5 iconic sound effects and the songs that sampled them

From Zippo lighters to Apple ringtones, we’ve collated five songs that transformed ordinary sound effects into some of the most iconic bangers of their time.

Ever stopped in your tracks after hearing a familiar, everyday sound in one of your favourite songs? Well, you’re not alone.

We’re not talking about the French horn or the vibraphone. We’re talking about sounds you hear in daily life, in the car, walking down the street, using your phone, opening a can, or even getting on the bus. Here’s a list of songs that have creatively sampled some of the most ordinary sounds.

Eric Clapton / Sting – It’s Probably Me

In 1994, Sting and Eric Clapton revolutionised the percussion game with the sweet crackle of a Zippo lighter. The heart-warming sound provides a subtle undertone for the song, It’s Probably Me.

The video features Clapton using the Zippo lighter to create the iconic, velvety rhythm. This classic showed the world that you could save space in your garage by replacing a drum kit with a sleek Zippo lighter.


I was busy thinkin’ about coins… Charli XCX set fans into a spin when she came out with Boys in 2017, with the song’s chorus sampling Koji Kondo’s iconic Mario coin sound effect.

The pop star has since made a name for herself in the PC-music scene, a genre centred around samples and distorted electronic sound effects. Produced alongside fellow PC-music pioneer SOPHIE, Charli XCX’s 2018 album Pop 2 became recognised as a genre-bending game-changer for pop artists.

M.I.A. – Paper Planes

M.I.A.’s breakout hit Paper Planes had the whole world clocking their imaginary guns and popping open their non-existent cash registers. M.I.A.’s music is often political, and Paper Planes is no exception.

She explained her use of the sound effects as a subversion of the stereotypes often associated with immigrants – increased crime and theft. Paper Planes has become one of the most iconic tracks of the 21st century, packing an even more iconic political punch.

Rejjie Snow – Olga (1984)

It’s a sound that sends the worst kind of shivers down your spine: the dreaded alarm, the unwanted phone call. Rejjie Snow’s 2013 track Olga (1984) opens with the all-too-familiar Marimba ringtone.

The jazz-rap artist’s debut EP contains some seriously dark and heavy production, so the upbeat Apple jingle slices right through. Knife Party also sampled this ringtone in their viral track Internet Friends.

Scooter – How Much Is The Fish?

Scooter and the sweet sounds of 2007… the hardcore Eurodance group from Germany released arguably their weirdest track of all time, sampling drums from the 20th Century Fox Fanfare (you’ll hear it). The track is filled with cowbell, yeehaw’s, stadium singalongs, and some seriously strange lyrics.

In an interview with Jimmy Fallon in 2016, the band revealed that “the fish” was the one they purchased for the aquarium in their studio, and it cost $3.80. That settles that.