Cameron Carpenter: Rock’n’Roll Rewind – Knack Knack – Who’s There?
This week we rewind to November 1979 and a story I wrote for Music Express. It was in the same issue where I had written the cover story about an artist by the name of Segarini. I certainly was in my “pure pop for now people” phase. Please pardon the grammar, I was young and needed a good copy editor.
You Can’t Knack Em – Music Express – November 1979
So what if people think their album looks like a Beatles album. So what if people think they dress like The Beatles. So what if people think they sound like The Beatles. So what if people think the whole Knack phenomenon is pure record company hype. So fucking what!
You try to tell the 3,000 kids you crammed into Massey Hall in Toronto last month that it`s all hype and the Knack are nothing more than Beatles clones. You think they care?
Fact: Get The Knack went gold in 13 days in the States. Fact: Get The Knack is now quadruple platinum in Canada. Fact: My Sharona was number one almost everywhere in the world, Fact: Good Girls Don’t is number one almost everywhere in the world. Fact: The Knack have opened the doors for pop music on AM radio.
I like The Knack, I like My Sharona, and I liked them live. I don’t know why they upset so many people. I would rather see a whole generation of kids listening to The Knack than listening to Led Zeppelin or Donna Summer. (2015 Cam note – I take back the Zep comment). At least they’re listening to good (cool?) music.
The ones who are complaining don’t seem to remember that The Beatles and the Stones had their roots too. Isn’t it natural progression that The Knack have roots from the decade before? Of course it is. The people who are bitching are probably the ones holding the nuke rallies.
The Knack show at Massey Hall reminded me of the height of Rollermania. The place was packed with giggly girls in football sweaters and their pimply boyfriends in Max Webster tee shirts. There was also a fair smattering of the over 25 set who were there only to see the band from the wrong generation. Virtually non-existent were the Toronto new wave following, it’s not streethip to like The Knack.
The show was one of precision from the first chords of the opening introduction to the last bye-bye we luv you out of Fieger’s mouth. The opening act, The Fools from Boston came on at 8:02. The five piece band ripped through a 45 minute set of hard hitting pop. In their satin, leather, and latex they reminded me of The Raspberries, which ain’t too bad at all. They have been on tour with The Knack for all but five dates. The Fools recently signed to Capitol-EMI and an album is due sometime in January. This band is worth watching though The Knack crowd didn’t bring them back for an encore.
Before The Knack came on they played the best tapes since Bowie played The Rutles at the Gardens. While the roadies changed the stage, music of Sonny & Cher, The Merseybeats, and a host of important pop from the sixties pumped out through the P.A.. We’re talking roots. With the stage curtains drawn it was hard to see The Knack’s stage setup but somehow everyone knew what it was going to look like. And they were right.
When the lights went down half of the audience mobbed the front of the stage. The curtain opened to reveal a white back drop, white floor, three amps, a drum kit with The Knack on the bass, and three little X’s where the boys were supposed to stand, and the girls screamed. And they played their songs, and Doug Fieger smiled like a cat over a goldfish bowl, and the crowd ate it up. There was no reason for them not to.
The Knack played picture perfect renditions of most of their album, and added a batch of new material. When Fieger picked up his harmonica, the crowd squeeled with delight in anticipation of ‘Good Girls Don’t’. Fieger, Averre and Niles, the three front men, teased the crowd with their little butt-wiggling antics, while Bruce Gary kept thing danceable with his heavy-handed drumming.
Of course the whole show was leading up to the very important drum beat, and one hour after the band hit the stage Gary smashed his way into ‘My Sharona’, instant climax, if not a bit premature. But a premature climax is better than no climax at all. The Knack came back for a couple of encores and the building was cleared shortly after ten. It was if The Knack knew everybodies curfew. A happy crowd hit the subways.
The press hit their cars and headed down to the Harbour Castle Hotel where a post-show party was being held for The Knack. When I arrived The Knack were already there. Doug Fieger was hidden behind a pair of shades and the real life Sharona was wrapped around his arms. The rest of the band were idly chatting to various members of the press.
I talked with drummer Bruce Gary and he turned out to be a really neat guy. ‘I hope by the time we finish this tour I feel as great as I do right now.’ We talked about The Rolling Stone story and he said the band was pleased with it. He then had to run off to accept some awards.
Capitol Records presented the band with a batch of gold and platinum for a whole bunch of singles. Then they gave them platinum (100,000 copies sold) for Get The Knack. Then double platinum, triple platinum and quadruple platinum. By the time you read this the album will be well over the half million mark.
I talked with the rest of the band, except Fieger who was being hounded by everyone in the room all night, and they all turned out to be extremely personable. They are not primma donna’s as some people would have you believe. They play, and believe, in a certain kind of good music. Nothing more, nothing less. There is no mystery here.
Knuke the Knack? Dumb press do but I don’t.”
Come request “My Sharona” on a Wednesday night at The Kensington Lodge.
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Cameron Carpenter has written for The New Music Magazine, Music Express, The Asylum, The Varsity, The Eye Opener, The New Edition, Shades, Bomp!, Driven Magazine, FYI Music News, The Daily XY, New Canadian Music, NXNE Magazine and Don’t Believe A Word I Say.