The Knack has just released a new 12 song CD, "Normal As the Next Guy". "Normal" was produced by Doug Fieger and Richard Bosworth. "This band is the best it's ever sounded, played and performed," states lead singer, songwriter and guitarist Fieger, who co-founded The Knack with members Berton Averre (guitar) and Prescott Niles (bass). Pat Torpey plays drums on this new album, along with David Henderson, who performs with the band live, replacing Bruce Gary from the original lineup.
Fans of The Knack have been around since the band's formation in May, 1978. The Knack signed with Capitol Records, made their debut LP with producer Mike Chapman (Blondie), and "My Sharona" then became the #1 Rock Song of the Decade (Billboard). Their first album sold six million copies, and the band has always remained an influence on the pop music community.
"I'll be first to admit that we're the '90s version of Cheap Trick or The Knack but the last to admit it hasn't been rewarding." -- Kurt Cobain, liner notes to "Insecticide" (1992)
In 1994, The Knack resurfaced after their classic pop tune, "My Sharona," was heard on the "Reality Bites" soundtrack. The band had been offered two films "in one day and had to choose between them," says Averre. "One was for this hip comedy starring Winona Ryder, and the other was for the homosexual rape scene in 'Pulp Fiction.' Hmmm. That's a tough choice." Suddenly, teenagers too young to remember the song the first time around fell in love with it and "My Sharona" became the 10th former #1 to chart again. It also prompted a tour of 32 cities in the U.S.
The Knack are lifers, and this new recorded effort and their tour schedule for 2001-2002 underscore their durability and showcase a specific brand of pop grooves to old fans and new ears now just discovering them. "We refuse to go away," explains Fieger." There are musicians who say they don't want to do this when they're 40. I've always said I hoped I was still doing this when I was 40. We love this music."
"Normal As the Next Guy" contains some potent Fieger/Averre compositions. Also in the collection is Fieger's "Spiritual Pursuit," while Averre penned "The Man On The Beach." The Fieger/Averre songwriting team penned the title track, "Normal As The Next Guy." Fieger and Co. also cover "Girl I Never Lied To You," penned by Monty Byrom and John Corey; John writes with Don Henley, and has been a supplemental Eagles' tour member. Corey is also the person who taught Fieger guitar at age 11 in Detroit. Years back, Corey co-wrote with Fieger "We Are Waiting," from the third Knack album, "Round Trip."
Fieger included another new collaborator on the new Knack album - John Bossman, with whom he co-wrote three songs. "I met John in a cigar shop and coffee bar in Beverly Hills, where he was playing acoustic guitar, mostly doing cover songs, and I heard some of his own tunes. I was knocked out by some of his material, specific verses and choruses of songs, and I wrote songs around some of those parts." Together they authored "It's Not Me," "Reason To Live" and "A World Of My Own."
"Normal As The Next Guy" also gave Averre a platform to write "The Man On The Beach" by himself from an idea Fieger suggested. "I told Berton, 'Let's write a song that could have come off The Beach Boys' 'Smile,' post 'Pet Sounds.' He went away and brought this back, something he did by himself, there was nothing for me to add, and I said, 'Great!'"
Other new Knack songs demonstrate some new paths and songwriting avenues for Doug. "'Disillusion Town' is a song Berton and I wrote last year. It's really a call to lift up your eyes and reject the negative and be positive."
Besides the themes of spirituality, Fieger continues his own particular pop process. And, like all Knack albums, there is an ongoing theme in Fieger's work, specifically, and lyrically, songs about girls. "Les Girls," "Girl I Never Lied To You," "Seven Days Of Heaven." "What else is there?" he asks. " I'm involved in finding out what this place is all about. And how human beings are so fallible, and that life is a gift, and sometimes temptation is blonde and cute.
"'Normal As The Next Guy' also shows the perverse sense of humor Berton and I have when we write together. We're able to laugh at things. 'Dance Of Romance' stretches back to the original repertoire of The Knack from the late '70s," he acknowledges.
And The Knack still rock. Besides drawing on material from all albums, and concentrating on "Normal As The Next Guy," the band incorporates covers in their sparkling live performances. One some nights, The Knack will inject Nick Lowe's "I Knew The Bride," portions of The Champs' "Tequila," and The Doors' "Break On Through." On this new tour they are playing a version of The Monkees' "Last Train To Clarksville."
"I always thought the audience was more important than the artist," says Averre. "After all, the audience is why we were here."
And yes, they always perform their signature song, "My Sharona." Fieger tells the story of how the song was written, and his own relationship to a legendary song and copyright. "'My Sharona' was originally a song we had as our set-closing song, or our first encore," he remembers. "The song was written as kind of a response tune in our live show before the encore. Previously we had 'Not Fade Away' in that spot, and we wanted to have our own song. So 'My Sharona' became the set closer. Secondarily, I had fallen in love with a girl named Sharona. I was truly out of my mind, and to tell you the truth, almost all the songs on The Knack's first and second album are about her. I was trying to woo her," he reveals. "The first time we played it as an encore, it got us another encore, so we knew it did its job, and by the time we recorded our first album we knew it was the definite single. It exploded up the charts and caught everybody off guard in regards to our business plan. Sharona loved it. We played it for her first. She happened to stop by the rehearsal hall."
(The Knack: "My Sharona") -- "... I love this song. It just chills me. I think it's one of the best hooks I've ever heard in my life, and I still love it to this day. When I hear it on the radio I just have to crank it up. ...it is one of the coolest songs."
-- Alice Cooper, in Metal Hammer magazine's "Tape That!" feature, August 1994.
Since that time, the song has been aired and logged in multiple radio formats, just like "Louie Louie." "There was a time it became invisible," recalls Fieger, "a period of years when it was not really played on the radio. Capitol Records cut all The Knack albums from their catalog for seven years. Then 'Reality Bites' came out and it had something to do with it being re-discovered."
Now from their stellar live shows and alignment with Smile Records for their new CD and personal appearances, the tune will reach even new ears. However, Fieger's fondest memory about 'My Sharona' happened last year when The Knack was touring on the East coast. "A guy comes up to me with his wife, and says, 'I want you to meet someone 21 years old. This is Sharona. We named her after your song.' She was two years younger than the song," he beams.
"I'll come right out and admit that I thought 'My Sharona' was one of the best records ever made. I was totally sucked in by the hook on it."
-- Alice Cooper, San Francisco Chronicle "Pop Quiz," July 27, 1997.
The fans and the musicians always got The Knack. "All the musicians know this band can play," stresses Fieger. "We've had the success you dream about," he continues, "but we've never played our music for that. We play it because this is the only worthwhile pop music to make - fun and sad, silly and smart, explosive but sweet, snide but vulnerable. It's not about being cool but about being goofy and having a great time. We didn't invent this, but it's what we do. I got the feeling that sense of fun isn't seen by most people who go to concerts these days."
The Knack's manager, Jake Hooker, signed on with the band a couple of years ago and has worked with Doug Fieger to find a vehicle, a catalyst, to propel the band into this new phase of their career. Hooker thinks they have found it in "The Rock 'n' Roll Fun House," a 'retro left-of-center cool' package tour concept that will get into its stride in the first quarter of 2002, featuring The Knack along with a rotating cast of largely '80s fun musical acts. The idea had a successful debut at Pine Knob last June, with Tommy Tutone and The Smithereens joining The Knack on the bill.
"I think the Knack changed the rock world with the release of 'My Sharona,' one of my all time favorite songs," says Hooker, who has also been instrumental in getting more mileage out of the group's earlier material, with commercials for 'My Toyota' and Taco Bell's 'My Chalupa.' "Before 'Get The Knack' was released there was a malaise in the music business," he adds. "The Knack kicked everyone's ass and the term 'Power Pop' was born, also 'New Wave.' I strongly believe that the biz needs another kick in the ass now, and the time is right for The Knack to come back!"
The band will shortly be embarking on a major national tour to support "Normal As The Next Guy" along with the soon-to-be-announced live performance DVD and audio CD of "The Rock 'n' Roll Fun House" show.