In these depressive and indifferent times, we should remember a time when the magical genre of Power pop held the airwaves--as well as the critics' ears.
The Knack's Get the Knack, released in 1979, had nothing to do with the music of another band called the Knack, which had four singles, also on Capitol, back in '67-'68. 79's Knack was not an echo. The Knack certainly borrowed their name from Richard Lester's film, The Knack...and How to Get It, which he directed between working with the Beatles on A Hard Day's Night and Help!. But the Knack did not share the mod kookiness of Lester's film.
The Knack had TEEN SCREAM written all over their PhisoHex-scrubbed mugs. Listening to the Knack made me feel younger than the audience at which it is aimed. The reason for this is that during my teen years carnal knowledge was not obtained through the AM/FM: all formulaic pop records (especially those great sons of Jerry, Gary Lewis & the Playboys) were presumed to contain a subtext of sexual innocence.
Get the Knack, however, was a sexual tease, exactly what polished pop music needed then. 'My Sharona', their Top 40 smash, is what kids would play on their car 8-tracks as they licked each others' inner thighs. That Power pop could provoke a kind of sexual tension gave it a certain oomph--beyond Beatlesque nostalgia.
With lead singer and founder Doug Fieger's inspired teen sensibility, The Knack were experts in the growing field of "Xerox rock" (writer Gregg Turner's coinage). Musically, they were no fakes, carefully produced with an ear on the bull's-eye by Mike Chapman, the brain behind #1 hits by Exile, Nick Gilder, and Blondie.
Supposedly, all the songs on Get the Knack were recorded in one take, which is a commendable feat since only one of the 12 cuts, Buddy Holly's 'Heartbeat' (see Herman's Hermits On Tour for swell cover), totally bombs out. But as for originality, the Knack sounded like a combination of a dozen different bands blend into one glop. 'Oh Tara'=the Rubinoos. '(She's So) Selfish'=Bo Diddley doodling. 'Maybe Tonight'=Eric Carmen goo. 'My Sharona'=Led Zep squeeze-my-lemon riffs. 'Frustrated'=the Stones' 'Shattered'. Arguably, all a-ok tunes; nevertheless, the only cut that converges with Get the Knack's Beatlesque approach is 'That's What the Little Girls Do', a kissing & smooching sigh, minus any sicko lyrics, that could've been an outtake from Beatles VI.
Capitol chose to pattern the Knack's image-hype after the Beatles (does anybody remember Klaatu?), but that genre, forged by the Knickerbockers (as well as Badfinger), could be heard best on recordings by frailer (and thus, more human) bands like the Yankees, Blue Ash, and Shoes. As a carbon copy band of nothing particularly original, the Knack stood in the shadows of the Cars and Cheap Trick, waiting their turn in line with a ruddy glow.
About all you can say now is: Gosh. Golly. Gee whiz.