Parousia With The Knack At Madame Wong’s West – May 21st 1988

In May of 1988, the songs “Place your Bets” and “Tiffany” by Parousia were broadcast for the first time over the radio on a popular local alternative rock station called “KROQ”.  We had a few D.J.’s at that station who became fans of our music (‘Ken Fusion’, the music director, “Jed the Fish” and ‘the Poorman’) and they did what they could do to give our music exposure on the L.A. airwaves and played “Tiffany” and “Place Your Bets” many times over the next few months.  This gave Parousia a nice boost in exposure throughout the summer while school was out.

PAROUSIA 1988:  Patt Connolly, Robert Lowden, Bill Sims and Gerry North Cannizzaro

PAROUSIA 1988: Patt Connolly, Robert Lowden, Bill Sims and Gerry North Cannizzaro

KROQ’s  “Jed The Fish”

KROQ’s “Jed The Fish”

KROQ’s “The Poorman”

KROQ’s “The Poorman”

Three weeks after our song debut on the radio, we were called-up on the fly to open for the Knack at Madame Wong’s West on May 21st.  The scheduled opening act, a band known as, “The Story So Far” had suddenly broken-up and the club manager Esther Wong wanted us to fill in. (Either she was impressed with our earlier performance back in March, or she was plain desperate, i’m not sure which…).

We were of course very flattered to accept and to share the upstairs “big stage” with the Knack.  After all, back in Buffalo days when Parousia was mostly a cover band, we played the song “My Sharona” for many years starting in early 1979.  We stopped playing that song once Parousia began exclusively writing and performing original music in 1982.  Prior to that, “My Sharona” by the Knack became one of our favorite songs to play and  an audience favorite.

Madame Wong’s West band listing May 19 – May 28, 1988

Madame Wong’s West band listing May 19 – May 28, 1988

Early in the night, we were in our dressing room, right next door to the Knack’s.  We were doing our usual pre-show jibber-jabber and suddenly there was a knock at the door.  It was the bass player Prescot Niles asking if he could “borrow a hairdryer”.   Well, Claude Regian was glad to lend him ours and we were happy to have a hand in keeping the boys presentable for their show.

The Knack in their 1979 Hey Dey

The Knack in their 1979 Hey Dey

After our performance, we watched the Knack perform on stage.  The band was now ten-years older from when their hit song “My Sharona” saturated the airwaves and launched them to fame…

The lead singer’s hair (Doug Fieger) was very long now, but only at the back and sides.  The front of his head was completely bald as an eagle.  The guitarist (Berton Averre) and bass player (Prescott Niles) looked quite the same as they did many years ago, except for a few more wrinkles.  Gone was the original drummer, Bruce Gary.  The new drummer had long blonde curly hair was a young-guy that looked like he came from a metal band.  His image screamed Whitesnake or Ozzy and didn’t really fit in with the other three on stage.  He loved to twirl his sticks every chance he could.

The Knack received the most reaction from their well-known hits, “My Sharona” and “Good Girl’s Don’t”.  Overall, the Knack did a great job with their performance and their last song of the set was a blistering version of Zeppelin’s, “Rock and Roll” that blew our minds!

Afterwards, we talked about how cool it would be to tell people back in Buffalo that after only performing two shows, we landed a gig in a ‘hip and trendy’ nightclub in West Los Angeles and opened for the Knack…

LA Four w Bill

Knack Facts:
Loathed by critics and written off as a novelty act, the Knack were a genuine rock ‘n’ roll band.  As the ’70s drew to a close, the Knack were also simply unavoidable.  Eventually that over-saturation would drown them, but for a brief shining moment, they were on top.  Contrary to legend, however, they were no overnight-success story.

Knack-GTK

In the early part of the 1970’s, guitarist and singer Doug Fieger fronted a band called Sky that recorded two albums for RCA.  Those albums went nowhere, and by 1974, the group had fallen apart.  While his former bandmates moved back home to Detroit, Fieger decided to stay in Los Angeles.  Over the next few years, he would meet like minded, seasoned musicians who would become the Knack — including drummer Bruce Gary, bassist Prescott Niles and guitarist Berton Averre.  In 1977, Fieger decided to record some new music and called them in to lend a hand.  Those demos failed to gain ground, but with the players in place, the Knack was born.

Throughout 1978, the Knack endlessly played the L.A. club scene, with triumphant residences at the Whisky and the Troubadour.  Eventually, record companies came calling.  “I was aware of them, as everybody else in L.A. was,” said producer Mike Chapman in the documentary Getting the Knack, “because there were lines of kids around the block to go see them at their shows.”  The large fan base they had built up happened to include people like Tom PettyStephen Stills and Bruce Springsteen, all of whom would jam with the Knack at the Troubadour.  “Bruce Springsteen gets up onstage with us on a Friday night, and on Monday, we have 14 record offers,” Fieger memorably quipped.

In early 1979, the band entered the studio with producer Mike Chapman to begin work on their debut.  Get the Knack was wrapped up in less than two weeks.  “I don’t think we did two takes on any song, except for ‘Maybe Tonight,’” Fieger once said.  “What we had to do was make the record quickly,” added Chapman, “because to labor over it would have taken that spontaneity out of it.”  Chapman’s production here is, as always, first class.

Once released, it didn’t take long for radio stations to zero in on “My Sharona.”  The insistent drum beat alone was one big hook, but once the guitar riff moves in, the track evolves into a massive ear worm.  Soon, “My Sharona” was emanating from nearly every radio across America.  It hit the top of the Billboard chart in the summer of 1979 and stayed there six straight weeks, going gold in just thirteen days.  The album followed suit, holding Billboard’s top spot for five weeks until Led Zeppelin’In Through the Out Door finally knocked it off.

the-knack

Familiarity, as it will, bred contempt.  “My Sharona” came to be seen as a novelty tune of sorts.  Given another listen, however, it emerges as one of the sharpest rock ‘n’ roll records ever.  (Sharona, by the way, was indeed an actual person, and the object of Fieger’s very real desires.)

Still, the Knack’s seemingly instant rise to the top led some critics to question their authenticity, sincerity, and motives.  The assumption was that they were some sort of manufactured group, something meant to echo the Beatles and nothing more.  Fieger later admitted to the Fab Four’s influence on the Knack, but said the overt musical references were “tongue in cheek.  It wasn’t meant to be taken seriously.”

Few knew how long the Knack had paid its dues, or just how little promotion was behind their huge debut.  “It’s funny, people have accused the Knack of being this big hype and that the record company hyped the band,” Fieger once said.  “I was told at the time by Capitol Records that they spent $50,000 promoting Get the Knack – total.”

There grew a sense that the Knack was arrogant, while some criticized the group as misogynistic because of an abundance of lust-filled lyrics.  For others, Get the Knack was seen as the watered-down conclusion of the fading punk movement from a few years earlier, a safe and sanitized version of something that had recently revitalized rock.

Even today, “My Sharona” — despite becoming 1979′s biggest single — inspires an impressive range of emotions, from love and lust to hatred and parody.  “Weird Al” Yankovic’s novelty debut “My Bologna“ put him on the map, while Cheech and Chong’s send-up appeared in Next Movie as “My Scrotum.”

The Knack never recovered from the backlash.  “How could it have changed so much that we were ‘the glorious, the wonderful Knack’ one minute, and we were this horrible, sell-out, commercial bulls— hype the next minute?” Fieger later mused.  “It made me angry.”

… But the Little Girls Understand, released in 1980, struggled to No. 15, and the Knack never had another album go higher than No. 53. Fieger died in 2010, after a battle with brain and lung cancer.

Read More: The History of ‘My Sharona’ – How One Song Doomed the Knack | http://ultimateclassicrock.com/the-knack-get-the-knack/?trackback=tsmclip

Here is the The Knack performing “My Sharona” on J. Leno:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDyIO_KMcT8

Check out this 1988 live video of the Knack performing songs,”the Monkey and Me and Heartbeat.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2le2YtMZ6i8 

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