50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

Some of the greatest songs are about fictional characters – and here are 50 of the most memorable suggested by NME readers, starting with the unnamed woman in Richard Thompson’s ‘Beewing’ nominated by @ShaneRichmond. “It’s a song that makes me think about ageing, gender, independence and poverty, all through one striking character,” he writes.

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Added: 23 Apr 2014

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

Billy in 'C'mon Billy' by PJ Harvey 'C'mon Billy' was the second single released on PJ Harvey's 1995 album 'To Bring You My Love.' Suggested by Bella Ferri, Billy is a hapless lover and the desperate figure of the protagonist's affections. Comme toujours, Harvey's poetry sketches a person who seems so real with so few words.

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Added: 7 Mar 2014

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

Darling Nikki from Prince's 'Darling Nikki' Another popular suggestion was the "sex fiend" from Prince's notorious track from 1984's 'Purple Rain.' Prince's meets her in a "hotel lobby masturbating with a magazine." Nikki jumped from fiction to real life in a significant way: the lyrics eventually led to the use of "Parental Advisory" stickers and imprints on album covers.

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Added: 23 Apr 2014

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

Mary Jane - Alanis Morrissette "Mary Jane from @morissette 's Jagged Little Pill is amazingly well-drawn," tweets Emma Ballantine. Mary Jane is an insomniac under-eater with a fascination with passing cars and Morrissette describes her turbulent life with poetic gentleness.

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Added: 23 Apr 2014

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

Seductive Barry - Pulp The Mighty Mojo on Twitter suggested Seductive Barry, the character with a way with words from the late 90s Pulp song. The lyrics reveal a romantic man knows how to score: "There's nothing left for us to do but get it on," he says. Is it just me who imagines Barry from EastEnders in the title role?

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Added: 23 Apr 2014

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

"The man who talks in maths" - Radiohead Radiohead are not known for their straightforward character profiles, but they often skewer socio-political stereotypes. Andreas Wolff goes for the man in the opening verse of 'Karma Police'. He "talks in maths" and "buzzes like a fridge." He's "like a detuned radio" and Thom implores for his arrest. He sounds pretty boring to be fair.

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

Daniel Cowman - Regina Spektor @Cosmictits digs up this classic track from Spektor's 2002 album 'Songs'. "The premature ejaculation of his death sentence hit Daniel in the face like a big round spitball hwk-pfffff," she tells, spinning a typically surreal tale that sounds a little like a bad dream.

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

The boy with a thorn in his side - The Smiths Rob Smith suggests this complicated character on Twitter. "Behind the hatred there lies / A murderous desire for love," sings Morrissey, who later explained: "The thorn is the music industry and all those people who never believed anything I said, tried to get rid of me and wouldn't play the records."

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts - Bob Dylan From Dylan's 1975 album 'Blood On The Tracks', there's so much going on in this track plot-wise that not one but two screenplays have been written about it. Anne Bramley suggests the title characters on Twitter, Jack being a bank robber, Lily the 'princess", and Rosemary "like a queen without a crown."

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

The red right hand - Nick Cave Jamie Skey goes for the "red right hand" from Nick Cave's 1994 track 'Red Right Hand'. The liner notes from 'Let Love In' explained that the reference is from John Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost. It's hidden in his coat, it's clutching wads of money, it's savage and it directs you, "one microscopic cog in his catastrophic plan." Chilling stuff.

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Added: 30 Sep 2013

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

Alec Eiffel - Pixies Tim Difford on Twitter goes for Alec Eiffel, the "real smart alec" who "thought big" - they called it phallic. It's a fictional portrait of a real-life man. That's right: The guys who designed the Eiffel Tower and the Statue Of Liberty.

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Added: 21 Mar 2014

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

Waldo Jeffers - The Velvet Underground 'Waldo Jeffers' is basically a musical soap opera. The title character is going mad at the idea of his lover Marsha's adultery - "her sworn vows overcome by liquor and the smooth soothing of some neanderthal" - and the track tells the story of how he deals with it. Thanks to Tim Marklew for the suggestion.

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Added: 10 Feb 2014

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

Mr Wendal - Arrested Development Mr Wendal might be a bum but he's also a prophet and - crucially - he has his freedom. The track was recorded by Arrested Development in 1992 and suggested by Ceiling Demons on Twitter.

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

Arnold Lane - Pink Floyd Arnold Lane's a tragic figure from Pink Floyd's track of the same name. "Undoubtedly he's my favourite," writes Matthew Edney. He has a "strange hobby... collecting clothes" but ends up in the slammer - "he hates it."

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

St Jimmy - Green Day "King of the forty thieves I'm here to represent / That needle in the vein of the establishment," rasps Billie Joe Armstrong in this track from 'American Idiot'. Thanks to Andy Jardy for the suggestion.

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

Jolene - Dolly Parton Many of you simply tweeted the lyrics to Dolly Parton's ‘Jolene’ at us. “Husband-stealing witch. LEAVE DOLLY ALONE!” wrote Angela Chick on Twitter. Fair enough.

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

Miss Atomic Bomb - The Killers From the band's fourth studio album, 'Battle Born', 'Miss Atomic Bomb' - suggested by Paul Brandon - tells the story of a cruel, dangerous mistress who "kissed him and she painted it black."

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

Ernie the milkman – Benny Hill Surely one of the greatest early characters in popular song, Ernie is the fastest milkman in the west. He's involved in a war of the heart with "Two-Ton Ted from Teddington" over Sue, a widow who lives on Linley Lane. Thanks to Duke Silver for the suggestion.

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Added: 23 Apr 2014

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

Kevin Carter - Manic Street Preachers 'Kevin Carter' was about the 1994 Pulitzer Prize winning photographer, Kevin Carter. It's a collaged together, sometimes violent picture of Carter who "wasted your life in black and white." It was written by missing member Richey Edwards.

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

Rhiannon - Fleetwood Mac And wouldn't you love to love her? Dr Monkey Pants goes for the mysterious character in Fleetwood Mac's 'Rhiannon. "She is like a cat in the dark and then she is the darkness," being one of the choice lines.

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

Major Tom - Bowie Ground control to anyone who thinks a gallery of the best fictional characters in songs is complete without Bowie’s Major Tom – you’re wrong. Dozens of you suggested Dame Dave’s intrepid astronaut, whose loneliness among the stars is detailed in ‘Space Oddity’, ‘Ashes to Ashes’, and ‘Hallo Spaceboy’.

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

Iron Man - Black Sabbath “I was walking along one day and I just thought… what if there was a bloody great bloke made out of metal just walking about?” Geez Butler’s story of how he devised Black Sabbath’s Iron Man character, inspiring one of their most iconic hits, is almost as good as the chugging metal anthem itself. Props to Jeremy Heal for the suggestion.

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

Tracy Jacks - Blur “Has anyone said Tracey Jacks yet? It’s got to be Tracy Jacks,” insisted NME reader and Blur enthusiast Jason Ricketts. As the ‘Parklife’ tracks tells it, Jacks “works in civil service (it's steady employment)” and “is a golfing fanatic but his put is erratic.”

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

Bille Jean - Michael Jackson One of the many devious chanteuses to feature in Michael Jackson’s music (we’ll come to Dirty Diana later), Billie Jean is one of modern music’s most famous characters, whose claims that MJ is the father of her child form the crux of a pop classic.

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

Stan - Eminem Say what you want about Eminem’s controversial, shock-courting other output, ‘Stan’ is the work of one of rap’s greatest ever storytellers. The tale of a deranged fan through imagined fan mail to the rapper, Stan’s murderous, tragic spiral into madness is hip-hop at its most haunting. Shout out to George Bridge for suggesting him.

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

Two Headed Boy - Neutral Milk Hotel The “Two Headed Boy” threaded through Neutral Milk Hotel’s seminal album ‘In The Aeroplane Over The Sea’ established Jeff Magnum as the Lewis Carroll of weirdo indie – capable of imagining the most vivid and surreal creatures and giving them personalities you’d grow to care for passionately. This one’s David Bryte’s pick.

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

Roxanne - Sting And The Police “Roxanne! You don’t have to turn on the red light.” Sting’s tale of a sex worker on the brink is one of the Police’s best known songs, inspired by Parisian prostitutes the songwriter once encountered in a hotel lobby. “Cracking character, massive tune,” says Gary Ryan.

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

Stephanie - The Velvet Underground “The Velvet Underground's Stephanie from 'Candy Says' has gotta be in there. Lou Reed paints her in your head really intriguingly,” says Facebook user Julie Rodriguez. No arguments here, Julie.

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

Rocky Raccoon - The Beatles A down on his luck frontiersman, Rocky Raccoon is why Paul McCartney is regarded a master of tragicomic suspense. “His story is great, a Beatles classic and my favourite track on the ‘White Album’, definitely,” wrote Amy Swinton.

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

Stagger Lee - Nick Cave (and others) Not a fictional character but definitely a memorable one: St Louis murderer Stagger Lee inspired one of Nick Cave’s most unforgettable moments on 1996 album ‘Murder Ballads’. Wouldn’t like to meet him in a dark alley. Or Nick Cave, for that matter. Thanks to Lisle on Twitter for the suggestion.

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

The Boy With The Arab Strap - Belle & Sebastian “The Boy With The Arab Strap! Come ON!” says Cole Falvner. “The lad inspired a great song, and a great album...”

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

Yoshimi - Flaming Lips Flaming Lips' Yoshimi is Ben Bryant’s pick. “He’s a massive robot. There aren’t enough fuck-off robots in rock and roll. Clearly. Enough said.”

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

Dirty Diana - Michael Jackson Michael Jackson's evil seductress Dirty Diana is such a character, the Weeknd was drawn to tell her story on his 2011 mixtape ‘Echoes of Silence’. Thanks to Daniel Soley for the suggestion.

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

Ruby Tuesday - Rolling Stones Can’t go wrong with The Rolling Stones, can you? Their Ruby Tuesday is “an awesome part of the Stones mythology” according to NME reader Rick Child. Ruby Tuesday was apparently a groupie Keith Richards became enamoured with after spending a spontaneous night together in a LA hotel.

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

Wichita Lineman - Jimmy Webb (Glen Campbell) Songwriter Jimmy Webb was driving through rural Oklahoma in the 60s past rows and rows of telephone lines when he saw the silhouette of a lineman against the setting sun. And so the most poignant mage of loneliness in popular song was born. That suggestion's from Lucy Jones's original piece.

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

Terry the Law Abider and Tim the Criminal - The Streets Terry the Law Abider and Tim the Criminal’s exchange on The Streets' ‘The Irony Of It All’ is one of Mike Skinner’s crowning moments, as far as Twitter’s Jeremy S is concerned. “Two great characters,” he says. “Mike Skinner’s a genius.”

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

Sheena - The Horrors Sheena from The Horrors' ‘Sheena is a Parasite’ gets Mark Bright’s vote. “Forget Sheena from the Ramones’ ‘Sheena Is A Punk Rocker’, this is the Sheena that matters!”

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

Pink - Pink Floyd There’s definitely no forgetting Pink, the lead character from Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’, as Rob Gregory points out. Portrayed by Bob Geldof in its 1982 multimedia adaptation, Pink’s adventure inspired some of the Floyd’s most mind-bending sonics.

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Added: 17 Apr 2014

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

Sally Cinnamon - The Stone Roses The Stone Roses' Sally Cinnamon was another popular choice, with NME readers tweeting in their droves to tell us to include Ian Brown’s saviour: “Until Sally I was never happy, I needed so much more,” he sings on the track of the same name. “Rain clouds oh they used to chase me."

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

Johnny - Patti Smith Patti Smith's Johnny from 'Land/Horses' is another classic, as picked by Tom Leicester. Life is filled with holes, Johnny's laying there, his sperm coffin. Angel looks down at him and says, “Oh, pretty boy,”” sings Patti on the track. Weird and wonderful.

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

'Frankly Mr. Shankly’ - The Smiths The Smiths' ‘Frankly Mr. Shankly’ is supposedly about Geoff Travis, the band’s boss at Rough Trade. “It was The Smiths' prerogative to leave Rough Trade and Morrissey can only write about his own experiences," he said afterwards. Either way, a compelling character in the song.

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

Shawty - Justin Bieber “Shawty – the girl who seems to feature in 90% of Justin Bieber's songs,” suggested Loz, wittily.

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

Sam and Wolf - Tyler, The Creator Sam and Wolf from Tyler, The Creator's ‘WOLF’ are “an insight into Tyler’s troubled mind,” says Natalie Sharp, as they constantly battle for the rapper’s psyche.

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

Hannah Hunt’ - Vampire Weekend Rumour has it Vampire Weekend wrote ‘Hannah Hunt’ inspired by Lena Dunham’s character in Girls. Us? We’re not so sure. Either way, it’s a great song and a classic example of Ezra character conception, as Emily Day observes.

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

Lola - The Kinks Marblewing was one of many that suggested Lola, the title character of one of the most famous romantic encounters in popular music. In the book The Kinks: The Official Biography, Davies said that he was inspired to write this song after the band manager Robert Wace had spent the night dancing with a transvestite.

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

Uncle Johnny - The Killers @TheeAmberHuston goes for this sorry picture of a cocaine-addicted uncle. "I feel a burning in your body's core / It's a yearning that you can't ignore," sings Brandon, one of many great character studies by the band.

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

Mrs Robinson - Simon and Garfunkel Mrs Robinson exist way outside the song; the original cougar has become a figure, a stereotype in society. An early version of the song appeared in the motion picture The Graduate and the song was written in conjunction with director Mike Nichols.

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

Eleanor Rigby - The Beatles Billie Jean, Mrs Robinson, Eleanor Rigby, Babooshka, Terry and Julie... these are as much part of our cultural history as the music behind them. They have struck a chord to the point that they are, really, alive, evolving into stereotypes of their fictional circumstances. And Eleanor Rigby received perhaps the most amount of votes out of them all.

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

The drunk dominoes-eating dad - Kendrick Lamar Sherane is a character from Kendrick Lamar's 'good kid m.A.A.d city' that was oft suggested but rumour has it she exists. It's his dad, though, who's recieved a lot of affectionate suggestions. Note: apparently the lyrics are about the game of dominoes, not the pizza.

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50 Greatest Fictional Characters In Music - Chosen By You

Ziggy Stardust - David Bowie "David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust obviously! Greatest character/alter-ego music has ever seen," writes AoifeL. She's not wrong.

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