The Knack

Havin' a Rave-Up! Live in Los Angeles, 1978

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The Knack seemingly appeared out of nowhere in the spring of 1979, as "My Sharona" suddenly became an unavoidable hit single and the album Get the Knack topped the charts and flew out of record stores. But as is usually the case, the Knack didn't emerge from nowhere, but from Los Angeles, where they were a major draw at the city's rock clubs and attracted the attention of a number of high-profile fans, including Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty, both of whom joined the scrappy up-and-comers on-stage. Havin' a Rave-Up! Live in Los Angeles, 1978 was assembled from rough live tapes of two club gigs the Knack played in their hometown before they signed with Capitol Records and became overnight sensations a year later (and has-beens by 1981). Listening to this album with full hindsight, it's easy to hear that the flaws that would help doom the Knack were there from the start -- Doug Feiger always sounded like a smug teenager with a misogynist streak, his stage banter was often silly and cloying, and the songwriting is hit and miss, with more than a few throwaways on the set list (some of which never made it onto a Knack studio set). But when the band has a good tune at their disposal and the energy is right, you can also see why they earned plenty of fans in their barnstorming days -- the group is ferociously tight and roars through songs like "End of the Game," "It's Alright," and "Let Me Out" with a joyous force nearly any act would envy. It's hard to say why the Knack won the grand prize in the L.A. power pop sweepstakes rather than the Beat or the Plimsouls, to name just two bands who made better records, but if Havin' a Rave-Up! doesn't provide all the answers, it does confirm the Knack were a solid live act who could work a crowd, and the nameless fans cheering between tunes weren't wrong if they thought these guys were destined for big things. (Though why their numbers have been beefed up with obvious additional crowd noise is hard to fathom.)

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