The Knack was an American new wave rock quartet based in Los Angeles that rose to fame with their 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/Coolidge area. The brother of attorney Geoffrey Fieger, best known for representing Dr. 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.
Fieger met the three other original members of the Knack in 1977 and 1978: Berton Averre (lead guitar, backing vocals and keyboards), Prescott Niles (bass), and Bruce Gary (drums). 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. Ironically, some of these songs later made up the band's debut album Get the Knack, and included "Good Girls Don't".
Get the Knack
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. (Bruce Gary was well known in the LA session scene; this became a source for later tensions.) They ultimately signed to Capitol Records.
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 #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. Nonetheless, 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.
Furthermore, when the band's management told Fieger to avoid giving interviews, the band was perceived as being arrogant and snobbish, as well as being unable to address the negative criticism against them.
The follow-up albums (1980–81)
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 #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 relentless 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 (which came out in October 1981) was a serious commercial disappointment, only reaching No.93 on the US charts, selling 150,000 copies. As well, lead single "Pay The Devil (Ooo, Baby, Ooo)" topped out at a mere 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. The band rehearsed briefly with Michael Des Barres as their new frontman in early 1982, but this line-up never gigged or recorded. By mid-1982, the Knack had splintered for good.
Reunions and final album (1986–2010)
The Knack reunited in November 1986, to play a benefit for Michele Myers, who had been the first person to book the band for a show in 1978. They continued to play club gigs for the next several years. In July 1989 Billy Ward replaced Bruce Gary as the band's drummer (after a brief interim by Pat Torpey of Mr. Big). In 1990 the Knack signed with Charisma Records and recorded the album Serious Fun which was released in February 1991. Lead single "Rocket O' Love" was a top 10 hit on US AOR stations (and a top 30 hit in Canada). To promote the song, they released a music video loaded with visual innuendo thematic to the song. Charisma collapsed after the death of the label's founder, Tony Stratton-Smith, and the group broke up again in 1992.
In 1994, with Ward back on drums, the band reunited to make some concert appearances to captilize on "My Sharona"'s new popularity after its appearance in the movie Reality Bites.
In 1996 all four original band members, including Bruce Gary, reunited in the studio one last time to record a track for a multi-artist compilation album saluting the British band Badfinger (where the band covered Badfinger's hit "No Matter What").
The Knack continued as a touring and recording act through the late 1990s and into the 2000s. Duane Leinan joined the Knack in the studio and on the road, until Doug's death and that of Duane Leinan's dad, Ron Leinan, in 2010. Doug and Duane wrote a song called "What About Love ".Terry Bozzio replaced Ward as drummer for 1998's Zoom album, and David Henderson (as "Holmes Jones") took over on drums for 2001's Normal as the Next Guy and Live at the Rock N Roll Funhouse albums. Pat Torpey then returned to take over for Henderson and played with the group until Fieger's death in 2010.
In 2005 the Knack made an appearance on the TV program Hit Me, Baby, One More Time.
In 2006, Doug Fieger and Berton Averre filed a lawsuit against the rap music group Run–D.M.C. for copyright infringement. The lawsuit alleges that the defining guitar riff from "My Sharona" was used without permission in the Run-D.M.C. track "It's Tricky" from their 1986 album Raising Hell.
In 2006, during a performance in Las Vegas, Fieger became disoriented, developing a dull headache, and grasping for the words to the songs that he had written and performed for years. Diagnosed with two brain tumors, Fieger underwent surgery and radiosurgery and returned to performing. However, he still continued to battle brain and lung cancer until his death on February 14, 2010, in Woodland Hills, California, at the age of 57.
Outside the Knack
In the interim between the Knack's break-up and 1986 reunion, Doug Fieger worked as a guest vocalist on a few tracks by Was (Not Was). (Fieger had grown up with band member Don Was; Was would later produce the Knack's album Serious Fun.) Fieger also recorded a solo album in 2000, and appeared as a solo artist in the Countdown Spectacular 2 concert series in Australia between late-August and early-September 2007. He sang the Knack favorite "My Sharona" only. Averre, Niles and Gary briefly continued on with former RoadMaster vocalist Stephen 'Mac' McNally as "The Game" after the Knack's initial break up.
Bruce Gary became a respected producer (archive recordings of Jimi Hendrix and new recordings of The Ventures) and a very successful sideman performing live and on studio sessions with artists such as Jack Bruce, Mick Taylor, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Cherie Currie, Robby Krieger, Spencer Davis, Stephen Stills, Rod Stewart, Emmett Chapman, and Sheryl Crow. Gary died from lymphoma on August 22, 2006 at the age of 55.
- Studio albums
- 1979: Get the Knack #1 US (5 weeks, 2× Platinum), #65 UK, #1 Canada (6 weeks, 4× Platinum)
- 1980: ...But the Little Girls Understand #15 US (Gold), #12 Canada (Platinum)
- 1981: Round Trip #93 US
- 1991: Serious Fun #56 CAN
- 1998: Zoom
- 2001: Normal as the Next Guy
- 2012: Rock & Roll Is Good for You: The Fieger/Averre Demos
- Live album released on CD
- 2012: Havin' a Rave-Up! Live in Los Angeles, 1978
- Live album released on CD and DVD
- 2001: Live from the Rock n Roll Funhouse
- Live concert released on laserdisc
- 1979: The Knack Live at Carnegie Hall
- Live concert released on DVD
- 2007: World Cafe Live: The Knack in Concert
- Compilation albums
- 1995: My Sharona
- 1992: Retrospective
- 1998: Proof: The Very Best of the Knack
- 1999: The Best of the Knack: Ten Best Series
- Documentary DVD
- 2004: Getting the Knack
- 1979: "My Sharona" #1 US (6 weeks, Gold), #6 UK, #1 Australia (5 weeks), #1 Canada (3 weeks, Platinum)
- 1979: "Good Girls Don't" #11 US, #66 UK, #1 Canada (Gold)
- 1980: "Baby Talks Dirty" #38 US, #13 Canada
- 1980: "Can't Put a Price on Love" #62 US
- 1981: "Pay the Devil (Ooo, Baby, Ooo)" #67 US
- 1981 "Boys Go Crazy"
- 1991: "Rocket O' Love" #9 US Album Rock Tracks, #30 Canada Hit Tracks
- 2004: My Sharona : Good Girls Don't ReRecords Digital EP on iTunes
- The Knack official website
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Image from Discogs