Nine songs that sound like they came from better-known musical artists

You think you might know who performed these songs, but maybe they just sound like some other band.
Greta Van Fleet in concert
Greta Van Fleet in concert / Buda Mendes/GettyImages
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Pop quiz time:  Who did the following songs?

“Surf City”
“Surfin’ Safari”
“The Little Old Lady (From Pasadena)”
“Little Deuce Coupe”
“Sidewalk Surfin’”

If you guessed the Beach Boys, you’d be half right. They did the even-numbered ones. Jan and Dean did the odds.

Fans have been getting the two singing groups confused since the early ‘60s, and with good reason. They grew up in the same area and sang about similar subjects. Even though Jan and Dean were slightly older and began their musical careers a few years earlier, once Brian Wilson hit on his magical formula of high harmonies and surfer music, his buddies quickly followed suit.

These songs sounds like they were done from some other band

And Brian was willing to share. He wrote “Surf City” and gave it to Jan Berry and Dean Torrence. When they wanted to record a song about skateboarding, they simply asked Brian and his writing partner Roger Christian to rewrite “Catch a Wave” as a skateboarding song.

So there’s a reason why Jan and Dean often sound exactly like the Beach Boys.

There were plenty of bands that “kind of” sounded like the Beach Boys. Ronny & the Daytonas went after that sound. The Hondells recorded the Beach Boys’ “Little Honda” and also sort of got the same sound. But I can tell the differences between those bands and the Beach Boys. (It helps if you know the Beach Boys' original “Little Honda” because the Hondells do come pretty close.)

With Jan and Dean – I admit I have to look it up every time to make sure I’m remembering which band did which song.

And with Jan and Dean out of the way, we’re going to check out a few other artists who sound exactly like other, better-known artists on particular recordings. I’m not talking about simple influence. You can hear influences all over the place. I’m talking about songs that I genuinely mistake for coming from a better-known band. You’ll see what I mean.


The Beatles get their own section. If there were dozens of bands trying to mimic that Beach Boys sound in the mid-‘60s, there were hundreds trying to get that Merseybeat. The Dave Clark Five were the Jan and Dean to the Fab Four’s Beach Boys. You could certainly mistake one of their hits like “Glad All Over” for the early Beatles. But we’ll set them aside for now.

We’ll also set aside the bands that clearly tried to copy the Beatles' sound but nonetheless didn’t sound exactly like them. Those are the “influenced by” bands referenced above. The Raspberries’ “Go All the Way” is influenced by the Beatles, but I doubt you would really mistake it for them. Fifty years later, you could say the same about much of Tame Impala’s output. Even Klaatu – the band that some people thought were the re-formed Beatles in the 1970s – doesn’t exactly sound like the Beatles. At least not so much that I’ve ever gotten them confused.

But here are three that I think could trip a listener up – one for each of the three primary songwriters.