The Knack was an American rock band based in Los Angeles that rose to fame with its first single, “My Sharona”, an international number-one hit in 1979.
Singer Doug Fieger was a native of Oak Park, Michigan, a northern suburb of Detroit, Michigan, and grew up in the 9 Mile/Greenfield area. The brother of attorney Geoffrey Fieger (later known for representing Jack Kevorkian in a series of assisted suicide cases) Fieger had previously played in an eclectic rock band called Sky as well as the Sunset Bombers. Although Sky had received a modest amount of acclaim, including being produced by Rolling Stones producer Jimmy Miller, the band broke up without having any chart success. As a result, Fieger made the decision to move to Los Angeles and start another band.
Shortly after arriving in L.A., Fieger met Berton Averre (lead guitar, backing vocals and keyboards), and the two started a songwriting partnership. Fieger had also known Bruce Gary (drums) for years before forming the Knack in 1978 with Prescott Niles (bass). Niles was the last to join, a week before the band’s first show in June 1978. In the meantime, Fieger had been doubling on bass on a series of demos that the group had shopped to several record labels, all of which were rejected. Some of these songs later made up the band’s debut album Get the Knack, and included “Good Girls Don’t”.
Within months of their live debut, popular club gigs on the Sunset Strip, as well as guest jams with musicians such as Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and Ray Manzarek, led to the band being the subject of a record label bidding war. The band was pursued by ten record labels, but decided on Capitol Records; at the time, the Knack was given the largest signing sum in the label’s history. A&R executives Bruce Garfield and Bruce Ravid are credited with signing the band.
The band’s debut album, Get the Knack, was one of the year’s best-selling albums, holding the number one spot on Billboard magazine’s album chart for five consecutive weeks and selling two million copies in the United States. The lead single, “My Sharona”, was a No. 1 hit in the US, and became the number-one song of 1979. Follow-up single “Good Girls Don’t” peaked at No. 11 in the US, and reached No. 1 in Canada.
However, the band’s rise to the top of the charts also precipitated a backlash. Capitol’s packaging of Get the Knack included a perceived cover likeness to Meet the Beatles! with the record’s center label being the same design and style as the Beatles’ early 1960s LPs. Coupled with the band’s “retro” 1960s look and pop/rock sound, the company’s stylings led detractors to accuse them of being Beatles rip-offs, which the band and their record company denied. Fieger acknowledged the band’s likeness to the Beatles, claiming that it was their intention to present the Knack as a replica of the British Invasion. He went on to mention how fans of the Knack had not been able to experience the times of the 1960s, and that it was wrong to deny them the privilege of experiencing something similar. Critics fought back, claiming the band was imposing inadequate memories of the 1960s on those who didn’t know better. Soon, as Get the Knack became more popular, the band was met with hostility from other artists who felt the intense marketing of the band was invalidating their own efforts of invoking the 1960 sound. This perception, and the perception that the object of some of the Knack’s songs were teenaged girls (subsequently acknowledged when the band were years older), quickly led to a “Knuke the Knack” campaign led by San Francisco artist Hugh Brown.
The Knack quickly recorded a follow-up album …But the Little Girls Understand, which was released in early 1980. Though the album went gold in the US and Japan, and platinum in Canada, it didn’t meet with the same level of commercial success as their debut. Fieger claimed in later interviews that all of the tracks for Get the Knack and …But the Little Girls Understand were written before the first LP was recorded and were intended to be put out as a double album. Additionally, the lead single “Baby Talks Dirty” only briefly made the US Top 40, stalling at No. 38 (but reaching No. 13 in Canada); follow-up single “Can’t Put a Price on Love” missed the top 40 altogether, peaking at No. 62.
After nearly a year of touring in the US, Canada, Europe, New Zealand, Australia, and Japan, starting in April 1980 the band took a year off because of exhaustion and “internal dissent”. They reconvened in the summer of 1981 to record their third album, Round Trip. However, the record (released in October 1981) was a commercial disappointment, only reaching No. 93 on the Billboard chart, selling 150,000 copies. As well, the lead single “Pay the Devil (Ooo, Baby, Ooo)” peaked at No. 67 on the Billboard Hot 100. The group made several concert appearances during 1981 to promote Round Trip. Keyboardist Phil Jost was brought into the lineup at this time to enable the band to duplicate the more heavily layered sound of their new release.
With the Knack experiencing rapidly diminishing chart success, and mounting critical backlash against them Fieger left amidst internal squabbles on December 31, 1981, just months after the release of Round Trip. By mid-1982, the Knack had split up while Fieger formed a new band, “Doug Fieger’s Taking Chances”
Get the Knack is the debut album by American rock band The Knack, released in June 1979. At the time, the album was one of the most successful debuts in history, selling over one million copies in less than two months and spending five weeks at number one on the Billboard 200 album chart.
The lead single from the album, “My Sharona”, was number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks and number one on Billboard’s Top Pop Singles of 1979 year end chart. The follow-up single, “Good Girls Don’t,” reached number 11 on the Hot 100 and followed “My Sharona” to number one on the Canadian Singles Chart.
Get the Knack was recorded in just two weeks at a cost of only $18,000, an extremely quick and inexpensive recording at a time when many established artists were spending months and several hundred thousand dollars to record an album. The album was produced by Mike Chapman, who had written hits for Sweet in the early 1970s and most recently produced Blondie’s breakout album Parallel Lines.
Get the Knack was released in June 1979 and became an immediate success, thanks in part to an intense promotional campaign by Capitol Records. The Knack’s image was largely influenced by the Beatles. The album cover imitates the Beatles’ first Capitol LP Meet the Beatles!, and the back cover photo depicts a scene from the Beatles’ film A Hard Day’s Night. To complete the Beatle imagery, the 1960s Capitol rainbow label adorned the LP, a detail the band had written into its contract. The album obtained a gold certification from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in just 13 days, becoming Capitol Records’ fastest selling debut LP since Meet the Beatles! in 1964. In August, the album reached number one on the Billboard 200, where it remained for five weeks, and was certified platinum by the RIAA for one million copies sold. The lead single, “My Sharona”, also met with immediate success, becoming Capitol’s fastest selling debut single since the Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and staying at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks.
A negative backlash against the Knack’s overnight success formed among critics who found the band’s image too contrived and their attitude too brash. San Francisco conceptual artist Hugh Brown, who had designed the Clash’s Give ‘Em Enough Rope album cover, started a “Knuke the Knack” campaign complete with T-shirts, buttons and bumper stickers. Some music writers began to criticize the band for what they perceived as arrogance, hype and a misogynist attitude expressed in their songs. The band’s refusal to do interviews was also viewed negatively by the music press. One entertainment weekly, Scene magazine, refused to publish a review of the Knack’s concert in Cleveland due to what it called “attempts at censorship” by the band’s management.
Robert Christgau of The Village Voice was critical of the album’s misogynistic themes and remarked that if the Knack “felt this way about girls when they were unknowns, I shudder to think how they’re reacting to groupies.” However, Christgau countered critics who had dismissed the band on “purely technical terms”, arguing that “if they’re less engaging musically than, say, the Scruffs, they have a lot more pop and power going for them than, say, the Real Kids.” Billboard critic Dick Nusser was particularly complimentary of tracks such as “Let Me Out”, “Maybe Tonight” and “That’s What the Little Girls Do”, while noting that the pleading song “Oh Tara” indicates that the Knack “aren’t strict girl haters.”
Trouser Press noted the negative portrayal of the female protagonists of certain songs and singled out “Maybe Tonight” as “bottom-of-the-barrel sap”, but praised “My Sharona”, “Let Me Out” and “Frustrated” as “tight guitar pop.” In 2016, Paste ranked Get the Knack at number 39 on its list of the 50 best new wave albums. Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain listed Get the Knack as one of his 50 favorite recordings. (wikipedia)
The Knack attempted to update the Beatles sound for the new wave era on their debut — a good idea that was well executed, but critics cried “foul” when millions sold after Capitol’s pre-release hype (it went gold in 13 days and eventually sold five million copies, making it one of the most successful debuts in history). Get the Knack is at once sleazy, sexist, hook-filled, and endlessly catchy — above all, it’s a guilty pleasure and an exercise in simple fun. When is power pop legitimate anyway? Includes the unforgettable hits “My Sharona” and “Good Girls Don’t.” (by Chris Woodstra)
Berton Averre (guitar)
Doug Fieger (vocals, guitar)
Bruce Gary (drums)
Prescott Niles (bass)
01. Let Me Out (Fieger/Averre) 2,2
02. Your Number Or Your Name (Fieger/Averre) 2.58
03. Oh Tara (Fieger) 3.05
04. (She’s So) Selfish (Fieger/Averre) 4.31
05. Maybe Tonight (Fieger) 4.03
06. Good Girls Don’t (Fieger) 3.09
07. My Sharona (Fieger/Averre) 4.55
08. Heartbeat (Montgomery/Petty) 2.12
09. Siamese Twins (The Monkey and Me) (Fieger/Averre) 3.26
10. Lucinda (Fieger/Averre) 4.01
11. That’s What The Little Girls Do (Fieger) 2.43
12. Frustrated (Fieger/Averre) 3.53
13. Baby Talks Dirty (single from the Knack’s second album, …But the Little Girls Understand (1980) (Fieger/Averre) 3.46