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Area Resident’s Stylus Counsel | Am I Seeing Double?

Track 155 | One of these things is just like the other.

Photo by Elizabeth O. Baker.

Growing up, I went through elementary school with two pairs of identical twins — both girls. One of them was the first girl I ever had a crush on: Jennifer Robertson, Grade 5.

At my workplace there is a mezzanine where a handful of around a dozen people work on two different radio shows I’m on. Three of those people have had twins — two of them of the freaky, identical variety. That’s so weird because the odds of having twins is 1 in 250. At work, we had three in 12. So I was wondering about just how many twins there are in my record collection.

Loads, and so many more beyond the reaches of my meager collection because it seems most twins — especially identical ones — often end up in either classical duos or dance duos. Perhaps this shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, given the findings of a 2014 study in which Swedish researchers compared 1,211 pairs of identical twins. They found no matter how hard one twin had practised, the other twin who had practised much less still had an equal level of ability in certain musical skills. They believe some aspects of musical talent are genetic. The same goes for fraternal twins, but to a much lesser degree, because they only share an average of 50% of the same genes.

Let’s start with The King. Nobody will ever know if Elvis Presley’s twin brother had similar abilities and skills — he was stillborn. Jesse Garon Presley was born 35 minutes ahead of his famous twin brother.

The next twins are not in my record collection, but they did have a very good chance of inheriting musical genetics: Ricky Nelson’s twin sons Matthew and Gunnar Nelson. Their 1990 debut album — as the band Nelson — sold more than three million copies thanks to the success of its four hit singles, namely (Can’t Live Without Your) Love And Affection, and After The Rain. The fact that they were a prettier-looking version of Johnny and Edgar Winter didn’t hurt, either. The Winter brothers weren’t twins, by the way. They were brothers, both born with albinism, but Johnny was two years older.

Meanwhile, twin brothers Matt and Luke Goss made up the core of the appropriately-named pop outfit Bros — who had one major hit single in the U.K. in 1987 with When Will I Be Famous? There’s actually quite a hilarious documentary about them called When The Screaming Stops. I actually have their Christmas single, which is awful.

From the same era, and much more likeable, were The Proclaimers. I actually saw them at Ottawa Bluesfest (not a blues festival) more than a decade ago and they happily posed for a photo with my daughter who was just a little kid. Her first celebrity encounter. The Scottish duo of twin brothers Craig and Charlie Reid formed in 1983, but hit the big time with their single I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) in 1988. It was a difficult sound to categorize at the time, and as a result, ended up being rather popular with just about everyone because it appealed to boomers, Top 40 enthusiasts and even fans of bands like Violent Femmes. They did, in fact, come from a punk background.

Canadian indie sister act Tegan and Sara Quin sound so good together, which might be what kept them from beating each other up as teens. Like most siblings, they didn’t always get along so well growing up under the same roof. The difference here, as they admit, is their animosity was amplified by the fact that each of them was always looking in the mirror. Their breakthrough album was 2013’s Heartthrob, fuelled by the singles Closer, I Was A Fool and Goodbye Goodbye.

I believe my favourite musical twins are Kim and Kelley Deal of The Breeders. When I first heard Pod in 1990, I was already a fan of Kim because of her role in Pixies. By the time the sophomore smash album Last Splash came out, I became just as enamoured with Kelley. Turns out I had them in reverse order — Kelley was born 11 minutes before Kim. When the younger twin formed The Breeders, she invited her sister to join. Kelley initially declined because of work commitments, and then agreed to come on board as a guitarist even though she didn’t really know how to play the instrument. Instead of holding her back, Kelley insisted on being the band’s lead guitarist.

I didn’t know this, but two of The National’s founders are twins — Aaron and Bryce Dessner are both guitarists. Brandi Carlile’s band has long featured chrome-domed identical twins Phil and Tom Hanseroth on guitar and bass. And Americana duo The Watson Twins consists of identical sisters Chandra and Leigh Watson (pictured at the top of this column).

While the sisters Deal were only a few minutes apart at birth, jazz legend Art Farmer and his twin brother Addison arrived a whole hour apart. Makes me wonder what you’d call them if they’d been born around midnight. As a bass player, Addison was excellent; he played with Miles Davis. He was tragically taken at age 34 by SADS (Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome), the adolescent and adult version of SIDS. His famous trumpet-playing brother claims he never really got over his brother’s death.

Tramar Lacel Dillard, aka Flo Rida, has a twin sister — the youngest of his seven sisters. He’s pretty private about his family, though has talked openly about one of his sisters, Julia, who died of bronchitis when she was in her mid-20s.

Two of the three Gibb brothers who made up The Bee Gees were fraternal twins. Maurice was born 35 minutes before Robin and was the group’s guitarist and bassist. He did sing, of course. He even took a few lead vocals, but not as many as his twin Robin and especially brother Barry. The riff from Stayin’ Alive was played by guitarist Alan Kendall, with Maurice essentially doubling it on bass. Some of Robin’s notable lead vocals include I Started A Joke and Trash (with Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street Fever), along with co-lead vocals on How Can You Mend A Broken Heart? and New York Mining Disaster 1941.

Wade Morissette isn’t as well-known as his twin sister Alanis, unless you’re big into yoga. But he actually has four albums which are described as “indie rock/pop featuring Sanskrit and English chants.”

Maryland’s Joel and Benji Madden are the twin brothers at the heart of the pop-punk band Good Charlotte. Benji is the lead guitarist while Joel is the lead singer. They claim the sound they were going for was Backstreet Boys meets Minor Threat. Ugh.

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Area Resident is an Ottawa-based journalist, recording artist, music collector and re-seller. Hear (and buy) his music on Bandcamp, email him HERE, follow him on Instagram and check him out on Discogs.