Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Get The Knack - The Knack

Our world is full of causes:

Save The Whale.

Freedom of Speech.

Smokers have rights (yeahhhhh, good one Joe Jackson).

Knuke the Knack.

Hang on, back up there. Was there really such a movement? Knuke The Knack? We’re talking about the “My Sharona and other songs of lust” type Knack?” Yep, believe it or not there was such a movement. How the hell did that come about? Well, let’s back things up a bit before getting to that.

First of all, I want to get something straight. I’ve loved the first two albums by this great band “Get The Knack” and “..But The Little Girls Understand” (line from the Willie Dixon song, Back Door Man) for 30 years or so. They’ve ALWAYS been great and important records in my life. The other records (and there ARE more) aren’t too shabby either. I’ve always been aghast at the thought that supposed fans of rock music dismiss these albums as “not serious” or at best, as guilty pleasures. “Get The Knack” should be no more a guilty pleasure than “Exile On Main Street”. I’m not comparing the albums per se’ – I’m just saying that neither album is one that any rock fan in their right mind would be embarrassed to own. How did things happen in this cockamamie world where well-earned respect became repulsion from the “too-hip for thou” crowd?

According to a great DVD documentary on the band called “Getting The Knack”, journalists who were pissed off at the band’s management for not allowing them to do interviews turned on them. On the “Rock And Roll Geek” podcast episode where Berton Averre is interviewed (episode 399 if you want to look it up), he suggests it was more likely attributable to resentment from the in-crowd for their meteoric rise to fame. The same folks had supported them in their brief period in the clubs before the public at large knew of them. During this time, musicians like Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen were volunteering to make guest appearances with the band.

If Averre is right, The Knack were victims of tall poppy syndrome. A bona-fide movement against the band was started called Knuke The Knack. I shit you not!!!  

The reaction against the band sure as hell couldn’t be about the music. The purpose of this article is to make that case.

“My Sharona” has two of the most recognisable pair of riffs in all of pop music. It has a drum riff AND guitar riff that everyone on the planet will recognise in a nanosecond. But “Get The Knack” is not just about that one brilliant song. On the afore-mentioned “Rock And Roll Geek” podcast, the host suggested that the record is a concept album dedicated to the subject of “blue balls”. 

What did the band's detractors actually say?
(i) Their songs were sleazy and sexist.
(ii) The music was a Beatles rip-off.
(iii) There’s the issue of the aforementioned bitterness towards the band’s lack of interviews.

I'm not going to make long winded statements to countermand these points - I will merely make the same assertions using language reserved for bands deemed to be more fashionable by the taste-makers:

(i) The songs are raw, savage, exciting and are about sexual angst. No one ever said the Rolling Stones were not to be taken seriously because of "Satisfaction". Mick Jagger wasn't claiming he couldn't get Satisfaction because his copy of the Guardian hadn't been delivered!!! What about anything from the Prince back catalogue?

(ii) Some of the songs are Beatlesque (with a reigned-in Keith Moon on drums). No one ever accused Teenage Fanclub of being Beatles rip-offs.

(iii) They were not media whores.

Now for the album itself.

(a) Get The Knack opens up with Let Me Out, Your Number Or Your Name, and Oh Tara - one of the best trio of tunes to ever open a rock LP. Let Me Out alone would knacker (pun intended) most musicians, but not our boys. It's a statement of intent about the band and the record we're about to hear. The incredible thing was this song was actually the B-side to My Sharona. Weren't B-sides supposed to be forgettable? No one told that to these guys. Bruce Gary's drumming is straight out of the Keith Moon Drum Manual.

Your Number sounds like Fieger had been living and breathing the first 2 or 3 Beatles albums all his life - remember, in my book that's a positive. Oh Tara is the album's first song of sexual frustration. When Fieger sings, "You squeeze my heart and then you let it flow", it's not a sappy lover's lament. It's a guy complaining he's not getting any. Oh did I mention the killer guitar riff?

(b) She's So Selfish has another killer pairing of drum and guitar doing a more intense variation of the Bo Didley beat. Thematically, this should have been My Sharona's flip side, as it's also about Sharona - the object of Fieger's lust and scorn. Two sides of the record and two sides of the Fieger.

(c) Maybe Tonight was necessary to give the listener a break from the aural assault. After the vitriol of Selfish, Maybe Tonight was the one gentle moment on the record. It's so beautiful that it sounds like a love song. Don't be fooled, sports fans - it's still about lust. The wolf in sheep's clothing. But isn't that so like real life?

(d) No such trickery for Good Girls Don't. Pure lust, with those Beatlesque harmonies and John Lennon harmonica. Why was there a cleaned up version for radio? It would have made more sense if ALL the lyrics changed or the title was changed to something like "Eat Your Soup". But changing a line like "wishing you could get inside her pants" to "wishing she was giving you a chance" is not turning Last Tango In Paris into a Disney production.

(e) My Sharona - no point in me writing about this song. You either hit your head in amazement and wonder why YOU couldn't come up with a song as great as this (killer riff, killer guitar solo, REAL rock and roll lust) or you're deaf!!! You're probably reading this article because of THIS song anyway, so you must love it. Right?

(f) Why should I go on. Just listen to the rest of the damn album. Every other track is a winner. I've either sold you on the album, you already agree with me on its greatness, or you don't like great rock music. Of the remaining tracks, in particular, listen to the album closer Frustrated. Poor Dougie (like poor Mick before him) still isn't getting any satisfaction.

So after the release of Get The Knack, the inevitable downhill slide occurred and the band were history within a couple of years (with a couple of reformations along the way). Fieger finally got what he wanted - his muse - and that too had a typical rock and roll lifestyle downhill slide.
None of that matters. All that's important is that this album gets re-evaluated as a bona-fide rock and roll classic. I'm going to get myself in trouble here, but I don’t understand why Never Mind The Bollocks (or Nevermind for that matter) are revered and this album isn't. Steve Jones is on the record as saying that The Knack were one of the SexPistols' favourite bands. Foes that earn brownie points with so-called "serious" rock fans and historians? 

I want to see making this album revered as MY cause.

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