After last week’s Presidential “election” here in America, there’s an effort on the Interweb to “break the internet with love.” So, the best way I can help with that via this blog is to highlight (as “songs of the day”) some gems from 1979 through 1989 that are universally loved, if I haven’t highlighted them already.
As I’ve stated here before, 1979 was the year I really started getting into music. 1979 was also the last big year for Disco music. Seven out of the Top 10 singles on BILLBOARD’s year-end chart for 1979 were all huge Disco hits, including two songs by the late, great Queen of Disco, Donna Summer (who had also placed songs at No. 12 and No. 39 for the year. Impressive.).
As for the rest of the BILLBOARD Top 10 singles for 1979 and the last big year for Disco, two songs were ballads, and the song that actually finished the year at No. 1 was a straight-ahead Rock song by a new Power Pop / Rock band out of Los Angeles – “My Sharona” by The Knack.
“My Sharona” – which would not only become the biggest song of 1979, but was also the No. 1 Song of Summer song as well. It was pretty fitting, then, that it made its debut on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in the first week of Summer (coming in at No. 86). Within a month, it reached the Top 40, and once it reached the Top 40, it took right off, reaching No. 1 the last week of August 1979, and staying on top for six consecutive weeks, departing No. 1, appropriately enough, after Summer ended.
This record was so hot, it was Capitol Records’ fastest debut single to be certified Gold since The Beatles’ “I Want To Hold Your Hand” 15 years before. Not bad for a song that singer / rhythm guitarist / co-writer Doug Fieger claimed was written in just 15 minutes.
There were many comparisons between The Beatles and The Knack. Both acts appeared on Capitol Records, both had four male members, and even the band’s debut album, GET THE KNACK, was modeled after The Beatles’ debut album, MEET THE BEATLES. GET THE KNACK spent five weeks at No. 1 on the BILLBOARD Album chart, and was certified Gold in just 13 days. It was Capitol’s fastest-selling album since – you guessed it – MEET THE BEATLES!
The Knack prolly felt like The Beatles for awhile, as the appeal of “My Sharona” was worldwide. It reached No. 1 in Australia (five weeks), Canada and Italy (two weeks), and the Top 10 in the U.K., France, New Zealand and Switzerland, and the Top 20 in Austria, Belgium, Germany and Holland.
Over the years, it’s been the covered, sampled, has inspired (yes, Devo’s “Girl U Want” was actually inspired by “My Sharona”), and parodied, most notably on “My Bologna,” the 1979 novelty hit that jump-started “Weird Al” Yankovic’s huge and lengthy parody career. The Knack apparently gave “Weird Al” their blessing for the parody and even got “Weird Al” a temporary deal with Capitol.
In 1980, on the Dead Kennedys song, “Pull My Strings,” they used the guitar riff of “My Sharona” and changed the lyric to “My Payola” making fun of the music industry in the process.
On their 1986 hit, “It’s Tricky,” Run-D.M.C. used a sample of “My Sharona” that was not authorized by The Knack. Not sure why it took Doug Fieger and the other co-writer of “My Sharona,” lead guitarist Berton Averre, 20 years to file a lawsuit against Run-D.M.C. (as well as Yahoo, Amazon and Apple for electronic distribution of the song), but regardless, the case was settled out of court in 2009.
Apart from parodies, samples and covers, the legacy of “My Sharona” remains strong. In 1994, a slightly updated version of “My Sharona” appeared in one of my favorite films, the excellent Ben Stiller film, REALITY BITES, and even re-appeared on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, spending four weeks on the chart, stopping at No. 91.
On BILLBOARD’s most-recent list of the Greatest of All Time Hot 100 songs, “My Sharona” ranks at No. 90. It’s been featured in several other films as well, like CHARLIE’S ANGELS: FULL THROTTLE, Richard Linklater’s EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!! (from earlier this year), and in the awesome Steven Spielberg / J.J. Abrams film collaboration, SUPER 8. That film that was set in 1979, and the main characters were all 12 years old, which was something I could relate to, because I, too, was 12 in 1979. I thought the film was a lot of fun and still do.
For the second half of 1979, The Knack had an amazing run, and was prolly having amazing fun. But, as it sometimes happens with bands and artists who hit it big with their first single, the fun didn’t last. If you look at The Knack’s list of BILLBOARD Hot 100 hits, it’s interesting to note that every single that reached the survey charted lower than the single before.
The kick-ass and naughty “My Sharona” follow-up, “Good Girls Don’t,” stopped at No. 11, 1980’s “Baby Talks Dirty” reached No. 38 and “Can’t Put A Price On Love” reached No. 62. 1981’s “Pay The Devil (Ooo, Baby, Ooo)” peaked at No. 67 and the 1994 version of “My Sharona” hit No. 91.
The Knack broke up in 1982, but got back together a number of times throughout the years, including an appearance on the 2005 NBC show, HIT ME BABY ONE MORE TIME (Wang Chung also appeared on that show).
Sadly, Doug Fieger and original Knack drummer Bruce Gary have since passed away, but their music lives on, especially with “My Sharona,” a song that’s one of those rare songs (at least to me) that could be equally considered both a 70s song and an 80s song.
“My Sharona” is also a song I will always consider as a part of my elite group of “Desert Island Discs,” for many reasons, but mostly because I still effing dig it. If it pops up on my iPod, I won’t ever skip over it, and if anything, I’ll pump up the volume on that bleepin’ rockin’ gem… Every time…