Get The Knack

The Knack

Capitol Records, 1979

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/15/2014

Consider this one a fluke, ladies and gentlemen. The debut album by the Knack slipped through to the top of the charts on the strength of one big song and one big song alone, “My Sharona.” Don’t get me wrong, the late Doug Fieger was a great guy and I had the opportunity to interview him for my first book ten years ago. At the time, he shared his dismay at the changes in recording technology (“They’re not even making tape anymore” was a memorable quote), while still championing young bands coming up in the world like his did. It mustn’t have been easy for the Knack to get out from under the shadow of “My Sharona,” but Fieger had only glowing things to say about the song. Facts are facts, something had to pay the bills and that #1 smash hit surely did.

If straightforward rock ‘n’ roll is your thing, then you’ll undoubtedly Get The Knack. In 1979, the band were dubbed as the new Beatles, both in sound and style. The fact that they were Americans didn’t deter the world from initially viewing them as the “next big thing,” but you know how hype goes. One minute they love you and the next, you’re heading for a fall. Beatlesque guitar work can be heard on the gingerly paced “Your Number Or Your Name” and “That’s What The Little Girls Do.” Lyrically, the simple love song “Oh Tara” can’t get any closer to “Oh Darling” if it tried. All of the material on this debut is on the rough side of quaint, especially by today’s in-your-face standards. Its fine to hear as it’s playing, but largely forgettable when it’s all over.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The Knack does show some spunk and edge on “(She’s So) Selfish,” which must’ve been a hoot to hear them play live. It would’ve made a wild second single, but it wasn’t to be. Capitol chose to go with “Good Girls Don’t” instead. That was a stupid mistake. Does anyone really want the image of a girl sitting on Doug Fieger’s face? Soon after, their Knack for churning out a hit would become less and less reliable. Other songs on Get The Knack that don’t quite work are the clattering “Siamese Twins” and the dull ballad “Maybe Tonight.” On the other hand, “Heartbeat” is a standout cut, mainly because it sounds just like the Knack’s chief rivals, Cheap Trick.

But what an afterlife that lightning in a bottle song “My Sharona” has had. Would the Generation X flick Reality Bites be the same without it? It really is a catchy tune that had the multitudes in ’79 going berserk on the dance floor, in the streets, you name it. Had it been released today, it would inspire countless YouTube videos. Any song that was featured on K-Tel’s Rock 80 compilation became a hit, so mad props to them!

Doug Fieger didn’t exactly have many kind words to say about producer Mike Chapman, who was absent most of the time during the recording process. Fieger labeled him as nothing more than a figurehead from the record company, who was focused more on other more established acts like Blondie. The main creative force, band director, musician and songwriter was always Doug Fieger himself. He was the one who never lost faith in his band, continuing to record and tour whenever possible, until his untimely death from cancer in 2010. There’s something to be said for that kind of dedication and determination, regardless of the odds. R.I.P. Doug.

Rating: C

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© 2014 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Capitol Records, and is used for informational purposes only.