More than 40 years later, the story of the Knack has all the makings of a cautionary tale. It’s a riches-to-rags narrative, with the band achieving a global mega-hit with the 1979 power pop-anthem “My Sharona.” In short order, the rock press turned against the group, leaving them adrift after their awe-inspiring debut.
Which brings us to Doug Fieger’s “Forever Together,” a multi-disc retrospective of the lead singer’s career. Music fans will undoubtedly come for the Knack—this listener did—but they may be surprised when they end up staying for Fieger, whose solo work brims with pop hooks and guitar-rock melodies.
As the Knack’s front man, Fieger took the brunt of the band’s criticism. The group’s bestselling “Get the Knack” LP was overwrought with teenage angst and sexual frustration, as revealed in songs like “Good Girls Don’t” and “(She’s So) Selfish.” The Knack continued in this vein with “Baby Talks Dirty,” the lead single from their sophomore album “But the Little Girls Understand.”
In many ways, the critics were right, including Rolling Stone’s Dave Marsh, who took issue with what he perceived to be Fieger’s misogynistic overtones. But for all of the sexual excess, the Knack could really play. As a foursome, they had cut their teeth on the California club circuit, famously breaking onto the scene with a June 1978 show at the Sunset Strip’s Whiskey a Go Go.
When they made their album debut on Capitol Records, the Knack took the world by storm, with “My Sharona” registering a runaway single atop the charts. For one brief shining moment, the band could do no wrong, selling out a world tour and famously playing at Carnegie Hall at the apex of their stardom.
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Co-written by Fieger and lead guitarist Berton Averre, “My Sharona” was an energizing, can’t-miss hit. But it was their songcraft and musicianship that ruled the day, rather than their penchant for smutty lyrics. In one of the finest instances in power-pop musical history, Averre steals the show with a two-minute solo outburst that lives at the heart of “My Sharona.”
This same brand of high-quality musicianship is on display with “Forever Together,” which is chockfull of previously unreleased studio and concert recordings — both from Fieger and the Knack alike. Fieger’s solo efforts are highlighted by his “First Things First” LP, along with “Hankerings,” his EP-length collection of Hank Williams covers. And there’s a healthy selection of concert performances by the Knack, including a sizzling take on “My Sharona.”
With “Forever Together,” Fieger and the Knack remind us that it’s the music that matters. While Fieger succumbed to cancer in 2010, his musical legacy has never shone brighter.