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.
How does Roadie sound on paper? Well, not much different now then when Creem magazine's Dave DiMartino wrote in a 1980 Meat Loaf/Debbie Harry cover story that the plot of the then still in-production flick was "incomprehensible to the untrained eye".
The basics: Meat Loaf plays Travis W. Redfish, a good ol' Texas boy who drives a beer truck and lives with his father (Art Carney) in a television-filled house in the middle of a salvage yard. One day he helps fix a broken down RV on the side of the road which turns out to be transporting equipment for a Hank Williams, Jr gig in Austin. The truck also needs a driver, and jailbait groupie Lola Bouilliabase (Kaki Hunter) entices Travis to save the day.
Finally arriving for the show, the crew is given ten minutes to get Bocephus on stage by badass concert promoter Mohammed Johnson (Soul Train's Don Cornelius!!). Travis proves to be a born super-roadie and Don Cornelius,... I mean Mohammed Johnson calls him "the Ali of roadies, the fastest I've ever seen," and hires him on the spot for his big "Rock and Roll Circus" tour. Next stop: LA; "Louisiana?" Travis asks. "Not that LA," Lola tells him, "THE LA": Sunset Strip, swimming pools, rock stars.
Much cross-country mayhem and slapstick ensue. In addition to Messers Loaf, Carney, Williams, and Cornelius, Roadie also features Roy Orbison, Alice Cooper, Asleep at the Wheel, and Blondie (who we get to watch dressed in full cowboy garb performing Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" at an Austin racetrack).