List of the Day - Archives

Ten Things To Remember About The Knack

List Of The Day

Doug Fieger, the leader of the Knack, recently passed away after a long battle with cancer. While the Knack hadn't been a true commercial force since 1979, they still remained somewhere in the back of most pop music fans' brains, either as an answer to an unused trivia question or as a group in need of serious reconsideration. (Seriously, we live in an age when Tom Petty is the recipient of a FOUR HOUR documentary. Shouldn't Hank Williams receive 10 hours then?)

Here then are 10 things to think about when it comes to the Knack.

10) They Got Terrible Reviews: I'm still not convinced that Doug Fieger didn't sleep with the wrong person's girlfriend. So many reviews back during the Knack's fling with fame charge Fieger with being a sexist, a misogynist, anything just short of the absolute pervert. Fieger's attitude, apparently, makes the Knack's music unlistenable. I assume these same people have burned their albums by Chuck Berry, The Rolling Stones, Gary Glitter, Pete Townshend and many hip-hop artists. If I felt so strongly, I would.

9) The "Nuke The Knack" Movement: If you need just one reason to like them and all the nasty reviews don't do it, consider the idea that the Knack managed to inspire a backlash with "Nuke The Knack." Granted, you'll be disappointed when you hear how mild-mannered and likable the Knack's records are. I mean, seriously, people got angry over this?

8) The Knack Were Great Musicians: Good enough for drummer Bruce Gary to come in and play drums on some old Jimi Hendrix tapes. And good enough for the band to cut their debut album quickly and mostly live in the studio. No auto-tune for these guys. Watch live clips on You Tube and see just how solid a guitar player is Berton Averre.

7) Their Lyrics Had To Be Changed For Radio: They wrote a song called "Good Girls Don't" with as catchy a chorus as any future hit single and then they stick a line in about getting her to sit on your face. Surprise, surprise, when they had to change the line for the single, forcing people to buy the album in order to hear their true artistic intention.

6) "Art War": By the time the band made their third album, Round Trip, next to no one was still paying attention, so they could record a song like "Art War" where they behave as if their music isn't meant for the charts anyhow, but rather is best enjoyed in serious living rooms the world over. If that were the case, they should have hired Brian Eno to produce. Then the critics would've loved them.

5) The Knack Were Highly Derivative: Unless you fall in that musical outlaw / unlistenable category, chances are, you sound like someone. The great thing about the Knack is that they ripped off everyone including themselves. Listen to "The Feeling I Get" and tell me you don't hear "Then He Kissed Me" by the Crystals or anything by the Beach Boys. Cue up "Can't Put A Price On Love" and try singing "Beast Of Burden." If P. Diddy can be taken seriously for talking over "Every Breath You Take," shouldn't we cut the Knack some slack?

4) The Knack Made Capitol Records Use The Cool Looking Label: It may not seem like much, but every album I bought in the 1970s that came out on Capitol Records came with an ugly orange label that practically dared you to like the music in its grooves. The Knack, or someone in the marketing department, convinced Capitol to issue their "old-fashioned" record label from the previous decade with the black and white print and the rainbow circle. I know it improved my enjoyment of the band.

3) Get The Knack Was One Of The Fastest Selling Debut Albums Of Its Time: One of the reasons for so much of the Knack backlash was because the Knack secured the promotional muscle of Capitol Records. They recorded a Bruce Springsteen song, "Don't Look Back," but then failed to put it on their album because it didn't fit the flow of the album. Had they done so, critics might have gone easier on them. Obviously, Get The Knack was meant to remind you of Meet The Beatles. Oh, the evil plot! (In which case, more evil, please.)

2)...But The Little Girls Understand: Quoting Willie Dixon's "Back Door Man" for an album of powerpop was obviously a criminal offense. If some roots-rocker who didn't sell any albums used it, it would be considered a great homage to a grand tradition, but the Knack couldn't cut a break. They even covered a Kinks song--"The Hard Way"--to try and make nice. If The Knack should ever remind us of anything, it should be that there are real musicians worth attacking (Phil Collins, anyone?) and non-musicians as well (P. Diddy, perhaps?), but piling on a band that had one great idea is a bit excessive. Do we hate Modern English now for that "I Melt With You" song?

1) "My Sharona": Before it was featured in that dumb movie (Reality Bites?--don't make me watch it again to check), "My Sharona" was a song that could still enliven a dancefloor without irony. Of course, the Knack didn't do themselves any favors by making their next album's first single--"Baby Talks Dirty"--sound like a "My Sharona" rip-off. Not to be too perverse, but there are times when "Dirty" sounds just as good. 

R.I.P. Doug. Your band was better than many people said. To hell with history.

View Comments