Technically, the "true" classical period was from roughly 1750 to 1850. It's just that people tend to use the term to refer to any music from after the Renaissance and from before jazz (or ragtime, in the case of Americans).
The "classical music canon" that average viewers can be expected to know only covers a little over 200 years of music, from the late Baroque period (starting around 1700) to the early 20th century. Good luck finding a non-aficionado who is familiar with medieval, Renaissance, early baroque music, or anything written in the last 60 years that isn't a film score or Philip Glass.
Fiction can ignore most of the early 20th century in the musical development. No one wrote anything more adventurous than the Debussy and Ravel above; certainly not late Scriabin or the Second Viennese School. Maybe the audience can get Stravinsky, if they're lucky.
Bach's Suite No. 1 in G Major (only cello piece, and only the prelude)
Toccata in D Minor (always played on a pipe organ) for vampires and other "creepy" things. Usually only the first few bars are played, and the not-so-creepy fugue is almost never played, though its association with the toccata means that sometimes, the fugue is used for "creepy" things. (Ironically, when a score was first put to the Bela LugosiDracula movie, they used Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake instead.)
"Wohl mir, daß ich Jesum habe"/"Jesus bleibet meine Freude", the sixth and tenth movements, respectively, of the cantata Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben The melody of the two movements is better known as Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring. The tempo is slower than what Bach intended, and the original German lyrics never appear, if any lyrics are used at all. The melody played is always an arrangement of the original melody.
Rossini's "William Tell Overture". And even at that, people are unlikely to realize that the two best-known parts are part of the same piece of music. And the latter part is just as likely to be known as "The Lone Ranger theme".
Schubert's Unfinished Symphony, a.k.a. "that tune from The Smurfs.".
Aaron Copland only did Fanfare for the Common Man and Rodeo (and then only the Hoe-Down part; y'know, "Beef: It's What's for Dinner". Dun dun dun.)
George Gershwin either didn't write any classical music (only showtunes) or only wrote "Rhapsody in Blue" (and we only know that one because United Airlines uses it as their theme song).
Asked to name a composer, most wouldn't name Gioacchio Rossini or Giuseppe Verdi but it's a toss-up between the two who wrote the most tunes everybody recognises and can hum but can't identify. Rossini gave us the fast bit from William Tell aka the Lone Ranger music, the overtures from The Barber of Seville and The Thieving Magpie, La donna č mobile and others; Verdi the chorus of Hebrew slaves from Nabucco, the brindisi from Traviata, the triumphal march from Aida, and the Dies Irae from the Requiem.
General Notes: Vocal Music
Almost no opera contains more than one aria. No single operatic role ever has more than one aria. There are no duets or ensemble pieces.
During the first half of the 20th century Enrico Caruso would regularly be namedropped as the most famous male opera singer. Near the end of the second half Luciano Pavarotti is the most popular choice. If you are lucky the other two tenors, Placido Domingo and JoséCarreras might be mentioned as well. Female opera singers are even more obscure. Maria Callas is the one everyone knows; thanks to Freddie Mercury, Montserrat Caballé might ring a bell as well.
There is only one reggae artist, Bob Marley. And everything with a reggae beat will have been written by him. For that matter, reggae is usually portrayed as being the only genre of music in the Caribbean. Apparently, Chutney Music, soca, and calypso don't exist in fictional settings. Well, maybe they do, but they'll be classified as reggae music.
Punch ""Weird Al" Yankovic" into a LimeWire search, and you're bound to find scores of parody songs with his name on them that he didn't write. Apparently, people have never heard of Bob Rivers or Cledus T. Judd. It's particularly unfortunate when this happens with songs about subjects the artist it's attributed to would never touch. The fairly family-friendly artists have had their names attached to stuff they'd never have written in a million years.
Among Canadian listeners, the Arrogant Worms get this a lot too (though still not as much as Weird Al). Again, often with stuff much racier or more offensive than the Worms themselves would ever do. Some of the most persistent errors of this kind involve attributing songs by Edmonton band Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie to the Worms.
If you were a fan participant of modern a cappella (a musical style which is too cheap to buy instruments) at the dawn of the millennium, you were crippled by the ignorance of the user who did the first major file-sharing for the genre: he thought the only two bands were Brown University's Brown Derbies and Rockapella. Even songs by all-female groups were attributed to them, which is amusing seeing as how both groups are all-male.
On the same note, it seems that any goth or dark-themed music associated with goths is made by one of four artists, according to P2P networks: The Sisters of Mercy, The Cure, Bauhaus, and Siouxsie and the Banshees. Anything female is attributed to Siouxsie; anything else to one of the other three (mostly Sisters). 'Cry Little Sister' from The Lost Boys has been attributed to the Sisters of Mercy. Movie about vampires = Must have been made by the Sisters of Mercy?
There have only ever been two German bands making popular music: Kraftwerk and Rammstein. Scorpions are fairly well-known, even in the USA, but not necessarily associated with Germany.
A weird example is that a Dutch parody of Barbie Girl is often attributed to Rammstein, despite A) being sung in Dutch, not German, B) not being similar to their musical style (poppy music instead of metal), C) featuring a female vocalist, and D) Rammstein not being known for parodies (they've done lyrics and videos with parody content, but these are hardly their main claim to fame; and full-blown parodies of specific songs by other artists really aren't their thing).
Any country music parody tends to get attributed to Jeff Foxworthy, regardless of quality, theme, or voice. Simply because the one-off "Redneck 12 Days of Christmas" was a hit, people apparently assume Foxworthy to be a singer. Hasn't anybody ever heard of Cledus T. Judd? Or, for that matter, Ray Stevens?
In the 1970s UK, Billy Connolly would parody the only country music then known to your average Brit: Tammy Wynette singing about cheatin' men.
Corollary: All anime soundtracks are by Yoko Kanno.
Corollary #2: All instrumental TV themes are by John Tesh.
There's apparently only one band that did live performances of video game songs: The Minibosses. That is, if you believe filenames...
Irish musician Enya, who does neo-Celtic new age music, will sometimes get credit for anything that vaguely resembles her work. Somewhat understandable for works by her sister Moya Breannan or her former band Clannad, but stranger when it's actually, say, Loreena McKennitt, a Canadian musician who sounds nothing like her apart from working in more or less the same genre. Karl Jenkins Adeimus is attributed to her too.
Any Irish-sounding Drunken Song is credited to the Pogues. Of particular note on file-sharing services is Token Celtic Drinking Song, which will never, ever, be found credited to the band Jimmy George.
Ireland has only ever produced just two rock bands: U2 and Thin Lizzy (though U2 are much more likely to get a mention than Lizzy.) My Bloody Valentine, Horslips, The Undertones, Stiff Little Fingers, Boomtown Rats and Ash apparently don't exist. (Though The Corrs and The Cranberries sometimes show up on the occasional rom-com soundtrack, maybe.)
To judge by oldies-station playlists (at least in the UK), the only song Soft Cell ever recorded was their cover of "Tainted Love". No playlist compiler has, it would seem, ever heard of "Bedsitter", "The Torch" or "Say Hello, Wave Goodbye" amongst others. (Ironically, recent covers of Tainted Love are usually covers of the Soft Cell cover, rather than of the original.)
All nerdcore is by mc chris, even the stuff where the artist introduces himself. The worst part is mc chris doesn't even consider himself nerdcore.
Apparently, some people believe The Dark Side of the Moon was Pink Floyd's only album. For double bonus amusement, ask them to name a Pink Floyd song. It will be from "The Wall". Roger Waters will always be referred to as Pink Floyd in these conversations.
The only progressive rock bands are King Crimson, Yes, Genesis, Pink Floyd, and maybe Jethro Tull. And sometimes not even all of them - lots of people only know Genesis for their more pop-oriented 80s material and have no idea they ever did prog rock or had Peter Gabriel as a member. To a lesser extent, Yes and Tull sometimes gets the same treatment from people who only know the songs that show up on the radio. And King Crimson suffer a severe case of Mainstream Obscurity - lots of people have heard the name and are vaguely aware that they're an influential band, few could name even one of their songs or albums.
Good luck on anyone knowing any song by Chris de Burgh except "Lady in Red", his Black Sheep Hit. Honourable mention goes to Mystery Science Theater 3000 for referencing "Don't Pay the Ferryman" in at least two different episodes.
The Bee Gees are overshadowed by their disco era; relatively few people are aware of their Beatlesesque pop era from the '60s and early '70s, nor are very many people aware they began as teens playing an obscure-in-America musical genre called skiffle.
Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks are founding members of Fleetwood Mac.
Most people associate New Wave music with a limited selection of music from the latter era of New Wave and the synthpop era. Not a lot of people know New Wave existed in 1975 - 76 or that it originated as a subgenre of punk rock. Or that a lot of punk rockers morphed into more conventional New Wave acts (cf. Classix Nouveaux, Lords of the New Church). New Wave itself had several substyles, and most of the best-remembered groups- The Knack, The Go-Gos, Cyndi Lauper, The Bangles; suspiciously almost all Los Angeles bands- were highly-commercial Power Pop acts who had little or no connection to the earlier ones who gave the movement its name. Some people believe the 4 groups only had like 2-3 songs each. Most of these people only know 1 song by The Knack. Part of the problem is that many of the original and/or most famous New Wave acts (The Cars, Dire Straits, Talking Heads) didn't comfortably fit the stereotype, as they performed music in a variety of styles and sometimes even genres. The Cars, for example, tend to be remembered for their '80s hits ("Shake It Up", etc.), but their career actually took off in the late '70s. Their first big hit was "Just What I Needed" - but since its synths aren't quite as exaggerated as on later Cars songs, people can be surprised when they find out who it's by.
Punk itself gets treated this way. Ask most people over the age of 30 or so to name the first punk band that comes to mind, and you'll probably get one of only five examples: The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, The Clash (who weren't even purely punk rock), Blondie (who was barely punk at all), or Green Day. Nobody remembers the Dictators. Or the Circle Jerks. Or Black Flag. Or...
Except perhaps for Black Sabbath and Metallica, the only Heavy Metal that people know of or remember is Hair Metal, and it's all from The Eighties. Try finding any non-metal fans who've seriously listened to Rainbow. Or Judas Priest (except for "Breaking the Law" and maybe "You've Got Another Thing Comin'" or "Painkiller"). Or Motörhead (except for "Ace of Spades"). Or Iron Maiden (except for "Run to the Hills" and maybe "The Trooper"). Or Slayer (except for "Raining Blood", aka the other song that every beginning guitarist can play, since the intro riff is all that ever shows up). Or Pantera (except for the song "Walk", which just about everybody's heard, and maybe "Cowboys of Hell"). Or Megadeth (except for "Symphony Of Destruction" and "Peace Sells"). Or Cradle of Filth. Deep Purple - the group that practically invented metal - will get mentioned, but only for "Smoke on the Water" (a.k.a. "that really dumb song that any mediocre guitarist can play," and the guitar riff is the only part of the song that exists). Even among hair bands, there are examples (when's the last time you heard anybody mention Dokken?).
Increasingly, Nu Metal band Linkin Park is averting this treatment, but this is something of a double aversion in that the band relinquished the nu-metal label years ago.
Most barely have any clue about the difference between thrash or death or speed or traditional metal genres. A newcomer will tend to recognize only three subgenres: Hair Metal, "dark, scary metal", and blues-rock played really loud and with wild guitar solos (which occasionally overlaps with hair metal). A fourth genre - prog-metal like Blue Oyster Cult or Queensryche - will get mentioned if the newbie is trying to show off.
There was only ever one Ultravox — the one with Midge Ure as lead singer. Poor John Foxx. Likewise, there was only ever one Human League and that was after 2/3 of the original League left to form Heaven 17 (who some people may only recognize as the guys behind "Let Me Go") and Phil Oakey had to find a way of keeping the Human League going.
It's a common tendency for people to say they "listen to everything" but mean only the (usually incredibly narrow) range of music that gets decent radio coverage in their area. Grill them for specifics, and watch them backpedal. "Rap? Opera? Bluegrass? Klezmer?" For many of them, there will be at least one form of music on that list whose existence they were unaware of.
Surf music with vocals has only ever been recorded by The Beach Boys. Including "Surf City" and "Little Old Lady from Pasadena". When the early Nineties incarnation of The Beach Boys appeared on Home Improvement, Tim referenced this trope by mentioning a number of car songs he incorrectly thought were performed by the Boys, only to have them respond with the proper artists. Strangely, one of the songs mentioned is the Rip Chords' "Hey Little Cobra" - and Bruce Johnston fails to mention that he in fact was a member of that group.
Pop divas? Madonna, Britney Spears (who will be known only for erratic behavior in media produced after 2005), Christina Aguilera, and Beyoncé. Whoever is super-popular at the moment will get mentioned too, such as Hilary Duff if the work was made in the mid-2000s.
In a 2013 review of the album Twenty-Four Seven by Nickelodeon boy band Big Time Rush, the band was erroneously referred to as "Disney pop".
Often parodies of rappers (or the image that Moral Guardians have at least) will be a Gangsta Rap-type rapper from the hood who raps about bitches, hos, and money. They will ignore less stereotypical (and usually less mainstream) rappers such as Talib Kweli, Common, Kid Cudi, or Kanye West.
Similar to the other one, the only rappers that most people will be able to name are Jay-Z, Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre (largely because of his headphones) and possibly Kanye West.
According to millions of Baby Boomers (and Generation X'ers and Generation Y'ers), the only song Kiss ever recorded was "Rock 'N' Roll All Nite", or maybe "Shout It Out Loud" or "Love Gun." Which means you can forget about "Deuce," "Detroit Rock City" (although that one has resurged in popularity due to the 1999 movie of the same name), "Christine Sixteen," "I Was Made For Loving You," "I Love It Loud," "Lick It Up," "Heaven's On Fire," "Tears Are Falling," etc. The songs from their concept album Music From the Elder are so obscure that the band members themselves can't remember them.
Although that aforementioned movie wasn't exactly a big hitter.
The only AC/DC song is "You Shook Me All Night Long" (or maybe "Highway to Hell", if a work is dealing with the themes of Hell, violence, or rebellion). What's frustrating about this is that AC/DC rival the Rolling Stones for the title of most wildly popular rock band in the world, and are continuing to release new material in their classic style. Yet almost no one can name any member of the band except for Angus Young (probably because Catholic School Boys Rule). Somewhat justified as Angus' image is widelyusedinAC/DC'salbumartwork, more so than with the other band members, with either lead singer or as part of a group image. One might go so far as to almost call Angus the band's Metal Band Mascot.
But thanks to the promotion for Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, now the only song by AC/DC anyone knows is "Back In Black." This was largely true beforehand as well, but the ad pushed the song to new heights, doing everything save bringing it to pop radio (which very well could have.)
Lampshaded in an episode of The Simpsons where Homer attends a Bachman-Turner Overdrive concert, demands to hear "Takin' Care of Business", and when they start playing it, yells for them to "Get to the 'workin' overtime' part!"
Notably, "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet" was actually a much bigger hit than "Takin' Care of Business," but your mileage will vary on which one is more remembered.
The "World Music" sections of many music departments in mainstream America tend to be dominated by either African, Caribbean, or Celtic music. If European music is included, it's most likely polka (which is extraordinarily popular in Finland).
Jethro Tull seems to be affected by this very trope. As the public perception of the band, largely based on what radio stations and the media display, often emphasizes their harder-rocking material ("Aqualung", "Bungle In The Jungle", "Locomotive Breath", "Teacher"), and they won a Grammy for "Best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Album" for Crest Of A Knave in 1989, a more hard rock/heavy metal/classic rock crowd makes up much of the audience, who tends to have little patience for (or hoots and whistles loudly over, to bandleader Ian Anderson's annoyance) the group's more eclectic, softer, more delicate repertoire. Ian has often joked recently that a segment of Tull's audience sometimes sees Tull as "Deep Purple with a flute". This has led Anderson to release his more experimental works, including a sequel to Thick As A Brick, as a solo album with different musicians. His writing for Tull tends deliberately to be more hard-rocking and band-oriented, with more emphasis on Martin Barre's electric guitar playing.
David Bowie is another case of a long, diverse career that mainstream culture only scratches the surface of. The general public will recognize "Space Oddity", "Changes", "Rebel Rebel", "Fame", ""Heroes"", the aforementioned Queen collaboration "Under Pressure", "Let's Dance", and "Modern Love", largely due to frequent licensing for commercials and movie soundtracks. But that's only eight songs, recorded over 1969-1983, from a career that started in 1964 and encompasses (as of 2013's The Next Day) 24 studio albums. Worse, several of them are used without respect to their meanings. A good way to test a layperson's knowledge of Bowie is to ask them what Tin Machine was.Answer A hard rock group he fronted over 1989-92 to escape the rut he felt trapped in post-Let's Dance. This is less of an issue in his native U.K., though even there attention is paid mostly to his Glam Rock period (1971-74). Bowie's three late-1970s "Berlin" albums — Low, "Heroes", and Lodger — are considered his least accessible, yet have endured to become arguably his greatest work and the most influential. For most of the singles-buying public, though, he did nothing between "Golden Years" (1976) and "Let's Dance" (1983).
Country music is often thought to be stuck in the 1950s and 1960s with acts such as Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Buck Owens, etc., and otherwise nothing but nasal-voiced singers in Nudie suits singing about drinkin' and cheatin'.
Southern rock acts from the '70s - Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Eagles - often get lumped in with the country acts, even though they were inspired by diverse styles of music.
The term "country and western" is still used by many people, despite being a total Berserk Button for anyone who actually enjoys the genre; said term has not been used within the genre itself since the 1970s.
Expect country to be heard largely in a Deep South rural setting inhabited by hillbillies strumming banjos and drinking moonshine from the jug. Small wonder that songs such as "Hillbilly Bone", "Country Must Be Country Wide", and "Southern Comfort Zone" are working on dispelling the "country = Rural South" notion.
In one country subgenre, all bluegrass music is either Bill Monroe or Flatt & Scruggs.
Referenced by Mason Williams (who himself qualifies for this trope, being the guy who wrote Classical Gas, the quintessential instrumental acoustic guitar song) in Them Banjo Pickers:
Them banjo pickers, mighty funny ways / Same damn song, three or four days
Them banjo pickers, poker faced mugs / Never do smile, just play Scruggs
Michael Jackson didn't do anything after The Eighties except be alarmingly weird. Even after his death and the Dead Artists Are Better media frenzy that followed, his post-1991 albums are only acknowledged by the Serious Business branch of his fanbase. This caused trouble for the tribute show Michael Jackson The IMMORTAL World Tour; both professional reviewers and commenters at Ticketmaster.com complained about songs like "They Don't Care About Us" and "Earth Song" getting full production numbers while hits like "Billie Jean" and "Black or White" were squashed up against each other in medleys.
Nirvana is the only Grunge band in existence, and, during the years 1991 through 1994, was the only thing teens were listening to. Which is interesting considering that Pearl Jam has actually outsold Nirvana and several Hair Metal and Thrash Metal bands reached their peak during Nirvana's supposed "domination" (i.e., Metallica's "Enter Sandman"). Not to mention this was also around the time rap and hip-hop were gaining mainstream acceptance outside the inner-city black community.
The only song Nirvana contributed is "Smells Like Teen Spirit".
All Christian music produced or sold is by Amy Grant. She is the only Christian musician in the world. Also, whenever Amy comes up she is usually the punchline to a joke, as if the entirety of artists in the genre (or the religion itself) can be represented in her. Add to this the only reason the mainstream audience even knows of Amy's existence is because she "crossed over" and released a few non-religious albums, which got play on Top 40 radio. To top it off, only Amy gets this kind of persecution for her origins — few people know Sixpence None The Richer started out as a Christian band.
Creed is another matter. After they broke out, every new band in Christian music became a Creed clone. Suffice to say, the whole genre went downhill from there.