The Second Disc

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Back Tracks: The Knack

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Rock fans have had some sad news to cope with today: Doug Fieger, the unmistakable lead singer for The Knack, died today after a lengthy battle with cancer. While The Knack may be seen by some as a semi-sleazy one-hit wonder (or two-hit, if you count “Good Girls Don’t”), their brand of power pop was emblematic of everything the genre should be: fun, catchy and not the least bit serious.

In honor of Fieger’s band and their contributions to the pop-rock scene, here’s a special look back at the reissues of their 30-year catalogue.

Get The Knack (Capitol, 1979)
Thanks to a crazy marketing push, the monstrous singles “Good Girls Don’t” and “My Sharona” and the production skills of Mike Chapman (the master producer of Blondie’s Parallel Lines and a master songwriter who co-wrote pop classics for bands from Huey Lewis and The News to Tina Turner), The Knack’s infamously lo-fi debut LP quickly became one of the biggest-selling debuts of all time. Of course, that led to a vicious backlash, but that was the super-serious ’70s for you. Don’t let that blind you to the quality on this record. Capitol reissued the majority of The Knack’s catalogue in 2002, adding two demos (one for “My Sharona” and one for “That’s What the Little Girls Do” – new fans take note, the whole little-girl thing is a repeating motif) and three unreleased cuts, including covers of Bruce Springsteen outtake “Don’t Look Back” and Nick Lowe’s “I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock and Roll).”

…But the Little Girls Understand (Capitol, 1979)
Everything about this sophomore record screams “sophomore record,” from the hasty release date (not even a year after Get The Knack) to the wildly derivative lead single “Baby Talks Dirty,” not nearly a patch on “My Sharona.” But like much of the group’s output, it’s fun if it’s not taken too seriously. Still, the quick nature of the record makes bonus track pickings on the 2002 reissue slim – two live cuts and a pair of rehearsal bits are all that’s contained here.

Round Trip (Capitol, 1981)
Considered by some to be the best of The Knack’s discography, this LP boasts a bit more musical maturity than its predecesors. Chalk it up to a two-year break between albums and, perhaps, a resilience against the band’s detractors. The bonus material, released in 2002, shines through here: a demo of underrated single “Pay the Devil (Ooo, Baby, Ooo)”; a live version of its B-side, “Lil Cal’s Big Mistake”; one alternate mix and two outtakes. The band split not long after the release of the record, but the story wasn’t over.

Serious Fun (Charisma, 1991)
Even with a new producer in the mix (Don Was, a personal favorite) and a decade to retreat from the initial backlash that surrounded the group, nothing could really save this album from sinking without a trace. This may never have even been reissued had it not been for Charisma Records being part of Virgin, itself bought by EMI/Capitol not long after the record’s release. Thus, when the previous records were re-released in 2002, Serious Fun became part of that lineup. To that end, four bonus tracks, ranging from the long-form “Down with the Blond” to a cover of Martha and The Vandellas’ “Nowhere to Run,” were added.

Re-Zoom (Image, 1998/2003)
Zoom was a much more focused record than its predecessors, and with a new drummer in the line-up (the one and only Terry Bozzio) the band was somewhat revitalized. However, the record was dropped like a rock by Rhino and sank as quickly. So when The Knack signed to Image Entertainment, they took the masters and reissued it (the year after the Capitol remasters, natch) as Re-Zoom. Two of the three bonus tracks are covers (Badfinger’s “No Matter What,” previously released on a tribute disc to the band, and “Girls Talk” from Elvis Costello’s Get Happy!!), but the third – an untitled instrumental, is quite inspired.

Other tracks
A few more bits of The Knack can be found on some compilations: 1992’s The Retrospective features a demo of “Rocket O’ Love” from Serious Fun in the mix (note that it wasn’t included on the Capitol reissue in 2002). And four new tracks abound on a Rhino-era comp in 1998 (as well as a single edit of “Can’t Put a Price on Love” from …But the Little Girls Understand). Most of them are covers (including the Get The Knack bonus cut “I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock and Roll)” and “That Thing You Do!” from the film of the same name), but completists will want to seek them out.

Written by Mike Duquette

February 14, 2010 at 23:32

Posted in Features, Reissues, The Knack

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One Response

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  1. Doug knew the definition of “Power Pop,” originally coined by Pete Towhshend about the Who, Doug’s all-time fave band. I loved The Knack’s POP sensibilities and you can , too. Just down a couple’a rum and cokes, put Get the Knack on the player and play it LOUD. You’ll Get the Knack! Even after 30 years.
    Bumped into Doug one night in 2001 at Beverly Hills Hotel and he was resplendent in his mod-inspired suit, cool Beatle boots, beautiful woman on his arm and an incredible knee-bending Porsche that the valet pulled up while I gushed on about my fandom. He was very gracious and patient, we shook hands and he zoomed off into the night, and I assume, that beautiful woman, too. It was a good ride, Doug. RIP

    Sean Anglum

    February 15, 2010 at 17:50

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