Ostin Allegro's   Pop meets the Classics  Ostin Allegro

What's In and What's Out



What's on this site, what isn't - and WHY

What's interesting but didn't quite make it

What's In

To be included on the main page the pop music must have been:

  • a single

  • a hit in the UK

  • included in the Guinness Book of British Hit Singles - that means from November 1952 or later

  • based on a piece of classical music (i.e. influenced by, quoting from or using a melody)

What do I mean by influenced by? It is possible that the writer of a pop song has been "influenced by" a classic but that the influence was very subtle and he/she did not quote directly from or use a particular melody. My test would be that, if you listen to the pop song and can hear the quotation, then it's IN. If you can't, it's OUT. I'm sure there will be many borderline cases here. I have just had to rely on my own judgment.

What's Out

Songs from before November 1952

For the main index, the line has to be drawn somewhere. All through the history of music, composers have "borrowed" material from other works. Classical music has always been adapted by others and popularised. It is even thought that many traditional folk songs that go back hundreds of years, were popularisations of the hymn tunes or chants that people heard in church on Sundays! I can't include all these!! This century, many classical pieces have been adapted for other uses. The list runs right through to the start of the rock and roll era. The difference at this point is that the sale of recordings, helped by the arrival of the 7 inch 45 rpm single, began to overtake that of sheet music. This resulted in the various "charts" and "hit parades" of the records that sold best. It is the intention of this web site to list (in the main indexes) those songs and instrumentals that found their way into these charts. I have taken the Guinness Book of British Hit Singles (GBBHS) as the arbitrator. If it's not in here, it's not in the main list.

The GBBHS itself starts in November 1952 when the first ever chart (a top 12) was compiled for New Musical Express. The GBBHS moves over to the Record Retailer chart in 1960, and subsequently to the chart compiled by British Market Research Bureau in 1969.

I have not forgotten the earlier songs based on classical music, and there is a listing of some of these on another page. This is just a selection for the purpose of illustration. Go there now...

Album tracks

There are probably hundreds of these - it would be too difficult to find all of them, but may be my next project!

This means I've missed out classics such as

  • Brandenburger by The Nice (And a number of other classical pieces they did at the time). America (1968) is included.

  • Cans and Brahms by Yes

  • Pictures at an Exhibition by Emerson Lake and Palmer (and many other classically inspired tracks by this band)

"Straight" classical pieces that made it into the chart

  • Nessun Dorma from Puccini's opera Turandot - Hits for both Pavarotti and Domingo (1990)

  • Adagio from Spartacus by Kachaturian (See also TV themes below)

  • Ave Maria (Bach/Gounod) sung by Andrea Bocelli (1999) Leslie Garrett and Amanda Thompson (1993) and Shirley Bassey (1962)

  • Pie Jesu (from Andrew Lloyd-Webber's Requiem) sung by Sarah Brightman (1985)

  • La Donna e Mobile (and other songs) by the Three Tenors (1994)

  • On with the Motley (Vesti la Giubba) sung by Harry Secombe (1955)

  • The Story Of Three Loves by Winifred Atwell (1954) - Rachmaninoff's 18th variation on a theme by Paganini

  • Summertime (from Gershwin's Porgy and Bess)  in many versions by many people

  • Mack the Knife from Kurt Weill's Threepenny Opera in its many different versions

  • Thus Spake Zarathustra (Also Sprach Zarathustra) by R Strauss - The Philharmonia Orchestra (1969) - See Films below

  • Henry VIII Suite - played by The Early Music Consort directed by David Munrow (1971)

  • The Dambusters March (1955) played by the Band of the Royal Air Force

  • America (from West Side Story) - Leonard Bernstein (1994 World Cup Theme) - however there is a pop version by The Nice (1968)

Other "straight" songs from musicals

The Student Prince (Romberg and Donnelly - 1924) gave rise to a number of hits in the 1950s. The songs were mostly associated with the tenor Mario Lanza, and

Drinking Song (No 13 in 1955), I'll Walk with God (No 18 in 1955) and Serenade (No 19 in 1955) are probably the best known.

Film or TV Themes

  • ET (1982) Jurassic Park (1993) Superman (1979) - soundtrack excerpts of music by John Williams

  • The Deer Hunter (Cavatina) (1979) - although this was arranged as a song (He Was Beautiful) and a hit for Iris Williams in 1979

  • The Onedin Line (Adagio from Spartacus) (1971)

  • Vietnam (Pachelbel's Canon) (1988)

  • Theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1969) - Thus Spake Zarathustra. However, a pop version was a hit in 1973 for Deodato

- all of which got into the top 100 singles.

Electronic Performances of Classics

These are mostly on albums and were not hit singles. E.g.

  • Switched on Bach by Walter/Wendy Carlos

  • Various albums (e.g. Snowflakes are Dancing) by Tomita (featuring music by Mussorgsky, Debussy, Holst, Borodin et al.)

  • Pieces in a Modern Style by William Orbit (featuring music by Barber, Gorecki, Cage et al.)

Interesting but didn't quite make it

Death Disco - P.I.L. (Public Image Limited) (1979)

This song has a recurring guitar riff that sounds a bit like the famous tune from Tchaikowsy's Swan Lake

Requiem - Slik (1976)

The start of this sounds like it's going to be the start of Rodrigo's Guitar Concierto d'Aranjuez

Of course - this Guitar Concerto did become a hit when it was used in the same year by Manuel and his Music of the Mountains

The Only Flame in Town - Elvis Costello and the Attractions (1984)

This song seems to have the same chord progression as Bach's "Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring".

There is a keyboard break in the song which seems to borrow from Bach's melody, but is played at the wrong speed.

A song that is clearly based on this piece is the Beach Boys - Lady Lynda (No 6 in 1979).

Love Me Tender - Elvis Presely (1956,1987)

This song uses a the melody by George Poulton called Aura Lee, written in 1861 during the American civil war. Love Me Tender was also a hit for Richard Chamberlain in 1962, and Roland Rat Superstar in 1984!!

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