Friday, August 25, 2006

He Really Did Have The Knack

Great article this morning in the Washington Post about drummer Bruce Gary of the late 70s/early 80s pop rock group, The Knack. His signature drum riff on the mega-hit "My Sharona" reached millions of ears and became iconic in rock history. (And so did Doug Feiger's guitar riff -- a perfect marriage of words and music).

At this point in time, songs like that tend to be dismissed because it became so wildly popular and overplayed, and the beat/hook so insistent, that overkill killed the radio song. But when it was freshly popping out of the radio, it was an exuberantly joyful expression of pop dancaholism. It was a "turn the radio up and blast the car" song that made everyone feel good for three minutes.

Bruce Gary died this week, sadly. He might not have been the most celebrated musician in the world, but he did something few drummers ever do: he put a riff into the cosmos that stayed and is immediately indentifiable. He also ran afoul of Doug Feiger, eventually. According to the article, they didn't get along very well and they both disagree on who created that riff.
The Knack's original lineup released two more albums and then split up acrimoniously, much of the animus stemming from the fact that drummer Gary and singer Fieger couldn't stand each other. They have different memories of the day "My Sharona's" beat came together. Fieger insists he demonstrated exactly what he wanted Gary to play. Gary grumbled to me that he should have received some of the hit song's publishing royalties, so essential was his drumming.

I saw the squabble as another example of the timeless battle between The Singer and The Drummer. The former perpetually tells the latter to keep it down, as if an instrument that is meant to be hit with a stick could be played quietly.

Doug is a friend of a friend of mine, and I am promised to meet him some day soon. I hope I get to. He's, from what I've been told, a phenomenal musician.

Back when I was a kid in the late 60's, it wasn't cool to like pop music. Among my circle of musician friends, we were only to like acid rock or serious-minded folk rock. We were supposed to like Jefferson Airplane, not Creedence Clearwater. Funny how things change, though. I happened to love both. I would get all head spacey with my serious musician friends while we picked apart a Stones album and then go home and put on the Monkees.

To me, it's all the same. I don't even think my brain can "hear" styles of music. I either like it or I don't. Usually, I even preferred the lighter, more pop songs to the darker, heavier stuff. And it's funny, but it's the pop stuff that has stood the test of time, while most of the darker music sounds dated and corny.

Bruce, I didn't know you, but I liked what you and Doug created together and I'm sorry you have passed at such a young age.

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