Friday, February 19, 2010


Singer of the most famous stutter-song after "My Generation," Doug Fieger offered the maddeningly catchy punk-pop masterpiece "My Sharona," and followed it with another sassy-snotty song about teen teasers, "Good Girls Don't, But I Do."

He died a few days ago (August 21, 1952 - February 14, 2010), after a long struggle with brain tumors and lung cancer, and to the surprise of many, there was not only an expected outpouring of sympathy for the still-young (only 57) musician, but respect for his group, The Knack. When they were popular, well, they weren't; critics hated them and most listeners considered "My Sharona" a guilty pleasure. The Knack was too overpowering to ignore but a little too obnoxious to love.

Too power pop for the new wave crowd, and a bit too rude and annoying for the teenyboppers, The Knack filled their first few albums with some tracks as worthy as ones to be found on Tubes or Cheap Trick records. The Knack may have been in the right place at the right time. Disco was huge in 1979, with Donna Summer's 'Bad Girls,' Rod Stewart's disco anthem, 'Do Ya Think I'm Sexy,' and a ton of Bee-Gees tracks dominating the Top 10. Listeners needed a bit of commercial new wave power pop to break up the monotony, and The Knack provided it, via a sweaty, dirty ode to Fieger's girlfrend Sharona Alperin.

Little recalled trivia: the song had a profound effect on "Weird Al" Yankovic. His parody, "My Balogna," got a lot of airplay via Dr. Demento's radio show, and Doug helped him get a record deal. On Doug's passing, Yankovic recalled that the Knack lead singer and co-writer was "the first artist to ever approve one of my parodies."

Commenting on his death, Sharona Alperin said, "Doug changed my life forever. He left on Valentine's Day, a day of heart and love, and that was Doug, all heart and love."

Love didn't seem to have that much to do with the song itself, and even less with its teenybop follow-up "Good Girls Don't But I Do." Maybe Doug's singing blurred some of the refrain? Here it is:

And it's a teenage sadness
Everyone has got to taste.
An in-between age madness
That you know you can't erase
Til she's sitting on your face.

Yes, The Knack had a definite knack for playing with a particular brand of teenage lust peculiar to the 70's...a time when the sexual revolution was on, and "good girls" were getting it on...but usually not with YOU. Fieger's songs were panting and misogynistic at the same time, frantic and silly but also simmering with resentment. While Cheap Trick grimaced at the parents ("Surrender") more than the offspring, The Knack were flat out saying that jail bait bitches were driving 'em crazy.

Sharona was one of 'em: "Basically, we were both in relationships when we met. I was maybe 16, 17, he was about 9 years older than me and was introduced to me at that time by a girlfriend. When he met me, I remember him gasping. And before you knew it, he told me that he was in love with me. He ended that relationship, but it took me one year to leave my relationship. And in that time he wrote many songs -- "Frustrated," "She's So Selfish," a lot of songs on the first Knack album. He just thought I was his soul mate..." They did get together but didn't stay together as a couple. They remained lifelong friends. She even has a website:

Fieger was known as a confident, charismatic musician back when he attended Oak Park High School in Michigan, and his bravado showed with his first band, Sky. (There's a 60's group called The Knack...nothing to do with Fieger's bunch). Sky recorded two albums for RCA. He was also in The Sunset Bombers (one album on Ariola) before forming The Knack and signing to Capitol in 1979 for their breakthrough debut album. Interest in the band cooled by the mid-80's.

Fieger's health problems became common knowledge back in 2004 when he was first diagnosed with a lung tumor. Doug had not smoked in 20 years. He was also a vegetarian. But not only was the tumor cancerous, it spread from his lung to his brain. In 2006 he had brain surgery to remove two tumors. A year later, it seemed the cancer was in remission, but he had to go in for more brain surgery. He was touring with The Knack and kept it up as long as he could. "Chemotherapy is pretty horrible," he admitted, but added, "I live a full life. I'm not infirm in any way."

Even recently, he put off the question of mortality this way: "Everybody knows they're going sooner or later. I don't know any better than anyone else when I'm going. I've had 10 great lives. And I expect to have some more. I don't feel cheated in any way, shape or form." Says Sharona: "His incredible optimism remained until the very end."

The Knack's material is easy to find, but maybe you'd like to hear one of the demo versions of "My Sharona" that Doug and the band kicked around....

DEMO version of MY SHARONA
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A lovely tribute to one of the great floor fillers of the last 30 years, one noisy motherfucking blast of a record that would be protooled out of existance these days!

And what an amazing singer!!one of the most awesomely sleazy front men of all time...