When it comes to spectacular pop flame-outs, itâ€™s still tough to match the Knack, even 25 years after the phenomenal success of â€œMy Sharonaâ€ and their debut album, â€œGet the Knack.â€ While that debut sold millions upon millions, their second album, â€œâ€¦but the little girls understandâ€ did just okay, topping out at double platinum.
That third album, thoughâ€¦
â€œRound Tripâ€ was released in 1981, just three years after â€œGet the Knackâ€. In that short amount of time, the group had alienated the rock press and even their fanbase so much that it peaked at a partly #93 on the Billboard Top 200. The Knack were actively despised. â€œKnuke the Knackâ€ buttons and t-shirts were sold at Spencerâ€™s Gifts nationwide. â€œRound Trip,â€ a sort of head-hung-low apology of an album, was dead before it was born.
As a junior high school student, I can remember seeing copy after copy stacked in our local Camelot Musicâ€™s cutout bin, a place I haunted like clockwork for buried treasure (Fred Schneider and the Shake Society for only 99Â¢!?? Sold!). Of course, I had some earlier familiarity with the Knack, thanks to their massive hit and the fact that I regularly checked out â€œGet the Knackâ€ from the Elyria Public Library and quite liked it.
I have distinctly vivid memories of G-98, our local Top 40 outlet, playing â€œRound Tripâ€™sâ€ first single â€œPay the Devil (Ooo Baby Ooo)â€ during the nightly Smash It or Trash It call-in show I taped every night. In fact, I saved that tape for months and months, playing that song again and again.
It got a 78% â€œTrash Itâ€ rating. Well, I liked it.
You have to give Capitol Records credit for releasing a country-ish waltz as the first single from the album. Either it was a bold statement that the Knack was expanding its sound and moving away from horny teen anthems or it was a horrible blunder. Take a pick.
Soon after, I heard another song from â€œRound Tripâ€ on Smash It or Trash It called â€œBoys Go Crazyâ€. Now thisâ€¦this was the Knack. â€œThe boys go crazy when the girls say â€˜no.â€ Back to speaking from the dick, a complete retreat from â€œPay the Devilâ€™sâ€ experimentation.
It got a 64% â€œSmash Itâ€ rating. It didnâ€™t even warrant a release, Capitol pulling it from the schedule when the Knack broke up, a scant three weeks after â€œRound Tripâ€ hit the stores. Had the group stuck it out, leadoff track â€œRadiating Loveâ€ would have made a great single.
I made the 99Â¢ investment in â€œRound Tripâ€ several times. At one point, I owned it on vinyl, cassette and even 8-track, just to have them. Itâ€™s a decent album, sort of all over the place and it betrays Doug Feigerâ€™s drug problem at the time in certain moments. I came back to it now and then, especially to â€œPay the Devil,â€ which with maturity, I posited might have been written about the Knack themselves:
You got it made
And you made it your way
Lifeâ€™s looking great
Now you found the right games to play
Came a long way from the Valley
Aim so high, shot so true
Ooo baby ooo ooo baby ooo
Everybody got to read the review
Ooo baby ooo ooo baby ooo even you
Got to learn to give the devil his due
Contrition only gets you so far. In this case, it got the Knack in the mid-60s of the Billboard Hot 100. 21 years later, I bought â€œRound Tripâ€ one more timeâ€¦this time on a lushly remastered CD, complete with demos and bonus tracks.
Got to give the devils their due. Eventually.
Download â€œPay the Devil (Ooo Baby Ooo)â€.
Download â€œBoys Go Crazyâ€.
â€Pay the Devil (Ooo Baby Ooo)â€ peaked at #67 on the Billboard Hot 100.
â€œBoys Go Crazyâ€ was pulled from release.