Monday, February 15, 2010

Doug Fieger, 1952-2010

Doug Fieger, the brains, such as they were, behind the power-pop band the Knack, dead at the age of 57. You younger folks might find this hard to believe, but the Knack more or less presented themselves as the new Beatles, starting with the Meet the Beatles knockoff Get the Knack in 1979. "My Sharona," which spent six weeks at Number One in that magical summer of '79, nearly pulled it off, but that proved to be just about the only bullet in the Knack holster.

Fieger was a native of (suburban) Detroit who had fled for L.A. when he formed the Knack via the un-Beatlesque method of putting an ad in the paper. By the time the Knack made their first album, Fieger was as old as George Harrison was when the Beatles broke up. They weren't a one-hit wonder: "Good Girls Don't," the second single from Get the Knack, went to Number Eleven in that less-than-magical autumn of '79. Their unfortunate second album, But the Little Girls Understand, spawned the enervated "Baby Talks Dirty," which squeaked into the Top Forty for two weeks in March 1980, but that was it. Round Trip, the Knack's Revolver, went nowhere in 1981, and the Knack broke up, except for the inevtiable reunions, in 1982.

I don't mean to slight Fieger's gifts; coming up with a single as indelible as "My Sharona" is a lot more than most of us will accomplish. Here they are, making the world safe for the Romantics, on some kind of German TV show:


  1. The band's name (and first album title) is a reference to the movie Richard Lester directed in between "Hard Day's Night" and "Help!": "The Knack . . . and How to Get It." They were much hated -- I remember Rolling Stone had a story about the anti-fan club that sprang up in LA, with "Nuke the Knack" buttons. I think their offense was corrupting the aesthetic principles of new wave, though punk itself had been corrupted by opportunists both good (The Vibrators) and bad (The Stranglers) from pretty much the very start. Not that I knew that then; I just knew they were catchy and dirty -- "My Sharona" was the filthiest thing I'd ever heard on the radio, at least until Mick Jagger was singing about a girl who could make a dead man come two years later.

  2. Well, it was the filthiest thing you heard on the radio until "Good Girls Don't" crashed the charts, although as I understand it there was an edit that cut out the line "Till she's sitting on your face."

    Some might argue for "Heart of Glass," but for my money "My Sharona" remains the best cut on my "Billboard Top Hits of 1979," as long as we're going to leave Randy Van Warmer out of the conversation.

  3. The "clean" version of "Good Girls Don't" has two lyric changes: "wishing you could get into her pants" became "wishing that she'd give you a chance" and "sitting on your face" became "puts you in your place."

    This kept the world safe until Janet Jackson appeared at the Super Bowl, I think.