of the most delightful songs you probably hold from your childhood!

3. Butterfield’s Lullaby, by Daniel Butterfield

WHAT IT WAS:
A ‘lights out’ bugle call arranged by Union Army Brigadier General Daniel Butterfield during the US Civil War, this little tune the General’s way of telling his men to quit partying and to get to their bunks in a somewhat more gentle way than what soldiers would later experience in films such as Full Metal Jacket.

BETTER KNOWN AS:
Taps, perhaps the single most recognizable song in the entire US military. It turns out that Butterfield’s Lullaby went platinum so many times during the war that armies from both sides played the tune, eventually become the standard for military funerals by 1891. Of course, a string of emails has recently made the case that Taps was actually composed by a Confederate, but as with most Southern tales about the Civil War, this version turned out to be bullshit.

2. Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary”Main Title Theme” from King’s Row, by Eric Wolfgang Korngold

WHAT IT WAS:
The main theme to a 1942 drama so boring that it starred Ronald Reagan and had a book on its poster. King’s Row was the movie that made Reagan into a star, playing such an important role in his life that he requested its original orchestral score to be played by the White House for his inauguration. For anyone in the audience, they may have noticed that it sounded quite a lot like…

BETTER KNOWN AS:
The Star Wars main theme. For real. Check it out for yourself:

George Lucas has gone on record in interviews that he writes to music, and it looks like he might have provided John Williams with a mix tape of some of his favorites.  In short, not only was Eric Wolfgang’s Korngold’s main theme for King’s Row reborn into the Star Wars universe, but it may have also served as his inspiration for the Superman theme.

1. The Anacreontic Song, by John Stafford Smith

WHAT IT WAS:
The silly little theme song for a snooty, all-white gentleman’s club consisting of doctors, lawyers, and other fops with no less than two hyphens in their names. When they weren’t busy waxing about booze, Ancient Greece, and the eventual offspring of both subjects, the club was better known through eighteenth-century London as the Anacreontic Society. Because of their anthem’s heavy emphasis on booze, eroticism and bacchanalia—that famous ‘gangbang’ Todd Phillips showed up for in Old School—The Anacreontic Song, quickly became a popular drinking song throughout England.

BETTER KNOWN AS: 
The Star-Spangled Banner, the national anthem of the United States.

In one of the most truly inspirational moments of American history, Judge Joseph H. Nicholson, brother-in-law of attorney Francis Scott Key, realized that his brother-from-another-mother’s poem Defence of Fort McHenry reminded him of a song he used to sing in college. The Anacreontic Song was immediately mated with Francis Scott Key’s lyrics in a shotgun wedding of high patriotism, and eventually performed for the first time in October, 1814 at a Baltimore tavern during happy hour. Naturally, whoever sang it was probably drunk off his ass.

 

Related on The Smoking Jacket:
The Colon-Rectum, and Other Weirdly-named Animals 
The 8 Stupidest Things The United States Has Ever Done to its Currency 

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