Knack, The

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Knack, The

Knack, The, 1970s-era pop sensations (f. 1978). membership: Doug Fieger, voc, gtr. (b. Detroit, Aug. 20, 1952); Berton Averre, gtr. (b. Van Nuys, Calif., Dec. 13); Bruce Gary, drm. (b. Burbank, Calif., April 7, 1952); Prescott Niles, bs. (b. N.Y., May 2, 19); Billy Ward, drm.; Terry Bozzio, drm. (b. Dec. 27, 1950).

In the mid-1970s, Doug Fieger moved from Detroit to L.A. with his band Sky. They recorded two albums for RCA that stiffed. While in L.A., he met Berton Averre and they started writing songs together. When Sky dived, they put a band together and started playing the nascent late 1970s club scene in L.A. (most of the rock clubs had become discos). Their power pop band became a major attraction in Los Angeles, with their bouncy guitar licks and buoyant beat. Musicians like Bruce Springsteen, Ray Manzarek, and Tom Petty offered their stamp of approval by jamming on stage with them. By the end of 1978, nearly a dozen record companies were bidding for their services. Capitol won out and signed the band.

The band was so well-rehearsed, they went into the studio with producer Mike Chapman (Blondie, Pat Benetar) and turned out their debut album, Get the Knack, in 11 days for under $20, 000. The first single, the infectious “My Sharona” had a simple, incredibly catchy guitar hook, Fieger’s nervous vocals, and the group’s powerful harmonies. It zoomed to the top of the charts where it stayed for six weeks. The song became epidemic and was virtually inescapable during the entire summer of 1979. The album also topped the chart for five weeks, going gold in less than two weeks, platinum in seven. Eventually it went double platinum; “Sharona” sold gold and the second single “Good Girls Don’t”skirted the Top Ten, peaking at #11.

The group’s success was so sudden that an inevitable backlash started. People began wearing “Knuke the Knack” T-shirts. Listeners became weary of their sound. Released less than a year after their debut, …But the Little Girls Understand only went gold, hitting #15, and the single “Baby Talks Dirty” scraped into the Top 40 at #38. Taking on Jack Douglas (John Lennon, The Who) to produce their third album, Round Trip was an even bigger commercial failure, barely making the top 100 (#93) and not charting any singles at all. The tour was even more disappointing and the band broke up in disgust in 1981. Members of the band went into studio work and joined other bands. By 1987, Fieger, Averre, and Niles decided to give the Knack another shot and started playing together again with drummer Bill Ward, culminating in a Don Was produced album Serious Fun that was universally ignored. Again the band drifted apart, with Fieger taking on acting assignments on the TV series Roseanne and writing songs for other artists, including the Manhattan Transfer’s Grammy-winning Brazil album. He recorded a Was-produced solo record thatdidn’t see the light of day until Fieger released it himself in 1999.

While the Knack went their separate ways, “Sha-rona” was much more tenacious. The song became a pop culture touchstone for the summer of 1979 and was featured in several films, most notably Reality Bites. The group once again made tentative moves toward playing together again, first recording “No Matter What” for a Badfinger tribute and “Don’t Look Back” for a Bruce Springsteen tribute. They played several shows, with Terry Bozzio now on the drummer’s throne. Rhino Records signed them, and while their album Zoom met a similar fate to Serious Fun, the group continued to play together on occasion. Averre also had a musical he wrote produced, while Fieger became a pitchman for vintage guitars in Los Angeles.


Get the Knack (1979); …But the Little Girls Understand (1979); Round Trip (1981); Serious Fun (1991); Zoom (1998).

—Hank Bordowitz