Craig Allen says: ‘Meet the Knack’
"Get the Knack."
It was the name of the band, and the title of the first album. And, in 1979, everyone was getting...the knack.
Knack founder Doug Fieger was from Oak Park, Michigan...a northern suburb of Detroit. There, he was in the rock bands "Sky" and the "Sunset Bombers."
Even though Sky was produced by Rolling Stones producer Jimmy Miller, the band did not have any chart hits, and broke up. With the end of Sky, Fieger moved to Los Angeles to form a new band.
Doug Fieger met the three other original members of what would become the Knack, in 1977 and 1978:
Berton Averre played lead guitar and keyboards, along with adding vocals. Prescott Niles played the bass, and Bruce Gary had a knack for the drums...Niles joined the band one week before their first show, in 1978!
As all this was happening, Fieger was thinking about the future...he was doubling as the bass player on several song demos that he was shopping around. All the songs were rejected by the record labels. Coincidentally, some of these failed demo songs ended up on the first Knack album...including "Good Girls Don't."
As it turned out, Fieger need not have worried about the future for too long.
That first live show (1978) quickly led to nights at clubs on the popular Sunset Strip.
The Knack soon found themselves playing jam sessions with the likes of Tom Petty, Ray Manzarek...and gained a Jersey connection...playing with Bruce Springsteen!
Ultimately, the Knack was signed by Capitol Records.
"Get The Knack" was one of the biggest albums of 1979. It went to #1 on the Billboard album charts for 5 weeks...and sold 2 million copies.
Above...experience the song the way buyers did in 1979...on a vinyl 45...
"My Sharona" went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 6 weeks thru the late summer and fall of 1979!
In a newspaper interview, Fieger stated: "I was 25 when I wrote the song (with Berton Averre). But the song was written from the perspective of a 14-year-old boy. It's just an honest song about a 14-year-old boy."
The followup single, "Good Girls Don't" was a #11 hit (1979). A radio-friendly version of the hit song (the 45 rpm single) changed a few rather descriptive album lyrics... "Good Girls Don't" was a #1 hit in Canada.
The #1 sales of the album and "My Sharona" put the Knack squarely in the spotlight...and that brought on a bit of a backlash.
Capitol Records' packaging of the album included a perceived cover art likeness to "Meet The Beatles."
Plus, the album's center label was the same design as the Beatles' early 1960's albums and singles! Along with the bands' retro-1960's look and pop/rock leanings, the label's artistic stylings lead some in the press and buying public to call the Knack "Beatles rip-offs."
This was fiercely denied by Capitol Records.
Add to the negative mix: the perception that the object of the bands' songs were teenage girls (later confirmed when the band members were years older).
Above...enjoy the album track "Frustrated" and its video...the song was not released as as a single (BTW, its words would add to the backlash...)
Above...the Knack LIVE at Carnegie Hall in 1979...and let me warn you...don't play the video around the kids...the "album" lyrics aren't appropriate!
Despite the backlash, the Knack quickly returned to the recording studio...
The album "But The Little Girls Understand" came out in early 1980.
While this followup album went gold in the U.S. and Japan, and platinum in Canada, it didn't meet the sales levels of its predecessor. Not an unusual fate for a second album...
The first single, "Baby Talks Dirty" barely cracked the top-40 (#38/1980). The song fared better in Canada, hitting #13.
"Can't Put A Price On Love" stopped its chart climb at #62.
Fieger would later say that all the songs for "Get The Knack" and "But The Little Girls Understand" were written before "Get The Knack" was recorded...and all the songs were originally intended for release as a "double album." Interesting...
Back to the timeline:
After a year-long, nearly non-stop tour of the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, the Knack decided to take a break in April 1980, citing exhaustion and "internal dissent."
They came back together in the recording studio in the summer of 1981.
The third album, "Round Trip" was a further commercial disappointment. Actually, a serious commercial disappointment. It could only reach #93 on the album sales charts, selling a mere 150,000 copies!
In addition, the lead (only) single, "Pay The Devil (Ooo, Baby, Ooo)" stalled at #67 as 1981 was coming to a close.
The Knack made several concert appearances in late 1981, to support "Round Trip." in addition, keyboardist Phil Jost joined the lineup, in an effort to help the guys duplicate the more heavily layered sound of the new album (and single).
With the Knack's diminishing chart success, and continuing backlash, founder Doug Fieger left the band on December 31st, 1981.
Amid continuing internal squabbling, the Knack rehearsed in early 1982...with Michael Des Barres as the new front man. But, it was not meant to be. This "new" Knack never played publicly, nor did they record.
By mid 1982, the Knack was no more.
November 1986 brought a Knack reunion, as the band played at a benefit for Michele Myers, the first person to book the band for a show, back in 1978.
The band would go on to play club dates for the next few years.
1989 brought a lineup change, as Billy Ward replaced Bruce Gary on drums (following a brief stint by Pat Torpey of "Mr. Big").
In 1990, the Knack signed with Charisma Records, resulting in the release of the album "Serious Fun" in February 1991.
"Rocket O' Love" was an album rock Top-10 hit (#30 hit in Canada) in 1991.
Sadly, with the collapse of their record label (due to its founder's death!), the Knack broke up again in 1992.
1994 brought another Knack reunion, as you might guess by looking at my radio promo CD copy of "My Sharona."
With Ward back on drums, the guys got back together to play some shows, capitalizing on the new popularity of the song...
...thanks to "Sharona" being featured in the hit movie "Reality Bites."
Two years later, all four founding members of the band (including Bruce Gary) reunited in the studio one last time...to record a song for a multi-artist tribute album for the British band "Badfinger."
The Knack covered Badfinger's 1970 smash (#8/1970) "No Matter What."
There would be several changes from the late 1990's up til 2010...including Duane Leinan, Terry Bozzio, David Henderson, and Pat Torpey returned to play with the band.
In 2005, the Knack performed "My Sharona" on the TV show "Hit Me, Baby, One More Time."
The following year, 2006, while performing in Las Vegas, Doug Fieger became disoriented...developed a dull headache...and was grasping for the words to songs that he had written and sung for years.
He was diagnosed with 2 brain tumors...but after surgery and radiosurgery, Fieger returned to the concert stage.
He continued to battle brain cancer, until he died on February 14, 2010. Doug Fieger was 57.
Bruce Gary died of lymphoma on August 22, 2006. He was 55.
Despite the passing of two founders, the Knack music keeps coming, thanks to the bands' many studio and concert recordings!
Checking the Knack discography, the studio recordings-based album "Rock And Roll Is Good For You: The Fieger/Averre Demos" was released in 2012.
And, of course, "My Sharona" will live on forever, as one of "Jersey's Favorite Hits!"
Wait...one more thing...
Whatever happened to Sharona? She's a real person...doing well, and living in Southern California.
In short, Sharona Alperin is now a high-end real estate agent, specializing in celebrity clientele. She and Fieger were a couple for about 4 years (and even engaged), before the rock & roll lifestyle, and Fieger's alcoholism, caused the split. They remained friends, and she was with him during the last week of his life...
A while back, Tom McNally wrote about her here at nj1015.com...click here to read Sharona's story!