Kid Creole & the Coconuts DOPPELGANGER

Original Release on ZE 1983

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AllMusic Review by Vince Ripol: 4 / 5

Armed with a fresh batch of tropical tales, August Darnell (aka Kid Creole) leads his band of eccentric vagabonds in another episode of the continuing saga of Mimi. Of course, it's not necessary to read the esoteric liner notes, nor is a knowledge of previous chapters required to enjoy the installment entitled Doppelganger. As usual, the only prerequisite is an acquired taste for the bizarre, often comical travelogues set to exotic pop which represent the essence of Kid Creole & the CoconutsDarnell's infatuation with international environments results in a soundtrack characterized by ubiquitous percussion and spirited brass and woodwinds, although electric guitar also figures prominently in several songs. Much like Paul Simon's efforts on GracelandDarnell incorporates world music elements to add a foreign flavor to pop postcards like "It's a Wonderful Life" and "There's Something Wrong in Paradise." Yet Darnell is rarely as serious as Simon, and only Graceland's lighthearted "You Can Call Me Al" could blend inconspicuously with the material on Doppelganger. A Caribbean-styled remake of Jimmy Soul's "If You Wanna Be Happy" is indicative of the album's affable nature. The song's obsession with appearances also reveals the thematic influence behind previous Kid Creolefavorites such as "Annie, I'm Not Your Daddy" and "I'm a Wonderful Thing, Baby," both of which appear on their most popular album, Wise Guy. Nothing on Doppelganger can compare to those two British hits, yet nothing will fail to satisfy devoted fans either. For the uninitiated, Doppelganger's peculiar content presents a love-it or hate-it dilemma, but captivated listeners will probably enjoy discovering the rest of Kid Creole & the Coconuts' enchanting oeuvre.

01 • The Lifeboat Party  2:35
Written by August Darnell / Jay Rogers Randall
Published by Emi Music Publishing Ltd.
Produced by August Darnell 
© 1983 ZE Records

02 • Underachiever  3:15
Written by August Darnell
Published by Perennial August / Screen Gems EMI Music Inc.
Produced by August Darnell
© 1983 ZE Records

03 • If You Wanna Be Happy  2:29
Written by Carmela T. Guida / Frank Joseph Guida / Joseph F.Royster
Published by Rock Masters International Network
Produced by August Darnell
© 1983 ZE Records

04 • Distractions  2:56
Written by Henri Binns / Sia Furler / Sam Hardaker
Published by Universal MCA Music / Emi Music Publishing Ltd.
Produced by August Darnell
© 1983 ZE Records

05 • Survivor  3:32
Written by Andy Hernandez
Published by Virgin Music ltd
© 1983 ZE Records

06 • Call Me The Entertainer  3:23
Written by August Darnell / Stoney Browder jr.
Published by Bar Twenty Songs / Emi Music Publishing Ltd.
Produced by August Darnell 
Associate Producer Sugar – Coated Andy Hernandez
© 1983 ZE Records

07 • There is Something Wrong In Paradise  3:20
Written by August Darnell / Mark Alexander Mazur
Published by Emi Music Publishing Ltd / Island Music Ltd.
Produced by August Darnell 
© 1983 ZE Records

08 • It’s A Wonderfull Life  5:22
Written by August Darnell / Mark Alexander Mazur
Published by Emi Music Publishing Ltd 
Produced by August Darnell 
Associate Producer Sugar – Coated Andy Hernandez
© 1983 ZE Records

09 • Bongo Eddie’s Lament   3:02
Written by August Darnell 
Published by Perennial August / Screen Gems EMI Music Inc.
Produced by August Darnell 
© 1983 ZE Records

10 • Broadway Rhythm  2:48
Written by Arthur Freed / Nacia Herb Brown
Published by Metro Goldwyn Mayer Corp.  / Shawnee  Press Inc.
© 1983 ZE Records

11 • Back In The Field Again  3:22
Written by August Darnell / Stoney Browder jr.
Published Emi Music Publishing Ltd / August Darnell
© 1983 ZE Records

12 • The Seven Year Itch   4:26
Written by August Darnell / Stoney Browder jr.
Published by Written by Browder & Darnell / Emi Sosaha Music Inc.
Jonathan Three muisc Co.
© 1983 ZE Records


13 • Fireside story (Fireside Chat)  4:40
Written by Andy Hernandez 
Published by Coati Mundi / Virgini Music Ltd
© 1983 ZE Records

14 • There is Something Wrong In Paradise ( 12’’ Mix)  5:45
Written by August Darnell / Mark Alexander Mazur
Published by Emi Music Publishing Ltd / Island Music Ltd.
© 1983 ZE Records

15 • Don’t Take My Coconuts  2:08
Written by August Darnell 
Published by Emi Music Publishing Ltd 
© 1983 ZE Records


The Boys In The Band – Adriana KaegiBongo EddieCarol Colman*, CharlLagond*, Cheryl PoirierCoati MundiDave Span*, Ken Fradley, Kid Creole (2)Lee RobertsonMark MazurPeter SchottTaryn Hagey
Engineer Assistant Andy HeermansGary HellmanMichael Abbott (2)Richard McClainSteve Rinkoff
Chief Engineer Joe BarbariaJulian McBrowne
Mixed By Michael Brauer
Production Co-ordinator Carol Colman
Special Appearances – Conjunto LibreCory Dave*, Dutch RobinsonGichy DanLori EastsidePerri Lister
Piano Ron Rogers on « Lifeboat Party »
Recorded at Electric Lady Studios & Daily Planet Sound NYC 
Mixed at Media Sound for MHB Productions
Management & Direction Tommy Mottola Champion Entertainment Organization Inc. Recorded By Michael H. Brauer
Associate Producer Sugar Coated Andy Hernandez
Arranged by August Darnell & Andy Hernandez
Producer August Darnell
Original Sound Recorded by ZE Records & Island Records Ltd © 1983

Art Direction Design Bruno Tilley
Photography Ashworth


Kid Creole & The Coconuts burst into the 1980s with an incredible fusion of slick sophistication, bright colours, a wicked sense of humour and an infectious bringing together of many disparate strands of music from around the world; Latin rhythms, reggae, salsa, pop and even psychedelic soul.

Born in the Bronx on the 12th August 1951, Thomas August Darnell Browder created a larger-than-life character, Kid Creole, whose persona was a carefully cultivated mix of Darnell's influences and heroes; Cab Calloway, Slim Gaillard and Duke Ellington, white adding enough individuality to always be the Kid.

Working with his long-term foil, percussionist « Sugar-Coated » Andy Hernandez aka Coati Mundi, and with his then-wife Adriana Kaegi leading the Coconuts, Darnell added his theatrical training and love of 40s films to his exotic musical soup. It was an interesting counterpoint to the new romantic era that musically, so defined the grime - encrusted early Thatcher years. Brims were big, suits were Zoot, The Coconuts were glamorous and the Kid was always amorous.

Part of Michael Zilkha's perma-hip ZE set up, Kid Creole & The Coconuts released four groundbreaking albums; Off The Coast Of Me, Fresh Fruit In Foreign Places, Tropical Gangsters and Doppelganger. This remaster series provides an excellent opportunity to reappraise Creole's new take on 'race music'. « I'm glad these CDs are coming out », says Darnell. « cos these are my life. »

Released in September 1983, Doppelganger was made after Kid Creole & The Coconuts had achieved a level of success. For the first time, there was a widespread expectation of how a Kid Creole album would sound. As each of his previous releases had represented a significant advance in style, Doppelganger, much to his record company's and newfound fans dismay, was not to be Tropical Gangsters Il. After enjoying cult status for years, the success of Tropical Gangsters had unfolded way beyond the roll-neck sporting London set, right onto Middle England's coffee tables. Hits had poured forth so, of course, Doppelganger was naturally expected to deliver the same.

In August 1983, journalist Fiona Russell Powell asked August Darnell how long he thought British enthusiasm for him would last. He replied, « It's gonna last as long as I want it to last. When I'm tired of it, of the Kid Creole character that is, I will extinguish him. But even after I kill him, the success of the Kid will continue, on whatever plane it is, whether it be the success of selling records, or the success of the attention from the press he gets. It will continue. »

Darnell was now in great demand. Not that he hadn't been used to a tremendous amount of pressure in the past - 1980's Off the Coast Of Me had been recorded while Darnell was writing and producing for almost the entire ZE roster and while still ostensibly a member of Dr. Buzzards Original Savannah Band. In April 1983, it was reported that he was producing Coati Mundi's album for Virgin and a Coconuts solo album for EMI, as well as preparing Doppelganger and his biggest tour to date. Even his most die-hard supporting magazine, The Face, wondered if his attempt for maximum audience saturation would "risk seriously diluting his charm".

« We were fortunate to have the success and with that success, doors open, » Darnell recalls. « Producing other acts, tours, there was just too much to do. Our tours were around the world for 10 months. It was only because the cats in the band started grumbling that they hadn't seen their loved ones for a year that we would stop the tour, »

He was also, as they say, living large. I would hang out to the wee hours of the morning chassing girls in clubs » Darnell laughs « And I loved London for that. It had the greatest nightlife in the 80s. Club For Heroes and all those places where you could meet everybody and have a great time. These were hedonistic times for me. The money and the success were there which gave you a different slant on life anyway. I would fly to New York on a Friday and be back in London on the Monday, and back to New York on the Wednesday. It was that kind of a schedule. It was Creolemania for that year 82 into 83. » The big question was with this frenetic lifestyle, could Darnell, Hernandez and the Coconuts release another huge-selling album?

In a word, no. Darnell vividly recalls delivering Doppelganger to his record company « I remember Island Records saying, like it was yesterday, 'there's no I'm A Wonderful Thing, Baby on this album'. I said 'oh god, here we go again'. They wanted another Tropical Gangsters and rightly so, that's what the music industry is all about. They want to sell records. But I'd already moved on. With Doppelganger, we tried to create another soundtrack. I already had the idea for the movie - about the double of Kid Creole. The evil King Nignat had kidnapped and cloned the Kid ».

Completing the 'Mimi trilogy' that began on 1981's Fresh Fruit In Foreign Places, Doppelganger, although flawed, can be seen as 'Creole plus' - the arrangements were in wide-screen, the conceits grander. It was akin to receiving an invite to the house table at the Cotton Club. « I knew the record company was disappointed, » Darnell recalls. « They wanted another R&B, soul, 'race music' album. But I wasn't going to give it to them I wanted to evolve ».

The writing marked a return to the ornate, detailed style that had been so prevalent on Fresh Fruit, yet with a less substantial core and a reliance on machines. In fact, at times Darnell took more of a cameo role on his own album. Only one song (The Seven-Year Itch) clocks in over four minutes, others, like the Coconuts-only Distractions, seem to disappear before they fully begin. It's Doppelganger's three tender moments that fare best; Survivors, a full-on Latin ode to dead pop stars, from Frankie Lymon to Sid Vicious, the returning-to-America Bongo Eddies Lament and the wistful Back In The Field Again really light up the proceedings. Hollywood images abound: The slow, funky It's A Wonderful Life offers Coati Mundi his solo slot, Broadway Rhythm is the imaginary theme to a stellar musical, while The Lifeboat Party namechecks Veronica Lake.

The album also heavily featured that 80s epitome of pop success, the drum machine. « It was the time machines were taking over, and now they were doing everything, » Darnell sighs, « Whole albums were machine-oriented - I fell into that hole. Tropical Gangsters was all cut live, with real musicians - but now I was experimenting. I wasn't completely comfortable with it. I spent hours trying to get it to sound believable. »

Maybe Kid Creole was never destined for the mainstream and he was at his best working on the margins. In chart terms, the comparison to the Top 3 - hogging Tropical Gangsters could not have been more marked. Doppelganger entered the UK charts on 17th September 1983 and made No. 21, where it remained for six weeks. Creolemania was over. Culture Club, who had pipped Annie, I'm Not Your Daddy to No. 1 with Do You Really Want To Hurt Me the previous year, now occupied that curious, exotic pop niche.

There's Something Wrong In Paradise, one of the few pop songs to jauntily cover armed revolution, trailed the album, released in early September 1983. It only made No. 35 and hung around for a meagre five weeks. The Lifeboat Party, the all singing, all-dancing album opener fared even worse - No. 49 for four weeks. There was something wrong in paradise. It seemed that the Kid would have to pay the price.

« The singles did a little bit, but didn't do anything near what Island wanted, » Darnell sighs. « They wanted another Annie, I'm Not Your Daddy or something very dance-oriented ». To complicate matters further, DJs complained that There's Something Wrong In Paradise, « a nod to that African movement that was happening at the time, with its hi-life guitar », was simply too fast.

Although Trouser Press called the album 'a marvellous example of Darnell's multifarious brilliance, Mixing 40s be-bop with Carib beat, reggae, country, funk, salsa, and something like high-life, the record sparkles", Rolling Stone was, unsurprisingly, dismissive, saying "It's hard not to admire his chutzpah, here is, after all, a guy who thinks it's the height of fashion to hit the stage looking like a cross between Cab Calloway and Desi Arnaz. His Caribbean big band groove seemed amusing for an album or two."

« Doppelganger was not the seller that everyone wanted it to be », Darnell remembers, « Then things started to crumble. It amazes me to this day how quickly people get dissatisfied - look at Michael Jackson, because Invincible didn't go as far as his last one, people murmur that it's over. To me that's such a farce. It was the same thing with us. »

Doppelganger was to be Darnell's final album for ZE/Island in the UK. The Coconuts moved to Sire worldwide, releasing In Praise Of Older Women And Other Crimes in 1985, before moving to Sony for the misconceived Still Waters In The Great Divide. « That was it. When the contract with Sire was up, Chris Blackwell wanted to re-sign me for Island, but Sony offered me more money. Being the capitalistic idiot I was, I went with Sony. I hooked up with people who don't know the history of the music and didn't know my past. They didn't like the album, and suggested that I work with Prince. The last thing I wanted to do was a Prince song, because we were competitors. It appeared like I needed Prince to get back into the public eye. I didn't want to offend Prince, who I like, but I knew it wasn't a Kid Creole song. Sony said we must do it. To cap it all, The Sex Of It didn't sell. It made it worse that I had compromised the ugly C word. »

However, Darnell's enduring popularity in the UK was proven by his taking the lead in the 70s and 80s revival show, Oh What A Night from which he retired in 2002, after racking up an incredible one thousand performances.

Happily married and currently residing in Denmark, father-of-eight Darnell's future plans include a new musical based on his own songs and another bite at pop success. « I started up my own label in the early 90s with my own money - and released four records, just to continue with my craft. I didn't want to be beaten. We get people writing to its who love those albums, like To Travel Sideways. »

Working with new Coconuts and a hot young Danish band (Hernandez long diversified into acting and the original Coconuts hung up their shells), his most recent album Too Cool To Conga (Pyramid) demonstrates perfectly that a great deal of the magic you hear on Doppelganger has not deserted him. Working with long-term manager Ron Rainey, Darnell still has the utmost belief in what he is doing and is justifiably proud of his legacy: « I've taken every door that has opened, and gone into it to see what is beyond it. For me it's never been about how many records can you sell, it's been about 'I LOVE MUSIC'. I will create it until I drop dead. If people buy it, thank you. »

Darnell commented in 1981 that at 70, he could see himself cleaning the deck on the Queen Elizabeth. Is that the same now? « I said a lot of shit, didn't I?, » Darnell laughs. « That's definitely not one of my aspirations right now. When I'm 70, I'll be on some faraway Island, preferably in the South Pacific, with my loved ones, relaxing with a capital 'r'. As I've Matured I've really seen the need for nice weather. I desire to get out of the rain. That's symbolic and literal, actually. Cold weather bothers me these days. I crave sunshine »

If craving sunshine is what you're alter then Doppelganger offers just that, at the end of Darnell's remarkable Island odyssey. It - and the three other Creole albums - provide a touchstone for precious, different times. Enjoy them again.

Daryl Easlea spoke to August Darnell on May 22nd, 2002. They joked about the good old days and recorded it on a reel of tape.Liner Notes from the 2002 Islands Remastered reissues.

Track List
  • 1
    Lifeboat Party
  • 2
  • 3
    If You Wanna Be Happy
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
    Call Me The Entertainer
  • 7
    There's Something Wrong In Paradise
  • 8
    It's A Wonderful Life
  • 9
    Bongo Eddie's Lament
  • 10
    Broadway Rythm
  • 11
    Back In The Field Again
  • 12
    Seven Year Itch
  • 13
    Fireside Story - Fireside Chat
  • 14
    There is Something Wrong In Paradise - 12 Mix
  • 15
    Don't Take My Coconuts