June 15, 1979 - The Knack released one of the fastest selling debut albums in history. Get The Knack sold over a million copies in just two months and would spend five weeks at the number one spot on Billboards album charts.
The Knack are viewed as an overnight success, but in reality were one of the hardest-working bands in the business and had more than paid their dues. Singer/guitarist Doug Fieger cut his teeth with the Michigan-based power trio Sky in the early 70's. Sky released two records for RCA, Don't Hold Back and Sailor's Delight. Rolling Stones producer Jimmy Miller signed Sky to RCA after Doug Fieger had invited him to come see the band play. Miller would also produce both records for the band. Sky did not achieve much commercial success and broke up after the release of their second record. Doug Fieger relocated to Los Angeles where he met the guy that would become his songwriting partner for the next thirty plus years: that guy was guitarist Berton Averre. Doug and Berton began writing and demoing songs in 1973. Some of these songs would make their way onto The Knack's debut album and others remained in the vaults until the release of 2012's Rock & Roll Is Good for You: The Fieger/Averre Demos. Drummer Bruce Gary and bassist Prescott Niles would eventually join the band and The Knack made their live debut on June 1st 1978 at the Whisky A Go-Go in Los Angeles.
After having their demos rejected by dozens of record labels The Knack took to the clubs, began a relentless string of shows and quickly became one of the hottest tickets in town. Word was spreading about the band and people like Bruce Springsteen, Stephen Stills, Tom Petty and Ray Manzarek began turning out for shows. Not only were these guys coming to shows, they wanted to share the stage with The Knack and jam. All of this attention soon led to a bidding war between the labels and in the end The Knack signed with Capitol records. Doug Fieger said that one Friday night Bruce Springsteen got up on stage and jammed with the band and the following Monday morning they had 14 offers on the table. Not bad for a band that just a few months prior had seen nothing but rejection.
Get The Knack features eleven original songs plus a cover of "Heartbeat," a song originally made famous by Buddy Holly. However, The Knack are actually doing a sped-up version of Humble Pie's cover of "Heartbeat." Doug Fieger was a huge fan of Steve Marriott and loved their version of the song. Get The Knack opens with probably the best one/two punch in power pop history: "Let Me Out" is a frantic Kinks inspired opener that gives way to the gloriously melodic "Your Number Or Your Name." Other highlights on side one include "Oh Tara," "Maybe Tonight" and "(She's So) Selfish" which was intended as the third single from the album but was scrapped because Capitol wanted the band to record their follow-up album as soon as possible.
"Good Girls Don't" brings side one to an end and is a song that dates back to the early Fieger/Averre demos and would become the bands second-biggest single. Side two opens with "My Sharona" which was released as the lead single from the album and became the fastest-selling debut single for Capitol records since The Beatles' "I Want To Hold Your Hand" and was the biggest selling single of 1979. "My Sharona" hit the number one spot on the Billboard singles chart and remained there for six weeks. "My Sharona" was written about a real person and the real Sharona appears on the picture sleeve of the single. Berton Averre's guitar work throughout Get The Knack is flawless and the solo he put down on "My Sharona" is one of his best. Another early Fieger/Averre demo gets a reworking with the inclusion of "It's What The Little Girls Do" on side two. Many of Fieger's lyrics on Get The Knack were inspired by the real life Sharona Alperin and the albums closer "Frustrated" is no exception, Fieger was infatuated with Sharona but she kept him at arm's length and this song is the ultimate exercise in frustration. "Frustrated" appeared on the B-side of "My Sharona" but the band felt it was strong enough to be an A-side in it's own right. Get The Knack was produced by Mike Chapman, who is best known for his work with the band Sweet and also producing Nick Gilder and Blondie. The album was recorded in just eleven days with minimal overdubs and a budget of only $17,000. The album seems to effortlessly capture the live energy of the band and is a perfect representation of The Knack in every way .
The Knack wanted their debut to be a double album but this idea was nixed by the label and the only song not used was an unreleased Bruce Springsteen track "Don't Look Back." Everyone was pleased with The Knack's take of "Don't Look Back" but the Springsteen camp decided that they didn't want the song on the market at that time, so the track remained unreleased for many years. While The Knack wore their influences firmly on their sleeve and were equal parts Beatles, Kinks, Beach Boys and Buddy Holly, they presented it in a way that had never been done before and delivered a sound that was completely original and clearly The Knack.
Doug Fieger and The Knack created one of the best debut albums of all time and thirty six years later Get The Knack sounds as fresh, exciting and important as the day it was released. The Knack would release several more fantastic records over the years including 1981's Round Trip, 1991's comeback album Serious Fun and 1998's Zoom. Although the band never quite matched the commercial success of their debut album, Doug Fieger summed things up quite nicely with this quote...
“We’ve already had the success you dream about. But we’ve never played our music for that. We play it because this is the only worthwhile pop music to make – fun and sad, silly and smart, explosive but sweet, snide but vulnerable. It’s not about being cool but about being goofy and having a great time. We didn’t invent this, but it’s what we do.” – Doug Fieger
Sadly drummer Bruce Gary passed away in August of 2002 after a long battle with lymphoma and Doug Fieger was diagnosed with two brain tumors shortly after Gary's death. Fieger lost his battle with cancer on Valentine's Day 2010. Fieger's passing was a huge blow to the power pop music community and to all that knew him.
Recently Omnivore Records released expanded versions The Knack's last two studio records, Zoom and Normal As The Next Guy both featuring several bonus tracks and in July they will also be re-issuing Live From The Rock ‘n’ Roll Fun House. It seems that after all these years people are still getting The Knack......
Scott Carr is a guitarist who plays in the Columbus, OH bands Radio Tramps and Returning April. Scott is also an avid collector of vinyl records and works at Lost Weekend Records. So...if you are looking for Scott....you'll either find him in a dimly lit bar playing his guitar or in a record store digging for the holy grail.