Jan 022014

I know there must be dozens of examples of Doppelganger Rock – that is, a song by some less well-known (or even utterly obscure) artist that sounds, upon casual listening, just like a more famous one. For the sake of clarity and specificity, I don’t include mere soundalike singers. Rather, it’s more the overall vibe of a band or artist that is evoked by the musical doppelgangers. The singer doesn’t have to be an exact copycat as long as the performance, upon first listen, makes you think immediately of the more famous artist.

OK, actually I can only think of three examples off the top of my head right now. The first and perhaps most obvious one is New Jersey-based early-Beatles copycats the Knickerbockers singing “Lies” in 1965:

It occurs to me that not everyone will agree that a certain performance sounds like another artist, so for my second example, “Sweet Sweet Heart” by pre-Vibrators outfit Despair in 1973, I won’t say who it reminds me of. Whaddayathink?

Are there examples where the doppelganger is just famous—or even more famous—than the original? I think so, but I’m hard pressed to come up with any other than “Fell in Love with a Girl” by the White Stripes, which to me has always immediately conjured up the snidely dissonant romance of the Buzzcocks.

Amirite? Am I full of shit?


  19 Responses to “Doppelganger Rock”

  1. hrrundivbakshi

    I think you have to write off a big chunk of the 1950s and 60s if you want to play this game. Far too many people tried to cash in by aping Elvis, the Beatles, Motown, James Brown — the list goes on and on. It’s harder to find an artist who *wasn’t* trying to mimic somebody else in those early, get-rich-quick years!

    That White Stripes/Buzzcocks rip off is spot on.

    My contribution to the aping game is a two-fer: both Supagroup and the Upper Crust are mos’ def aping Bon Scott-era AC/DC.



  2. jeangray

    Once at some kind of family gathering, I put on an Adrian Belew CD. About half way through, my Sister-In-Law requested that we put on some different music. When I asked her what was wrong with the Adrian Belew album, she replied, “It sounds like the left-over Paul McCartney songs that the Beatles didn’t want to put on one of their albums.” I couldn’t argue with that!



  3. jeangray

    Oh! And that Despair track is great. Thanx for posting Mr. Mod. 🙂

  4. That’s Suburban kid’s cool post, not mine. I’m digging that too. I can’t quite place what it reminds me of yet.

  5. I’ll try with the Despair song: sounds like a Lou Reed demo around Transformer (if he didn’t care about sound quality, which we have established is very important).

    Here is a dead ringer (doppelringer?) for those early Kinks hits from the Fleshtones: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o10hfAJ7tCY

  6. Suburban kid

    Ding ding ding! Reminds me of Lou Reed from that time period in the same way the Knickerbockers remind me of Beatles on the cusp of ’64 and ’65.

  7. Suburban kid

    Good call hrrundivbakshi on the AC/DC ones, and on the point about the 1950s and 60s.

    To be sure, I almost didn’t post this because it’s kind of a silly game, and I thought it almost certainly has come up before on the site. (I did search for doppelganger in the archive and found an old thread comparing the first two Kinks hits which I really enjoyed, though.)

  8. Suburban kid

    “doppelringer” — YES

  9. For the longest time, I thought Sam The Sham’s “Little Red Riding Hood” was a Stones song I could never track down.

  10. I think the least-appreciated doppelganger influence in rock is Don Covay’s influence on Mick Jagger. Covay is an under-the-radar soul man whose arrangements were more guitar based and rock ‘n roll sounding than most of his contemporaries. He’s best known for writing some big songs for others, such as Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools.” A lot of ’60s rock acts gravitated toward covering his songs, including the Stones (“Mercy, Mercy” [aka “Have Mercy”]), the Small Faces (“Take This Hurt Off Me”), and Steppenwolf (“Sookie Sookie”). Listen to a few Covay songs, then listen to the early Stones, particularly Jagger’s voice and the guitars. Much is made of the Stones’ dedication to the blues and Muddy Waters and Little Walter and whatnot, but I think they more often come off as doppelgangers of Don Covay.

    Amazingly, in the early ’70s (not sure of the exact release date), Covay pulled a Reverse Doppelganger and made a record, “Hot Blood,” that outdid the Stones at their own mid-’70s funk game.


  11. It’s funny, listening to that song again I can clearly hear the Lou Reed connection. Listening to it again, I also got the initial vibe I thought I was getting: Raw Power-era Stooges, if the band actually had any ability to be tuneful. David Bowie’s involvement in both Raw Power and Transformer seems to factor in.

  12. cliff sovinsanity

    Bearded Saskatchewan rockers The Sheepdogs have done wonders recycling old Allman Brothers riffs without the 8 minute guitar solos.

    Obscure stuff:
    Eagles doppelganger:
    Teenage Fanclub doppelganger

  13. Bronzed Nordic God

    I’m going to hang this pitch over the plate and let someone else take a whack at it. They don’t get more overt than this.


  14. What is that? It sounds like an album cut off a full album by a Nuggets band, like a concept album by the Strawberry Alarm Clock or something. I’m also getting a Pink Floyd vibe.

  15. misterioso

    That’s hilarious–never heard that. Were they waiting for the sun behind that black door or did it lead to a room at the Morrison Hotel? Strange days, indeed.

  16. misterioso

    Wet Willie’s hit “Keep on Smiling” is a dead-on ringer for Van’s early 70s style: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tg0BNTebcbY

    Andy Kim’s “Rock Me Gently” has a definite early, poppy Neil Diamond feel to it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ym3RlvVR9M

    As does Gallery’s “Nice to Be with You”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCyOE_kHoow

    Finally, the immortal “Don’t Pull Your Love” by Hamilton, Joe Frank, and Reynolds, screams “late period Elvis”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FjLsDMo5jYM

  17. Mr. Belew might be considered a professional doppelganger!


  18. Never made that connection with ‘It’s So Nice…” That’s a good call!

  19. BigSteve

    No one has mentioned America’s Horse With No Name?

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