Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
Pop quartet formed in L.A. in 1978 by Douglas Lars Fieger (b 20 August 1952, Detroit; d 14 February 2010, Woodland Hills CA of lung and brain cancer), vocals and guitar; Berton Averre (b 13 December 1952, Van Nuys CA), guitar; Prescott Niles (b 2 May 1951, NYC), bass; Bruce Gary (b 7 April 1952, Burbank; d 22 August 2006 of lymphoma), drums. Fieger grew up in Oak Park MI; he played bass in Sky, a country rock group from Detroit which made two albums in England, produced by Jimmy Miller (Don't Hold Back and Sailor's Delight around 1970 before relocating to California and splitting. By '78 Fieger and Averre were long-time collaborators, and Gary had extensive session credits with Jack Bruce, the Doors' Robbie Krieger, Lonnie Donegan etc. The experienced players combined to ride the 'new wave' bandwagon with groups like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Dwight Twilley, etc, launching themselves from L.A.'s Troubador Club, where Buffalo Springfield had been spotted a decade earlier; they peddled the power pop of Hard Day's Night-era Beatles, and as a record company always looking for the next Big Thing, Capitol signed them and brought in expatriate UK bubblegum expert Mike Chapman to shine them up, as he'd done Blondie. Album Get The Knack '79 was instant pop and an instant success, the undeniably catchy 'My Sharona' (USA no. 1/UK no. 6 single) helping to sell over 5m copies of the LP. An unabashed celebration of teenaged lust, 'My Sharona' was written by Fieger and Averre in 15 minutes and became a staple of teen dance parties for years: 'When you gonna give it to me?' sang Fieger in an impatient whine. 'Good Girls Don't' also made the top 20 later in '79.
A backlash set in as critics pounced on the plastic sound and sexist lyrics; some dissension in the band was caused by the lyrics aimed at teenaged girls ten years younger than the group. But The Little Girls Understand '80 included 'Baby Talks Dirty' which just made the top 40; album sales were disappointing as their novelty faded. They switched producers for Round Trip '82, then split up. Feiger had produced Rubber City Rebels '80, formed Taking Chances, guested effectively on Born To Laugh At Tornados '83 by fellow Detroiters Was--Not Was; the others continued briefly as the Game. Gary continued as a successful producer. 'My Sharona' briefly brought dancing back and was actually played at Xenon and Studio 54, but the Knack became a symbol of fleeting pop fame. From the early 1990s they reunited for tours without Gary; in 1994 'My Sharona' was featured prominently in the Ben Stiller movie Reality Bites and briefly re-entered the Billboard chart.