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Friday, February 19, 2010

RIP Doug Fieger: You Had The Knack

Doug Fieger, the lead singer and rhythm guitarist of the band the Knack, whose enduring 1979 hit “My Sharona” has become an emblem of the new wave era in rock and a prime example of the brevity of pop fame, died on Sunday at his home in Woodland Hills, Calif. He was 57.

The cause was lung cancer, his family announced.

With a six-week run at No. 1, “My Sharona” was the inescapable hit of the summer of 1979, and it became a staple of high school dance parties for years to come. Built on a simple riff that was as perky as it was sexy, the song, by Mr. Fieger and the band’s lead guitarist, Berton Averre, celebrated teenage lust in unabashed terms. “When you gonna give it to me?” Mr. Fieger sang in the impatient whine that was his hallmark.

The song, written about a 17-year-old high school student who had caught the eye of the 26-year-old Mr. Fieger, displaced Chic’s disco anthem “Good Times” on Billboard’s singles chart and came to symbolize the commercial arrival of new wave, the poppier, snazzier-dressed cousin of punk rock. (That girl, Sharona Alperin, is now a high-end real estate agent in Los Angeles.) With a carefully executed marketing plan, the members of the Knack seemed to position themselves as a new Beatles, adopting a uniform of white shirts and skinny black ties, even recreating a group pose from the film “A Hard Day’s Night” for the back cover of their debut album, “Get the Knack” (Capitol).

I have to step in here...that is about the most obvious statement I have ever copied. The band name "The Knack" came from the Richard Lester movie, The Knack and How to Get It. Richard Lester directed Hard Day's Night. The movie is mildly naughty and good natured, like the band.

“Get the Knack” seemed to signal the arrival of a major new talent. But the band never had another hit on the scale of “My Sharona.” “Good Girls Don’t,” the album’s second single, went to No. 11, and “Baby Talks Dirty” stalled at No. 38 in 1980.

The band’s cocky behavior was interpreted as hubris by the rock press, and many critics called its lyrics misogynistic or worse. “Compared to Doug Fieger, Rod Stewart is a paragon of sexual humility,” Dave Marsh wrote in a Rolling Stone review of the band’s second album, “... But the Little Girls Understand.”

The Knack released another album, “Round Trip,” in 1981, and disbanded shortly thereafter, though since the early 1990s the band, mostly reunited, has toured and recorded frequently. In 1994 “My Sharona” was featured prominently in a scene in the Ben Stiller film “Reality Bites” and briefly re-entered the Billboard chart.

Bruce Gary, the Knack’s original drummer, died in 2006.

Douglas Lars Fieger was born in Detroit on Aug. 20, 1952, and grew up in nearby Oak Park, Mich. His mother was a teacher and his father a civil rights lawyer. Mr. Fieger’s brother, Geoffrey, is a prominent lawyer whose clients have included Jack Kevorkian; Geoffrey survives him, as does a sister, Beth Falkenstein, and a former wife, Mia.

Mr. Fieger had his first taste of fame while still in high school. His band, Sky, was signed to RCA and recorded two albums with Jimmy Miller, then the Rolling Stones’ preferred producer. Sky disbanded in 1973, and by 1978 Mr. Fieger had formed the Knack with Mr. Averre, Mr. Gary and the bassist Prescott Niles.

Things moved quickly. Reportedly wooed by more than a dozen record labels, the band signed with Capitol, which had also been the Beatles’ label. “Get the Knack,” released in June 1979, became an instant smash, going gold in two weeks and platinum in a month.

“My Sharona,” Mr. Fieger once said, had been written in 15 minutes. Billboard listed it as the No. 1 song of 1979.


It may have been, but Good Girls Don't was the #1 Hit in Wapella. It's mildly naughty, but completely rocking. RIP Doug Fieger. If anyone had the Knack, it was you.


Anonymous said...

I want you to want me -- Cheap Trick 1979

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The Vet said...
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ATD said...

I never know when you guys are quoting verse or for real. On the outside chance Anonymous Soldier is for real...listen up. Report to Sick Bay and tell a nurse or doctor what you just told us and tell them I sent you. We do care what happens to you, you are not forgotten,and we expect you to get the medical care you need. If there is something we can do for you Mother let one of us know.

JBP said...


Hard to tell, I supressed comments. These come around on Saturday Nights sometimes when the medicine cabinets must be unlocked.

Must more interested in the Knack from my end.

Anonymous said...

Agree with the Mod. If you can't moderate your meds check yourself into the rehab.

Plenty of time for prose there.

W T Sherman

Anonymous said...

Good to see you up and about General Sherman. Disappointed that you couldn't stop by for a drink on your March to the Sea...

U S Grant

Anonymous said...

Wanted to get to Savannah for the party. I have never been partial to rural Georgia.


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