Last week, pow­er pop music lost a leg­end.  Doug Fieger was the lead singer, rhythm gui­tarist and vocal­ist for the Knack.  This group epit­o­mized the “skin­ny-tie” sound that dom­i­nat­ed the new wave/early alter­na­tive musi­cal are­na for a short while thanks to their mon­ster #1 chart smash “My Sharona” and its atten­dant hit album, Get The Knack.  The group fell from grace as quick­ly as it rose to promi­nence but still man­aged to cre­ate a short, sweet lega­cy of hook-laden tunes that con­tin­ue to charm those who can appre­ci­ate the mag­ic of a well-con­struct­ed pop song.

Like most “overnight suc­cess­es,” Doug Fieger walked a long road to reach his moment of instant glo­ry.  He start­ed play­ing in rock bands at the age of 11 in his native Michigan, grad­u­at­ing to the pros in a group called Sky (pro­duced by Jimmy Miller of Traffic and Rolling Stones fame) at the dawn of the 1970’s.  He sol­diered on in rel­a­tive anonymi­ty until he cre­at­ed the Knack near the decade’s end with co-writer and friend Berton Averre.

And what this duo devised was mag­nif­i­cent.  At a time when punk and dis­co were bat­tling for the souls of the aver­age music lover, the Knack felt like a day­dream inspired by our col­lec­tive mem­o­ries of 1960’s beat-pop.  They took the instant­ly-acces­si­ble hooks and the judi­cious songcraft we loved in count­less Beatles, Who and Kinks oldies and added late-1970’s lev­els of ener­gy, caus­tic wit and lusty lyrics.  The result­ing sound was clas­sic yet brac­ing­ly mod­ern, a dual­i­ty best embod­ied in “My Sharona”: this lust-ode to a teenage girl punched away at a bar­rage of hooks with sledge­ham­mer pow­er but the arrange­ment had the laser-sharp pre­ci­sion of the best pop tunes.

The rest of Get The Knack proved they weren’t just a one-song won­der: each song deliv­ered the same mix­ture of ener­gy, finesse and sheer love for pop music, with tunes like “Your Number Or Your Name” and the sur­pris­ing­ly del­i­cate bal­lad “Maybe Tonight” becom­ing endur­ing pow­er-pop fan faves.  “Good Girls Don’t” made for an endear­ing­ly raunchy fol­low-up hit with its spot-on mar­riage of teenage-horni­ness lyrics and high-octane Merseybeat melod­i­cism.  Get The Knack ulti­mate­ly spent five con­sec­u­tive weeks at #1 on the charts.  They had the pop music zeit­geist in the palm of their hand.

Sadly, their reign end­ed as quick­ly as it began.  In two years, the Knack would implode due to a vari­ety of fac­tors: their “no inter­views” pol­i­cy caused the music press to turn on them, Capitol Records’ heavy hyp­ing of the band led to a “Knuke The Knack” back­lash and ego and drug-fueled inter-band strife caused the group to implode short­ly after releas­ing their third album.  The for­mer kings were reduced to instant punch­li­nes, nev­er again to scale the plat­inum heights again.

But that wasn’t the end for the Knack.  They reunit­ed in the late 1980’s, with Fieger con­tin­u­ing to lead the group.  To his cred­it, he nev­er allowed bit­ter­ness or a sense of loss to cloud his love for music.  He con­tin­ued to devote his energies to qual­i­ty song­writ­ing and sang each new song with the pow­er and pas­sion that sold peo­ple on “My Sharona” so many years ago.  The Knack even man­aged a late-peri­od gem with 1996’s under­rat­ed Zoom album.

Six years ago, Fieger was diag­nosed with can­cer.  He han­dled the bad news with a grace­ful atti­tude, per­haps because he became used to stay­ing pos­i­tive in the face of adver­si­ty long ago.  In a inter­view con­duct­ed short­ly before his pass­ing, Fieger said he’d led “ten great lives” and added “I don’t feel cheat­ed in any way, shape or form.”  His star­dom might have fad­ed long ago but he exit­ed this world like a star, with all the grace and good cheer that defines a star’s per­sona.  Your Humble Reviewer hopes he can be that much of a class act when his time comes.

Luckily for us, Fieger’s star qual­i­ty will con­tin­ue to live on between the grooves of those clas­sic Knack record­ings.  Get The Knack remains a must-lis­ten album for any­one inter­est­ed in pow­er-pop as do Zoom and Round Trip (the clas­sic-that-nev­er-was of the Knack cat­a­log).  It is rec­om­mend­ed that you jump around the room with youth­ful aban­don when you play them.  Somewhere in the great beyond, Doug Fieger will smile down on you.

Here’s a selec­tion of Schlockmania’s favorite Doug Fieger/Knack record­ings — if you’re into MP3’s, any and all are worth down­load­ing: