“My Sharona”, The Knack (1979)
If you snapped on the radio in 1979 you may have heard “Born to Be Alive” by Patrick Hernandez, or “Good Times” by Chic. In the midst of the new wave craze an American band, dressing up in the skinny ties hit us with “My Sharona” that year. This crazy little song went to #1 and sold a million copies. The album “Get the Knack” sold over two million copies in the U.S. alone.
Berton Avere, years before joining ‘The Knack’ had this guitar riff he came up with but did not know what to do with. He eventually played it for Doug Fieger1 - he had a drum sound to go with it. Doug was the rhythm guitarist and lyricist, and he vowed to make it into a song some day.
When Doug was 25 he met Sharona Alperin who was 17 at the time. He fell for her at once and she became his girlfriend for the next four years. Doug was inspired to write lyrics, as he said, “"It was like getting hit in the head with a baseball bat; I fell in love with her instantly. And when that happened, it sparked something and I started writing a lot of songs feverishly in a short amount of time”.
Berton was reluctant to use Sharona’s actual name in the song, but happy to finally have a use for his riff, he relented. Sharona herself appears on the sleeve of the single as released in ’79.
‘Get the Knack” made the band popular on Sunset strip where they played with Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and Ray Manzarek (The Doors). This fame would not last long as a "Knuke the Knack" campaign led by San Francisco artist Hugh Brown, claimed that albums perceived likeness of “Meet the Beatles” was meant to rip-off the Beatles. The way the band is arranged in the cover photo, the label of the record, the subject of their songs (teenage girls) and a ‘60’s look and sound were cited as proof of the rip-off. The band vehemently opposed such accusations, but it did not help that the bands management told them to avoid interviews.
The band quickly followed up in 1980 with the album “...But the Little Girls Understand”, with its luke-warm top 40 song “Baby Talks Dirty”. The album quickly fell of the charts, never to be seen again.
After relentless touring for a year in the U.S. Canada, Australia, Europe and Japan, the band returned exhausted to the studio to produce the flop “Round Trip”. The band broke up shortly thereafter amidst continued backlash and poor commercial success.
Fieger died in 2010 and the New York Times said of ‘My Sharona” that it was “an emblem of the new wave era in rock and a prime example of the brevity of pop fame”. This was unfortunately true.
1. Doug Fieger was brother of attorney Geoffrey Fieger, best known for representing Dr. Jack Kevorkian, in a series of assisted suicide cases