Monday, February 15, 2010

RIP Doug Fieger

Is it so wrong to bring back the rainbow swirl?

Let's say it's 1979 and you've got a great band whose power-pop sound is the polar opposite of both the disco that's all over the radio and the underground punk rock radio is afraid to play.

Maybe, in the era where bands like Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles are spending years in the studio and millions of dollars to make bloated albums, you record your first record for $18,000 in under two weeks.

Perhaps, by some miracle, you get signed to Capitol records -- and you agree to dress up in suits (like the early Beatles) and the photos on the front and back of your first record are reminiscent of iconic Beatle poses. Then Capitol agrees to bring back its discontinued "rainbow" swirl in the center of your records (to further remind people of their old Beatles records).

And let's say Capitol isn't shy about pushing the "new Beatles" story and the press isn't shy about pumping up those comparisons. And then maybe your first single goes to number 1 and both the single and album sell millions of copies.

And your second single is incredibly catchy, but the record company convinces you to record a "clean" version with sanitized lyrics in place of "getting in her pants" and "she's sitting on your face."

If all that happens, is it inevitable that you endure a critical and popular backlash (and a "Knuke the Knack" campaign) and people slam you for smirking? And do you help or hurt your cause by naming your second record But the Little Girls Understand?

30 years later, it's hard to believe both the hype and the backlash were as strong as they were. Sure, the Knack weren't the second coming of the Beatles, but they also weren't the next Bay City Rollers.

They created some wonderful power-pop records filled with songs that sound as fresh today as they did back then.

And one more:

Doug Fieger, lead singer (and chief songwriter) of the Knack, died yesterday at age 57 after battling brain and lung cancer for several years.

RIP, Doug. And thanks for the music.


Who Am Us Anyway? said...

Thanks for this Alex

Holly A Hughes said...

What was I doing with my life in 1979? For some reason, I missed the Knack, just like I missed those Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds hits of the same year -- heard them on the radio, enjoyed them, but never focused on them. They're were such seamless power-pop, for all I knew those records could have been oldies. Thank goodness, though, I also missed the backlash against the Knack, and everything of theirs I've ever heard I've enjoyed thoroughly. You're right, they deserved better. Thanks for this post!

pplist said...

I got and loved The Knack as soon as I heard them back in '79. That lead break in "My Sharona" just goes on and gloriously on and basically drives me wild with delight. They were superb pop lyricists and musicians. The press set them up and tried to knock them down, which is one reason I try to listen first and read later, if at all. Yours is the best eulogy of the many I've read, so thank you.