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Old 09-21-2017, 04:46 PM
It's Not Rocket Surgery! It's Not Rocket Surgery! is offline
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What is the most famous instrumental song of the 20th century?

I took a quiz on songs that don't contain the song's title. One of the questions concerned an entirely instrumental song, which of course meets the criterion.

The question was:
This song is probably the most famous instrumental pop song of the 20th century. Name this song, played in part by the
SPOILER:
Memphis Grand
.
His answer is:
SPOILER:
Green Onions, by Booker T. and the MGs, which is apparently the abbreviation for "Memphis Grand".

I never would have thought of that answer as the 20th century's most famous instrumental. Here's a blogger's listing of the top 100 instrumentals. He has "In The Mood" as #1, which I think is a reasonable answer. He also has the answer above as #31, which seems about right. OTOH, a couple of the instrumentals I would have mulled over for the top spot barely make his top 100 - specifically "Take Five", which he has at a silly #91.

So, what do you folks think is the most famous instrumental of the 20th century?

Last edited by It's Not Rocket Surgery!; 09-21-2017 at 04:47 PM.
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Old 09-21-2017, 04:50 PM
elbows elbows is offline
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My guess would have been, 'Here Comes The Bride'.
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Old 09-21-2017, 04:51 PM
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I would think Rhapsody in Blue. I'm not sure Green Onions is any better known then the instrumental version of Girl from Ipanema.
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Old 09-21-2017, 05:00 PM
Gordon Urquhart Gordon Urquhart is offline
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I'd be more inclined to go with something like Rhapsody in Blue or In the Mood as well, simply because they had more years in the 20th century to be popular than Green Onions.

By the way, Booker T. Jones has repeatedly confirmed that the M.G.'s were named after the sports car -- "M.G." didn't stand for "Memphis Group" (or "Grand"); the Stax publicity materials stating that "MG" was short for "Memphis Group" were probably an attempt to avoid legal hassles with the sports car manufacturer. Besides, the name of the band would have been "Booker T. & the Memphis Groups" and that just doesn't make sense.
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Old 09-21-2017, 05:01 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elbows View Post
My guess would have been, 'Here Comes The Bride'.
For 20th century pop song? I mean, I suppose if you bend the definition, but I'm assuming we're talking a song created/recorded in the 20th century in a popular music context.

"In The Mood" sounds like a good one for me. As much as I love Booker T and the MGs, there is no way "Green Onions" is the most popular. In the US, I would put forth "Linus and Lucy," but that's US specific.
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Old 09-21-2017, 05:02 PM
Suburban Plankton Suburban Plankton is offline
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The question referenced in the OP asks for the most famous instrumental pop song. That narrows the field consioderably, as well as imposing an arbitrary restriction on what may or may not be considered 'pop'.

"Here Comes the Bride", being the "Bridal Chorus" from Wagner's Lohengrin, is definitely not a 'pop' song. "Rhapsody in Blue" and "In the Mood" might have both in their own times been in the same category that 'pop' describes in this day and age, but I don't think that moniker would have ever been ascribed to either of them.

The first thing I thought of was "Wipeout", by The Surfaris (along with countless others).
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Old 09-21-2017, 05:06 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
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Originally Posted by Suburban Plankton View Post
"Rhapsody in Blue" and "In the Mood" might have both in their own times been in the same category that 'pop' describes in this day and age, but I don't think that moniker would have ever been ascribed to either of them.
See, I certainly would call at least "In the Mood" pop. Probably "Rhapsody in Blue," too, but definitely "In the Mood." How is it not a pop song? It's at least as "pop" as Green Onions, and maybe even moreso.

Last edited by pulykamell; 09-21-2017 at 05:07 PM.
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Old 09-21-2017, 05:17 PM
terentii terentii is offline
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I understood "instrumentals" to mean tunes that never had lyrics. A lot of the ones mentioned do, whether they are well known or not.

The first thing that came to my mind was "Classical Gas" (which, so far as I know, is indeed lyric-less).
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  #9  
Old 09-21-2017, 05:23 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by terentii View Post
I understood "instrumentals" to mean tunes that never had lyrics. A lot of the ones mentioned do, whether they are well known or not.

The first thing that came to my mind was "Classical Gas" (which, so far as I know, is indeed lyric-less).
Yes, "In the Mood" has lyrics. But the most well known version of the song is an instrumental, so I don't see how that version doesn't count as an "instrumental."

Other than that one, which songs mentioned so far have lyrics? I am not aware of lyrics for "Green Onions" or "Wipeout" or "Rhapsody in Blue" or "Linus and Lucy."

Last edited by pulykamell; 09-21-2017 at 05:24 PM.
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Old 09-21-2017, 05:39 PM
Jophiel Jophiel is offline
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While I wouldn't suggest it out ranks "Rhapsody in Blue" etc, my first thought for 20th Century Instrumental was "Chariots of Fire".
  #11  
Old 09-21-2017, 05:40 PM
Mahaloth Mahaloth is offline
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Going Home by Kenny G. must win in some parts of the world.
  #12  
Old 09-21-2017, 05:44 PM
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I would say "Walk Don't Run", "Wipeout", "Pipeline", "Hawaii Five-O" are four instrumentals that everybody knows, but can't name.
  #13  
Old 09-21-2017, 05:47 PM
Darren Garrison Darren Garrison is offline
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I would guess something by John Williams.
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Old 09-21-2017, 05:49 PM
The Other Waldo Pepper The Other Waldo Pepper is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by K364 View Post
I would say "Walk Don't Run", "Wipeout", "Pipeline", "Hawaii Five-O" are four instrumentals that everybody knows, but can't name.
But they can probably name the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE theme.
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Old 09-21-2017, 05:55 PM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is offline
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"Bugler's Dream." The name means nothing to most people, but since it's been used as the theme song for Olympic broadcasts sine 1968, everyone in the world recognizes it instantly after two notes.
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  #16  
Old 09-21-2017, 06:05 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RealityChuck View Post
"Bugler's Dream." The name means nothing to most people, but since it's been used as the theme song for Olympic broadcasts sine 1968, everyone in the world recognizes it instantly after two notes.
That's actually another one that came to mind.
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Old 09-21-2017, 06:24 PM
Bryan Ekers Bryan Ekers is offline
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Theme from Star Wars? James Bond Theme? For international recognition, these have to be up there.
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  #18  
Old 09-21-2017, 06:28 PM
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Non-music person here. I didn't know the name, but Green Onions is definitely one of the songs I know best in this thread, along with In the Mood and Wipeout. The hands down most familiar is Chariots of Fire but I don't think you can count TV and movie songs the same as pop songs.

Rhapsody in Blue is famous, and I've heard of it, but when I listened to it on Youtube, it didn't sound familiar at all.
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Old 09-21-2017, 06:28 PM
Tzigone Tzigone is offline
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Quote:
Yes, "In the Mood" has lyrics. But the most well known version of the song is an instrumental, so I don't see how that version doesn't count as an "instrumental."
I probably wouldn't call them instrumentals (in the context we're using here) unless they were either originally written or at least originally released as instrumentals - that being their purpose/intent/can't-find-the-right-word. But I am not a fan of instrumental music, so don't know if that applies in this case.
  #20  
Old 09-21-2017, 06:31 PM
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It's probably the theme from The Simpsons.
  #21  
Old 09-21-2017, 06:33 PM
Maserschmidt Maserschmidt is offline
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The first POP instrumental I thought of was Popcorn, the Hot Butter version:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YK3ZP6frAMc

Ain't even on the list though.
  #22  
Old 09-21-2017, 07:09 PM
Jophiel Jophiel is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Weedy View Post
The hands down most familiar is Chariots of Fire but I don't think you can count TV and movie songs the same as pop songs.
Back when the movie came out, "Chariots of Fire" received quite a lot of radio play. So it does strike me as a little different from, say, the Mission: Impossible theme.
  #23  
Old 09-21-2017, 07:18 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Weedy View Post
. The hands down most familiar is Chariots of Fire but I don't think you can count TV and movie songs the same as pop songs.
It made it to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US. I'm not sure how much more "pop" you can get (at least from an American perspective.)
  #24  
Old 09-21-2017, 07:33 PM
Gatopescado Gatopescado is offline
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Weird. I don't agree with the answer, but Green Onions was the first thing that popped into my head when I saw the thread title.
  #25  
Old 09-21-2017, 07:46 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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Out of all of the works mentioned in this thread, "Green Onions" is the only one I've never heard of. I find it hard to say that it's the most famous.
  #26  
Old 09-21-2017, 07:56 PM
cochrane cochrane is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by K364 View Post
I would say "Walk Don't Run", "Wipeout", "Pipeline", "Hawaii Five-O" are four instrumentals that everybody knows, but can't name.
I'm sure most people can name "Hawaii Five-O," especially since the reboot currently airs on CBS.
  #27  
Old 09-21-2017, 08:02 PM
Musicat Musicat is offline
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No love for Happy Birthday? Or do you consider that to be a 19th Century song (which is debatable)?

ETA: never mind, it's not usually known as an instrumental.

Last edited by Musicat; 09-21-2017 at 08:03 PM.
  #28  
Old 09-21-2017, 08:05 PM
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Dave Brubeck's Take Five?

Yakkety Sax?
  #29  
Old 09-21-2017, 08:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Mahaloth View Post
Going Home by Kenny G. must win in some parts of the world.
Now I'm home, I linking this.

I don't know if actually sold a lot of copies, but in China, this song is massive. Certainly the top recognized and remembered instrumental of the 20th century. Kenny G. had it pirated millions of times there, but I believe he tours there extensively and made all the money back(and more!).
  #30  
Old 09-21-2017, 08:08 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mahaloth View Post
Now I'm home, I linking this.

I don't know if actually sold a lot of copies, but in China, this song is massive. Certainly the top recognized and remembered instrumental of the 20th century. Kenny G. had it pirated millions of times there, but I believe he tours there extensively and made all the money back(and more!).
I actually don't recognize the song, but reading the comments, it does seem like everyone in China does, so that probably puts it at the head of our list.
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Old 09-21-2017, 08:10 PM
Colibri Colibri is offline
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I would have said Yakkity Sax.

IMO Green Onions is an absurd answer. There are plenty of instrumentals that are better known.
  #32  
Old 09-21-2017, 08:11 PM
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Am I lazy if I just want someone to make a mix of the whole 100? I would love to hear it all.
  #33  
Old 09-21-2017, 08:21 PM
Mahaloth Mahaloth is offline
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Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
I actually don't recognize the song, but reading the comments, it does seem like everyone in China does, so that probably puts it at the head of our list.
Yes, it is played at many stores, parties, festivals, and public events to indicate it is time to leave. Having said that, the song and Kenny G. in general are also very well known and popular there.

I lived there for two years. I think there is something about Kenny G's music that just appeals to Chinese culture for some reason. I can't figure out why, but it is what it is.

He could literally just tour and release music there and make millions off it. It's also probably why he backed off supporting Hong Kong during protests. He does not want to piss off mainland China.
  #34  
Old 09-21-2017, 08:24 PM
from_a_to_z from_a_to_z is offline
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Also the year of Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer"

Here is one vote for Francisco Tárrega's Gran Vals, composed in 1902. Surely one of the most-heard 20th century instrumentals.It can put you in *a* mood, if not *the* mood.
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Old 09-21-2017, 08:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jophiel View Post
Back when the movie came out, "Chariots of Fire" received quite a lot of radio play. So it does strike me as a little different from, say, the Mission: Impossible theme.
Quote:
Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
It made it to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US. I'm not sure how much more "pop" you can get (at least from an American perspective.)
Yeah, I agree it counts as a pop song. But I think one of the reasons it's well known is because it's associated with heroic, slow-motion, climactic movie moments. There is a visual and story aspect to its popularity. Something like Green Onions stands purely as a piece of music.
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Old 09-21-2017, 08:33 PM
terentii terentii is offline
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I'll forever associate "Green Onions" with the sunrise scene in American Graffiti.
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  #37  
Old 09-21-2017, 08:48 PM
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Theme from Star Wars?
Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band by Meco reached #1 on the Billboard 100 for two weeks. It sold over 2 million copies and is (according to Wikipedia) the best-selling instrumental single in the history of recorded music. John Williams' version also reached the top ten.

I'd say that's a winner.
  #38  
Old 09-21-2017, 09:01 PM
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Agree with 'In the Mood' we played it at our wedding. What a fun song.

Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells should be in the list. Theme from the Exorcist. But the full version does have lyrics. At least live.

Pink Floyd Echo's too. But that's probably just me.
And PF One of These Days, but there is one line of lyrics

Wow, haven't heard Green Onions in a long time. Thanks.
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Old 09-21-2017, 09:01 PM
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My first thought was "In The Mood", but there are a lot of solid contenders here. Probably not the most famous, but maybe in the running, is the "Dueling Banjos" ditty.
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Old 09-21-2017, 09:04 PM
terentii terentii is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
Yes, "In the Mood" has lyrics. But the most well known version of the song is an instrumental, so I don't see how that version doesn't count as an "instrumental."

Other than that one, which songs mentioned so far have lyrics? I am not aware of lyrics for "Green Onions" or "Wipeout" or "Rhapsody in Blue" or "Linus and Lucy."
By that definition, any song can be an instrumental. There's a difference between instrumental music as a genre and the instrumental version of a song.

The Top 100 list has a number of pieces with lyrics: "Exodus," "Route 66," and "A Time for Us (Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet)," f'rinstance. Even "Hawaii Five-O" had at least two sets of lyrics the last time I looked.
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Last edited by terentii; 09-21-2017 at 09:05 PM.
  #41  
Old 09-21-2017, 09:08 PM
The Other Waldo Pepper The Other Waldo Pepper is offline
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The Colonel Bogey March?
  #42  
Old 09-21-2017, 09:19 PM
jerez jerez is online now
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"Feels So Good" (Chuck Mangione) hasn't been mentioned and doesn't appear in the OP's link.
  #43  
Old 09-21-2017, 09:29 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by terentii View Post
By that definition, any song can be an instrumental.
Yes, that is absolutely correct. I don't see the problem. (Besides, at any rate, almost all the songs mentioned in this thread are "pure" instrumentals by your definition.)

Last edited by pulykamell; 09-21-2017 at 09:31 PM.
  #44  
Old 09-21-2017, 09:30 PM
kunilou kunilou is offline
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Just to throw in another definition of "pop" Maurice Ravel wrote Bolero in 1928, and the first recording of it was released in 1930. No lyrics.

The most famous instrumental no one can name? Might be Powerhouse.
  #45  
Old 09-21-2017, 09:34 PM
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Quote:
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Pink Floyd Echo's too. But that's probably just me.
Overhead the albatross
Hangs motionless upon the air
And deep within the rolling waves
In labyrinths of coral caves
The echo of the distant tide
Comes willowing across the sand …
Echos has an enormous, beautiful bridge, between two blocks of lyrics.

My instinct would be Jessica, for recognizable genuine "pop" – its absence from the list is glaring.

In my musicscape, Bourée fits, inasmuch as it is a very contemporary rendering of a somewhat otherwise obscure Bach composition.

Also, what about that Musicfuckingbox Dancer song that the ice cream truck around here plays into the dirt? Why is that not on the list?
  #46  
Old 09-21-2017, 09:37 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
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Even "Hawaii Five-O" had at least two sets of lyrics the last time I looked.
Also, so far as I can tell, the instrumental came first, and then two sets of lyrics were penned to the instrumental. Does that make it not an instrumental by your definition, then?
  #47  
Old 09-21-2017, 09:40 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
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Also, what about that Musicfuckingbox Dancer song that the ice cream truck around here plays into the dirt? Why is that not on the list?
I only just checked the list right now, and even frickin' Linus and Lucy isn't on it. I mean, come on. I only recognize maybe a third of the songs on that list.
  #48  
Old 09-21-2017, 09:56 PM
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"Linus and Lucy" would be my vote for "instantly recognizable but unable to name."
  #49  
Old 09-21-2017, 10:03 PM
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"Green Onions" was the first song I thought of, but then I also thought "nah, that can't be #1. Just the most familiar to me." I figured it would be some kind of theme/soundtrack instrumental. I definitely did not think of anything from the early 1900s. I was thinking more in the "rock era."

FWIW, it is the only instrumental on Rolling Stone's 500 greatest songs of all-time list, charted very high (#3 pop/#1 r&b), and was ranked on many critics' lists as the best song of the year and one of the best of all time. Also, the song was released over 15 years before my birth and I am very familiar with it despite never making an effort to seek it out or listen to it.

Last edited by actualliberalnotoneofthose; 09-21-2017 at 10:06 PM.
  #50  
Old 09-21-2017, 10:10 PM
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I'd say Dueling Banjos is a contender for this thread. (On preview, I see it's been mentioned.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by RealityChuck View Post
"Bugler's Dream." The name means nothing to most people, but since it's been used as the theme song for Olympic broadcasts sine 1968, everyone in the world recognizes it instantly after two notes.
It hasn't been used for every Olympics. ABC used to win the broadcast rights for the Summer Olympics in the U.S., and they used Bugler's Dream on their telecasts. NBC won the rights for the 1980 Summer Games, but because of the U.S. boycott there was almost no coverage. They got the rights again in 1988 and commissioned John Williams to write a theme for them. I don't know if people complained, but they went back to Bugler's Dream (in some form) in 1992 (although a different recording than used by ABC), and have stuck with it since.

However, it's not quite that simple either. Since this plays during the intros and outros, you usually get less than half-a-minute of the music. On those occasions when it was longer, ABC used to play more of Bugler's Dream, like this. (That video is a mashup, combining the different recordings used by the two networks.) What NBC uses now is itself a mashup. In 1984, Williams was also commissioned to write music for the Games, but it was from the organizing committee, not a broadcaster. That piece was Olympic Fanfare and Theme. NBC's current music is Bugler's Dream and Olympic Fanfare Medley; it uses the first 45 seconds of the Bugler's, then continues with elements from Williams' 1984 piece, and possibly others as well.

I don't know about the Winter Olympics, but I think it's similar.
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