Wednesday, September 2, 2009
VINYL DESTINATION 6: The Knack
Deadpool: Nate... c'mon... wake up... say something to get me mad... tell me "According to Jim" is the best sitcom in television history. Tell me The Knack sucks. Something... Nate... ...Was it worth it?
Much like the hair band era of the late 80's, the "skinny tie" movement of the late 70's and early 80's is equally maligned and laughed at. The Romantics, The Plimsouls, and the Wigs all put out quality music.
The style of skinny tie is best described as "power pop", catchy hits with a hard rock edge, but the added ingredient of singable harmony choruses.
The absolute kings of the scene were the Knack. Large record company anticipatory marketing led to huge sales of their debut, "Get the Knack". Capitol records tried to push them as the next Beatles, including an album cover vaguely reminiscent of "Meet the Beatles."
This heavy pre and post-release marketing saturation, and one of the most overplayed singles of all time, "My Sharona", led to huge worldwide exposure. "Sharona", effervescently catchy, memorable, and features a surprising cornucopia of musicianship, especially Berton Averre's ripping guitar solo, is a microcosm of the LP itself.
"My Sharona" is far from the lone bright spot on the record. Doug Fieger's lyrical songwriting swang from sweet and classy to downright nasty and overtly sexual. His voice carries all the songs exceptionally well. "Your Number or Your Name" is a great pop song about trying to get the attention of someone who has caught yours. Featuring snappy drumwork by Bruce Gary, it's a true toe-tapper.
"Maybe Tonight" is a great heartfelt song reeking of longing, where Fieger's voice is in top form. He sings with great emotion in all his songs, but here it feels more pure and raw. Doug feels it on this song.
Sweetly expressing emotional frustration with the opposite sex on "That's What the Little Girls Do", and libidinous outrage at a teasing girlfriend with "Frustrated", Fieger's songwriting runs the attitude gamut toward relationship difficulties, whether physical or in the heart.
Every teenage boy's fantasy (including my own) is met in the lyrics of Fieger's rocker, "Good Girls Don't". The title is a line a girl gives him in the chorus, but with the caveat of: "But I do". It's a nice mid-tempo ditty, begun strangely enough with harmonica. The song could be the first and only top 40 chart single with the lyric "you're hoping you can get inside her pants."
"She's so Selfish" is another teasing girl, musically backed by a super slow build on drums, that grows into a half speed Bo Diddley beat the upswings toward a rollicking finish. One of my personal faves on the record.
Obviously, the Knack were heavily influenced by the 60's garage rock movement led by the likes of ? and the Mysterians, The Dave Clark Five, and the Troggs. The Knack capture that vibe, right down to the studio pic of them on the back cover featuring the group in black pant, white shirt, black skinny tie regalia. All five members performing with the classic instrument of each position: Prescott Niles with his Richenbacker bass, Bruce Gary on a Ludwig drum kit, Doug Fieger's brown and black vignette Stratocaster, and Lead guitarist Berton Averre's jet black Gibson Les Paul.
that oozes classic.
Rock scribe Danny Sugerman, author of the Doors bio, "Nowhere Here Gets Out Alive", wrote the liner notes for the "Best of the Knack" retrospective CD. He expressed that I agree heavily with as gospel truth. He described them in the same way that the Replacements' Paul Westerberg once described the Beatles: "A damn fine rock and roll band."
Believe the Hype.