A Tribute to Bruce Gary and The Knack
By Melissa Lafkas
9-30-06

To quote the late Bruce Gary and Original drummer of The Knack, “ I think if it weren’t for The Sex Pistols The Knack might have not happened.”

Most people remember The Knack for Their Record Breaking debut album “Get The Knack”, and their power pop hit “My Sharona”, not only receiving national but also absolutely world wide global success.

To quote Doug Fieger, “We went from being a local band playing The Troubador and The Starwood, to being the biggest band in the World.”

Few may realize that the birth of such a commercially successful band came out of the rise of The New Wave Punk movement that was emerging out of the U.K. with bands such as ; The Jam, The Dammed, Generation X,

The Clash, The Pretenders, and The Notorious Sex Pistols. Influencing The states from the east to the west coast with fresh bands like “The Ramones, The Pattie Smith Group, Blondie, X, The Zeros, The Germs, The Alley Cats, The Dills, The Plimsouls, and The Ohio based Rubber City Rebels.

People who were tired of The Arena Rock bands like Aerosmith and Van Halen naturally gravitated to this unique and somewhat underground scene.

Doug Fieger, a Detroit native began playing music at an incredibly early age, and by his teens began his musical Journey by way of British Influences with a local Detroit band called “Sky” opening up for bands like Traffic and The Who. They signed on to RCA records and went to L.A.

Due to High maintenance management the band disbanded, and Doug decided to stay in L.A. largely motivated by better coastal weather, and the first musician he met was a drummer by the name of Bruce Gary.

Before Bruce worked in The Knack he had a long lists of projects starting with Albert Collins at the age of fifteen, which led into meeting Arthur Lee of  Love, Albert King, John Lee Hooker and Jack Bruce. To quote Bruce, “I wanted to be the Buddy Rich of Rock and Roll people like Ginger Baker and Keith Moon really impressed me.”

In 1971/1972 Bruce was doing a lot of session work for Capitol Records  where an in house producer contacted him saying there was this local guy from Detroit who wanted to make Demos. Doug and Bruce practiced at Bruce’s moms house. Doug on Bass and Bruce of course on drums.  Doug recalls. “I always put it in the back of my mind that one day I’d be in a band with this guy.”

Following in the Spring of ’73 Doug auditioned for Rob Carmichael and witnessed what he called “ A hippy Huck Finn (aka; Berton Averre) going off on guitar.” The two pulled each other aside, creatively connected, and were inseperable music partners in the years to come turning out song after song, and truly working as a team.

Doug contacted Bruce with enthusiasm telling him that he found a great guitarist.

In 1976 they recorded a demo, only to be turned down by every label in L.A., N.Y. and London not to mention Capitol Records, who also turned them down four times. The same guys who would later sign them.

In this same year Doug got a call to do session work for a band called ‘The Rats” who recorded an album called “The Sunset Bombers” on a paid gig. Their drummer  Brandon Matheson (Also drummer of The Rubber City Rebels)  introduced Doug to the Single “Anarchy in the U.K.” by The Sex Pistols. Doug became magnetically influenced musically, and fashionably adapting not only the white shirt and black vested look in clothes but as well in wide eyed expressions on stage.  He urged Bruce and Berton that they put a band together and play live.

In the Spring of 1978 Bruce Gary brought in Prescott Niles on bass. They finally had their four member.

On June first of that year they played their first gig at The Whisky a Go-Go.-as well as going onto The Starwood and The Doug Weston’s Troubador.

Doug Weston states that “It really got hopping here in the fall of ’78 The Knack played over 150 shows that year, and there was a Buzz on the street out about them. “. Soon Celebrities began to get up on stage and Jam with them starting with Robbie Krieger of The Doors, Eddie Money, and Tom Petty.

Bruce Gary invited fellow friend Bruce Springsteen down on a Friday night. Springsteen jumped on stage for a firery Jam session, and on Monday The Knack had 14 record offers.

They went with Bruce Ravid an A & R guy at Capitol, and Mike Chapman recorded and produced them.

Get The Knack was recorded in 11 days, only taking two days to mix.  In short they recorded it Live.

Steve Jones of The Sex Pistols: “ I remember having the album I used to listen to it back home in England, and I couldn’t really tell people because it wasn’t really cool,  I love that album.”

The Get The Knack Album became the fastest selling album from a new band  more than any other since The Beatles. They had The number one single, number one F.M.  airplay, and number one retail for five weeks., and selling over fifty million copies.

To some their success looked masterminded, but Capitol only invested fiftey grand promoting it. The Knack couldn’t have calculated or capitalized on their success, it was of it’s own creation.

The band became Huge so quickly, and their management made naïve mistakes advising them not to do any interviews, which ultimately and visiously backfired on the band. The critics went from love to hate all too quickly.

The unity and Spirit that The Knack started out with was unfortunately permeated by the negative backlash of the press by the time period of their second album. Causing a subtle rise of withdraw and alienation with in the band.

The “No Interview Policy” jepordized  great opportunities and appearances on American Band Stand, the  Grammy’s, and appearances on Saturday Night Live.

The Knack were out on tour absolutely oblivious to these damaging choices, and consequences these decisions would have.

Hence the Knuke The Knack Campaign  followed making it a near fad to dog them.  The Band showed a good sense of humor about it actually purchasing  Knuke The Knack T-shirts and other  memorbilla.

The first and Second album were meant to be a double album, but it was cut in two and recorded only six months after the release of the first one.  Following on too quickly from the first.

Alienation, and excessive drug use took it’s toll  in the midst of their sophomore jinx, when hitting the peak of exhaustion of the second straight year of  constant touring. Which Bruce Gary quotes “We needed a break, we were worked to the bone.” Nerves were frazzled if not shot, and Doug states “That it made it impossible to think clearly.”

Pressures were building, and tensions began to arise between Doug and Bruce, but they didn’t want to blow a good thing and decided to hang in there for The Knack’s third album “Roundtrip” they chose producer Jack Douglas, who was known for his recent completion of “Double Fantasy”

Jack  says he was “Trying to escape the horror of John Lennon’s death and threw himself into a workaholic cycle with the recording of “Roundtrip” Bruce later described those sessions like “walking into a sea of Insanity” Further drug use ensued and the story tale runs like a  classic VH1 “behind The music” The band went on a three week club tour in the Fall of ’81 and broke up on New Years Eve of the same year.

In the time between their next incarnation Doug got clean  and sober. In 1986 Doug and Berton reunited and put together another tour, but ultimately it led to Bruce Gary yielding in his own direction as The Knack went on with new drummers.

In 1991 they released their fourth album “Serious Fun” making the top ten with their radio hit “Rocket of Love” taking an unpredictable turn with a  Heavy Metal album.

They had a resurgence of Popularity when “My Sharona” was featured on The “Reality Bites “ soundtrack, and in 1998 they released their fifth album “Zoom” a refreshing and honest album more loyal to The Knack’s true and original roots.

In 2001 they followed with their sixth album “Normal  As The Next Guy” and it is truly on of their most  eclectic albums. Showing how versatile and muliti-dimensional this band has always been.

Bruce Ravid: “If smells like teen spirit” was the gateway to the nineties, My Sharona was the gateway to the eighties.”

In closing I must agree with that well known quote about “Those who can create, and those who can’t criticize”

Although I’m biased.

I  was hit with the passion of their music at a very young impressionable age with all the enthusiasm Cameron Crowe had for Led Zepplin as a excited young teen. I  like many around that time heard of them through classic word of mouth (Thank you Dave in “Beatlemania”)

I’m glad to report my friends and I never followed the fads of the Hate campaigns. We were proud to say they influenced us creatively and if that made us un cool, well even cooler.

The Knack have continued to play very steadily and successfully up to Summer of 2006, but on Aug 3rd of this year I was stunned, along with many to hear Doug Fieger underwent Brain Surgery at Cedar Saini for the removal of two tumors, and then continually shocked to hear of Bruce Gary’s passing at Tarzana Medical Center  just nineteen days later for complications from Non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

The last time I saw Bruce was at a Trader Joes in the Valley He greeted me warmly as he often did with people.

He was open, warm, affectionate and as good natured as I always want to remember him. He will be greatly missed greatly by all those who were lucky enough to know him.

News has it that Doug is on the mend, and lets bet that the future of this talented band is bright. They certainly left their mark in Rock History, and matter much more to their fans than the long forgotten critics.

Thanks Ginger for this opportunity to write  about a band I am fondly  aquainted with, and Hats off to The Knack for all they have contributed past and present, may their legacy continue.

Further works of Bruce Gary Beyond The Knack include:  Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Stephan Stills, Rod Stewart, Sheyrl Crow, Bette Middler, Yoko Ono, Harry Neilson, Robby Kreiger, Session Work for John Desmore, and Technical support in Oliver Stone’s movie “ The Door” , Denny Laine (of The Moody Blues and Paul McCartney and Wings) Ringo Starr, Spencer Davies, Fuzzy Knight, The Ventures, Mick Taylor Band, and a corporate gig with The Jefferson Airplane.

Bruce leaves us at the young age of fiftey five. Let's keep his endearing  memory and music alive.

 

 

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