In the closing months of the 1970s, Capitol Records had its fastest-selling debut release in the US since The Beatles’ “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” It was a million-seller that went on to be America’s biggest-selling song of 1979, and one of the catchiest rock numbers in memory. On August 25, The Knack went to No.1 in the US with “My Sharona.”
Written by the Los Angeles group’s lead guitarist Berton Averre and lead singer/rhythm guitarist Doug Fieger, the track also benefited from the expert production of Mike Chapman. The Australian’s “Chinnichap” writing and production partnership with Brit Nicky Chinn had been immensely successful throughout the 1970s for such artists as the Sweet, Suzi Quatro, Smokie, Mud, and Racey.
Newly solo, Chapman was red hot as the producer who helped transform Blondie into a multi-platinum sensation with 1978’s Plastic Letters album. Late that year, with labels and producers all vying for an association with The Knack and Capitol winning the bidding war, Chapman entered the fray and let his track record do most of the talking.
An album in 11 days
Chapman read in the L.A. Times about the producers that the band were most keen to work with. He wasn’t on the list, but he won them over and adopted a back-to-basics approach for their debut album Get The Knack, reportedly recorded in 11 days on a miserly budget of $18,000. It was in direct contrast to the months and even years that other big groups of the day were taking to be creative, from Fleetwood Mac to Pink Floyd, and the power-pop immediacy of the sound was an instant success.
“My Sharona” was the obvious lead single from the album, and was based on a real person. “Berton had this lick for a long time and we never worked on it,” Fieger later told Goldmine magazine. “I had met this girl Sharona and fell very deeply in love with her. She was inspirational and moved me on a very basic level. I was just trying to put my feelings about her into the beat that Berton had come up with.”
“At least three times a day someone sings or laughs at my name,” Sharona Alperin told the Mirror. “Sometimes I make table bookings under a different name to avoid the jokes. They usually say ‘Are you really her? The Sharona? I can’t believe it’s really you.’”
Conquering charts worldwide
The urgent staccato of the production and guitar-bass combination was the perfect reflection of a song that oozed sexual tension, and audiences lapped it up. “My Sharona” entered the Hot 100 in June, went gold in 13 days, platinum in less than a month and went on to sell four million, conquering charts worldwide. It took over from Chic’s “Good Times” atop the Hot 100 and helped the album sell five million copies in the US alone.
Listen to the 70s playlist, featuring scores of landmark hits from a starry decade.
To this day, Sharona remains extremely fond of the memories. Her Twitter account summary used to announce proudly: “One of Los Angeles’ premiere real estate professionals, wife, mother, and The Knack wrote a song about me.” She now describes herself as “Your L.A. realtor,” but her website still nods to her past, with its title mysharona.com.
In another interview with the New York Post in 2021, Alperin reflected: “I guess I didn’t look at myself as a celebrity, but people were very excited when they met me. And I remember going on tour, and seeing sometimes people dress up. And I’d say, ‘What are you dressed up as?’ And they would say, ‘Sharonas.’”
Buy or stream “My Sharona” on the album Get The Knack.