Top Ten Songs About Fictional Characters
Sometimes, I wonder just how many songs there actually are (it has to be in the billions). It's amazing to think that just about all of them tell a story or hold a message.
I knew there had to be at least ten songs about fictional characters out there. And, it turns out that there are quite a few, so I had to narrow my list down a bit.
So, without further ado, here is my list. I'm only using songs with the name of the fictional character in the title. If you think I missed one, or don't see your favorite here, feel free to comment and we can hash it out (politely, of course).
Best Songs About Fictional Characters
- The Royal Guardsmen—"Snoopy vs. The Red Baron"
- Megadeth—"Duke Nukem"
- Ozzy Osbourne—"Perry Mason"
- Sam the Sham and The Pharaohs—"Li'l Red Riding Hood"
- Iron Maiden—"Rime of the Ancient Mariner"
- Rush—"Tom Sawyer"
- Warren Zevon—"Werewolves of London"
- Blue Oyster Cult—"Godzilla"
- Jefferson Airplane—"White Rabbit"
1. The Royal Guardsmen—"Snoopy vs. The Red Baron"
Album: Snoopy vs. The Red Barron
Release Year: 1966
The Peanuts character, Snoopy, is the most famous cartoon dog in the history of television. Also, he sometimes forgets that he's a dog.
Case in point: Snoopy thinks that his doghouse becomes a "Sopwith Camel" bomber and, when he gets airborne, he is immediately assaulted in mid-air by his nemesis, The Red Baron, also known as Manfred Freiherr von Richthofen. Though these battles started in 1965, long after the end of World War II, Snoopy and The Red Baron have fought it out in the imaginary skies for decades.
They also inspired the number one song on this list, The Royal Guardsmen's "Snoopy vs. The Red Baron." The song is from the 1966 album, Snoopy and His Friends, and reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
The Royal Guardsmen actually overstepped their rights with this chart-topping hit, they didn't get Charles Schulz or Universal Features Syndicate's permission to use Snoopy in their song. He was under copyright, after all. UFS emerged victorious in their lawsuit against The Royal Guardsmen (who, by the way, hailed from the monarchy of Florida), but Schulz did give the guys permission to record a few more Snoopy themed songs.
Just for the record, the United States Department of Defense will neither confirm nor deny Snoopy's involvement with the military for any active battle service. Sounds like some black-ops cover-up stuff to me!
2. Megadeth—"Duke Nukem"
Release Year: 1999
Duke Nukem is a rough and tumble Rambo meets Jesse Ventura hero, who is out to save the world (or at least himself) and practically sweats testosterone and sarcasm. He's the main character in a series of video games about, well, himself. The first Duke Nukem game was released in 1991 for IBM compatible computers and was actually shareware (users could download it for free, but had to pay a small fee to keep it or to unlock its full functionality). In this game, Nukem had bright yellow hair, an Oompa Loompa-like tan, and no neck. He also didn't speak. His lines were written on the screen.
Since 1991, there have been nineteen Duke Nukem titles, three of which were cellphone only. He's also appeared in six others. Several others have been postponed or outright cancelled.
Megadeth's "Duke Nukem" is the game's actual theme song, as done by Dave Mustaine and company. It was on the Duke Nukem: Music to Score By album, which was released in 1999, and also featured music from other heavies such as Type O Negative, Coal Chamber, and Slayer.
Can you think of a better way to save the world (or yourself) than with a heavy metal soundtrack? Me neither.
3. Ozzy Osbourne—"Perry Mason"
Release Year: 1995
Perry Mason was quite possibly one of the most amazing and awe-inspiring lawyers of all time. Featured in novels by Erle Stanley Gardner, Mason was always on the lookout for that one minute detail that would help him win his case. He's also been featured in comic strips, radio dramas, and a well known television show featuring Raymond Burr. After that show was cancelled, a 1973 reprise with Monte Markham failed so miserably that it isn't even syndicated. That said, there were several successful made-for-tv Perry Mason movies starring Burr.
For Ozzy Osbourne's 1995 album, Ozzmosis, the heavy metal legend included this semi-tribute to the attorney, a song which features Zakk Wylde on guitar. The song topped out on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Tracks at number three.
Though the song does talk about a murder needing to be solved, it also alludes to Ozzy's drug abuse:
"Wake me when it's over
Tell me it's all right
Just keep on talking baby
I've been doing this all night
How much did you give me baby
Tell me it'll be all right."
Some people think that "Perry Mason" is Ozzy's conscience in this song, and that the entire lyrics sheet is about his drug use.
Either way, there isn't much arguing that can be done about whether Ozzy has done some serious dope in his time. What else can be said about a man that once snorted a line of ants on the dare of none other than Tommy Lee?
Album: Flash Gordon
Release Year: 1980
Flash Gordon was a 1980 film about a futuristic hero. It was based on the comic strip of the same name. The cast includes Timothy Dalton, Max von Sydow, and Robbie Coltrane. Though the film initially tanked at the box office, and was considered very cheesy, it has become a cult classic.
The official soundtrack to Flash Gordon features music by one of the best rock and roll bands ever, Queen. Though most of the songs on the album were instrumental only, two songs featured lyrics. The only one of those two to be released as a single was "Flash's Theme," released with the simplified title, "Flash." The song was a duet between the legendary Freddie Mercury and Brian May. Flash was also included on Queen's Greatest Hits album in 1981. These are my favorite lyrics from the song:
"Just a man
With a man's courage
Nothing but a man
But he can never fail
No-one but the pure at heart
May find the Golden Grail."
The song gives us Flash's story, and tells us that he is just an ordinary guy who manages to do something extraordinary. Kind of an everyman's hero.
Though some people think the song is every bit as cheesy as the movie, it's one of Queen's most loved. It peaked at number 38 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
5. Sam the Sham and The Pharaohs—"Li'l Red Riding Hood"
Album: Li'l Red Riding Hood
Release Year: 1966
Little Red Riding Hood is one of the most famous of the Brothers Grimm's fairy tales. It is a dark and twisted tale about a wolf who wants to eat Little Red Riding Hood, even going so far as to pose as her grandmother to do so.
The song "Li'l Red Riding Hood," by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, managed to take a creepy tale and make it even creepier. The song was released on the album of the same name in 1966. Though band member Ronald Blackwell is credited with writing the song, there is some controversy about its actual origins. It may have been a cover of a 1958 song by The Big Bopper. Regardless, this version peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in August of 1966 and is still loved the world over. These are some of my favorite lyrics from the song:
"Hey there Little Red Riding Hood
You sure are looking good
You're everything a big bad wolf could want."
Yeah, this wolf didn't want to eat a little girl, he wants to do something a little more mature to a full grown woman.
Either way, the wolf in this song was of the two-legged variety, and tries to prove to Red that he's not really a bad guy (he just howls every once in a while, and really appreciates her full lips and big... eyes).
6. Iron Maiden—"Rime of the Ancient Mariner"
Release Year: 1984
"The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is an epic poem by the English writer, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and was first published in 1798. The poem details the adventures of a sailor, and the trials and tribulations he faced on his journey. It is from this poem that we have the saying, "an albatross around his neck," which refers to a burden that one has to carry (because, in the poem, the mariner killed a good luck bird and it caused him grief for the rest of his journey).
This poem was also the inspiration for the song of the same name by legendary heavy metal band Iron Maiden. It appeared on their classic 1984 album, Powerslave. At almost fourteen minutes long, it is the band's longest song. The band lifted some of the verses from the poem for their lyrics, then added some of their own lines to make the story work. The bass player, Steve Harris, is credited with writing the song, and Bruce Dickinson does an amazing job with the vocals. These are my favorite lines from the song:
"The mariner kills the bird of good omen
His shipmates cry against what he's done
But when the fog clears, they justify him
And make themselves a part of the crime."
Guilt by association, with a heavy cross to bear, never sounded so good.
7. Rush—"Tom Sawyer"
Release Year: 1976
Rush is probably the most successful and popular progressive rock band of all time. "Tom Sawyer " is from their 1981 album, Moving Pictures. The song was named after Mark Twain's classic character, Tom Sawyer, from the book, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, among others. The tune tells of a guy who won't play by the established rules and definitely isn't for sale. The hero of this song is a modern day Tom Sawyer. My favorite lines from the song are:
"No his mind is not for rent
To any God or government
Always hopeful, yet discontent
He knows changes aren't permanent
But change is."
The song has been used in countless movie soundtracks, has been covered by such acts as Mindless Self Indulgence and Sebastian Bach, and is a staple of classic rock stations around the world.
8. Warren Zevon—"Werewolves of London"
Album: Excitable Boy
Release Year: 1978
The late, great Warren Zevon was as talented as he was prolific. In his career, he released twelve studio albums (one posthumously), two live albums, and six compilation albums (two posthumously).
"Werewolves of London" is from his 1977 breakout album, Excitable Boy. The song features instrumentals by Fleetwood Mac members John McVie and Mick Fleetwood, and was released as a single in 1978. It reached number 28 on the American Top 40 chart.
It also contains one of my favorite song lyrics of all time:
"Better stay away from him
He'll rip your lungs out, Jim
I'd like to meet his tailor."
The bit about the werewolf hunting around in SoHo, looking for a big dish of beef chow mein, is awesome!
Though the song wasn't featured on the soundtrack for the 1981 movie, An American Werewolf in London, it wasn't for lack of trying. For whatever reason, John Landis wasn't able to secure permission to use the song. Pity that, it would have been perfect.
Kid Rock sampled the piano melody of the song for his hit, "All Summer Long," but he wasn't the only one to sample or cover it. That club includes Jackson Browne, the Grateful Dead (who often played the song live), and Jimmy Buffett. Adam Sandler even covered it for his tribute album called Enjoy Every Sandwich: Songs of Warren Zevon.
9. Blue Oyster Cult—"Godzilla"
Release Year: 1977
Blue Oyster Cult is a rock band from Long Island, New York that hit it big in the 1970s. With songs like "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" and "Burnin' for You," they started influencing their peers from the jump.
"Godzilla" is about, well, Godzilla—that huge, reptilian scourge of the East. He likes to smash giant buildings with his mighty feet (and tail) and takes on interestingly named foes, like Mothra. Here are my favorite lines from the song:
"He picks up a bus and he throws it back down
As he wades through the buildings toward the center of town."
"Godzilla" is from Blue Oyster Cult's 1977 album, Spectres. Along with "(Don't Fear) The Reaper," "Godzilla" is one of their most successful and memorable songs.
BOC were a little miffed when the 1998 remake of the original Godzilla movie didn't feature their song on the soundtrack, so they made a spoof called "NoZilla." This is definitely worth a listen, if you can find it.
Oh no! There goes Tokyo...— Blue Oyster Cult ("Godzilla")
10. Jefferson Airplane—"White Rabbit"
Album: Surrealistic Pillow
Release Year: 1967
Ah, the indomitable and highly quotable Grace Slick. I read once where she said something to the effect that rock stars should just quit once they turn fifty, because they look stupid rocking out at that age.
Jefferson Airplane's 1967 album, Surrealistic Pillow, was Grace Slick's first record with the band. She brought the song "White Rabbit," and the other hit from that record, "Somebody to Love," with her from her old band, The Great Society.
"White Rabbit" is, of course, about Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland... sort of. Though it references many of the more popular characters in the book, some people thought that the song was a subtle nod to the counter-culture and it's psychedelic drugs. In fact, it's one of the first songs to manage to get drug references on the radio. Here are my favorite lines from the song:
"And if you go chasing rabbits
and you know you're going to fall
Tell 'em a hookah-smoking caterpillar has given you the call."
Grace Slick must have been hitting the hookah pipe pretty hard, because she is almost as famous for her drunken and/or stoned antics on stage as she is for her witty remarks.
"White Rabbit" has been covered literally dozens of times, by people ranging from the metal band, Lizzy Borden, to the punk-ish band, The Dresden Dolls.
The first song I actually chose for this top ten list was Peter Paul & Mary's "Puff the Magic Dragon," before I found out that the song came a few years before the show. Otherwise, that would have been my number one! It still could be, but I'd have to play by my own rules.