Part 1 of Doug Feiger Interview
Part 2 of Doug Feiger Interview
In part 3 of my 1994 interview, portions of which appeared in Phoenix New Times, Doug Feiger addrersses the Knack’s smutty schoolboy lyrics and why he had no regrets in penning them.
Q: Do you think the press overreacted when they labeled you a “sexist” band?
Feiger: Absolutely. I mean, “sexist?” Go and listen to “Under My Thumb.”
Q: Do you regret certain lines like “Call Chicken Delight, cause there’s flesh on the bone and she ain’t giving you none.”
Feiger: I regret nothing. Absolutely nothing. The lyrics that I write, at least for that album were based on my remembered adolescence and the way I remembered 14 year-old boys desiring girls. And that’s all it was. It was not a political comment or statement. And in the grand tradition of rock n’ roll, it certainly was about lust. But again, I’ve never written a song anywhere near, if you want to talk about sexism in rock music, anywhere near as sexist as “Under My Thumb” or “Stupid Girl,” which both occured on the same album.
Q: But that was before there was any sort of women’s movement…
Feiger: But so what? If there going to pillary us in 1979, two years before the Rolling Stones did “Some Girls.” C’mon. Gimme a f–kin’ break. Those kinds of things are ridiculous and really what I believe it’s about is when anybody gets too successful too fast and people don’t feel like they had a hand in creating it, they’re bound to bring it down a peg or ten if they can. You watch tabloid press. And I don’t think rock press is any different than tabloid press. It has to do with the writer’s personal opinion. It has nothing to do with any objective overview.
Q: You can say that but then you can also say that if somebody really wants to buy a record, a writer can’t influence them one way or the other.
Feiger: Absolutely. I don’t believe anybody influenced people who were gonna buy Knack records. Like I said, our second album sold 2 million without a big hit single.
Q: Was “Baby Talks Dirty” part of your early live set around the same time as “My Sharona?”
Feiger: No, but it didn’t come very far after it. We’re doing “Baby Talks Dirty” in our set now and our new drummer, well he’s been our drummer for six years now, but, our newer drummer said “I can’t believe everybody thought this sounded like “My Sharona.” Because it really doesn’t. It’s got a rhythmic G note that goes form G major to the seventh of the G. Other than that it has nothing to do with “My Sharona.” I think a big part of that was writers at that time needing to pull this successful group down a peg.
Q: You did have a big champion in the press with Robert Hilburn. He once said, as did my editor that your LA Forum homecoming show was one of the best rock concerts he’s ever seen. What do you remember about that night?
Feiger: Yeah it was a great show. But the funny thing about Robert Hilburn was that he would say those things in the last quarter of his review. The first three quarters of his reviews he would cast aspirsions on what he perceived—his opinion—of what we were doing. Without any idea of what we were doing. Lookit, I’m an artist. I do what I do and I put it out there. Whoever likes, likes it, whoever doesn’t, doesn’t. I’ll stand and fall with my work. I believe you do the work and you stand back. And you let the work speak for itself.
Q: Can you settle an argument about “Mr. Handleman?” Is that song about guy pimping his wife?
Feiger: Yeah, it was the first song Berton and I ever wrote. Berton and I have a perverse sense of humour. And we wrote another first song “Siamese Twins” which is based on a John Barth short story about a pair of siamese twins, one of whom was this little, shriveled creature who was stuck on the back of this big, burly brother. He wrote this story from the perspective of the brother on the back, and how when the big, burly brother would pick up girls, the guy on the back would know they were really in love with him. It was a very funny and poignant but very pathetic story. We took the story and said let’s write it from the big, burly brother’s perspective. That’s how that came to be. Yes it’s perverse, but so what?
Q: So are 2 Live Crew.
Feiger: Well, I wouldn’t lump us together with 2 Live Crew. So is the artist Robert Williams. Stanley Kubrick, for Chrissakes, making movies. He makes perverse statements sometimes. And I, as an artist, don’t feel constrained from the opinions of critics. “Mr. Handleman” was just a lark. Of two kids…when we wrote that I was 22.
Q: That songs strikes me like a note you pass around in class.
Feiger: Right. And rock and roll is supposed to be about thumbing your nose at convention.
Q: I think people want the perversion of “Sweet Little 16” but they don’t want to hear about the two-way mirrors at Berry Park.
Feiger: I don’t know about that, that’s somebody’s personal life. I’m talking about their work. The idea that an artist’s life is fair game to criticsm in relation to his work is this modern tabloid focus—gossip is the new pornography as far as I’m concerned. Frankly I’m not interested.
Part 4: The end of the Knack.