Most people don’t remember this, but there was a time when the success of The Knack — a power-pop band from the Midwest — was seen by some people as a harbinger of all that was truly bad in the music world.
It was, of course, backlash against them having too much success too fast, without any of the dues-paying that people felt were necessary; others railed against the obsession with sex in the lyrics, and of course, others didn’t like their copping from the Beatles iconography on the cover and back sleeve.
None of that stuff bothered me, of course. I never quite understood the dues-paying timelines, was a high school boy, so how could there be too much sex?, and the Buzzcocks also cribbed from the Beatles on the sleeve of Singles Going Steady without the same kind of backlash.
Me, I just wished that the songwriting on Get The Knack would have been as strong as the singles, and — until I got sick of it — enjoyed hearing “My Sharona” as a constant presence on the radio.
The key, of course, to “My Sharona” — the biggest single of 1979, beating out Donna Summer, Chic & Rod Stewart — was that it had one foot in what we used to call “New Wave,” and what foot in what we still call “Classic Rock.”
Obviously, that drum-fueled tick-tock riff was all”New Wave,” rollicking back and forth while always crashing on the word “Sharona” and building to the sing-along stuttering chorus, where the evil grin Doug Fieger has on the album cover manifests itself in the vocals.
And then there’s the guitar solo. Right? You don’t like all of that weird funky-doo music? Well then, lead guitarist Berton Averre has got you covered with not just one, but two guitar solos. Like, you know, Television or some shit.
The first solo navigates the songs central riff, sliding in and out and around it so deftly, you might not even really notice its happening, but the second one all but announces that “hey kids, it’s guitar solo time,” as the entire song pretty much stops and changes into a way more conventional rock song.
Suddenly, the Knack goes from being Devo to being Eddie Money, and as drummer Bruce Gary kicks into a double time powertrain, Averre’s solo goes on and on and on for so long that when the tom-tom guitar riff comes back in, it’s nearly always a shock.
Let’s put it this way: had The Knack been as obscure as lot of their contemporaries, then “My Sharona” would have been seen as a lost power-pop classic like “A Million Miles Away” or “Tomorrow Night.” You know, one of those songs passed down as secret wisdom by people who couldn’t believe a song this great wasn’t a huge hit single.
“My Sharona” performed live
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