The Wild Story Of The Real "My Sharona" And The Knack's Doug Fieger
Sometimes, beautiful relationships develop out of strange, even weird, situations. Doug Fieger, lead singer of The Knack, and Sharona Alperin of “My Sharona” fame may rank as the greatest example of such a coupling. Rarely do love stories that begin with a rock star meeting a teenager in a clothing store end well. Throw in the fact that both were in serious relationships at the time and you’ve got a real moral conundrum. However, Doug and Sharona’s relationship mirrored the rise of one of music’s underrated bands, endlessly thrilling both participants. This is the story of The Knack’s “My Sharona.”
At the time, The Knack lead singer Fieger was in an eight-year relationship with his girlfriend, Julia Halpert. Halpert was friends with Sharona Alperin and suggested to her that, “You oughta meet my boyfriend. He’s a musician.”
When Fieger walked into her place of employment, a clothing store on West Third Street in Beverly Grove, he immediately fell in love. Alperin told NPR host Guy Raz, "I was about 16 or 17 at the time. He was nine years older than me. And within a month or two later, he told me that, 'I'm in love with you, you're my soulmate, you're my other half, we're going to be together one day.' And I was madly in love with my boyfriend at the time, and so it took a year for me to leave my boyfriend."
Sharona became a staple at The Knack shows, even bringing her then-boyfriend among other friends. “I went to check ’em out, I brought some girlfriends,” remembered Alperin, who became a successful L.A. real estate agent. “I ended up bringing more and more friends, and it ended up creating this crazy scene.” Girls who feverishly followed The Knack were dubbed “The Knackettes.”
Despite many exchanges that went like this:
“I’m madly in love with you.”
“Are you kidding me? I’m madly in love with my boyfriend.”
“No, someday we’re gonna be together.”
“No, of course not. I’m so happy.”
Sharona stuck with her boyfriend for over a year after Fieger and his guitarist Berton Averre played a certain song for her at a rehearsal…
“My Sharona’s” Evolution
“It’s a truism in rock music that you run out of girls’ names. Whether it’s Sherry, or Gloria, all the names seemed to be used up. Sharona was a name that hadn’t been used before, and it was distinctive to the ear, said Averre.” The guitarist took her distinctive name along with inspiration from rockers of old to create the iconic “My Sharona” riff.
In Averre’s memory, “I was listening to a lot of Elvis Costello’s second album, “This Year’s Model” and songs like 'Pump It Up' and 'No Action' were really getting me going. As I recall, I came up with that riff as a response to that kind of feeling I was getting from that album, that jungle beat, slam-your-head-against-the-wall kind of intensity.” He then took his riff to Fieger who applied his love of Sharona into an unforgettable song.
A Massive Success
For the muse of such a seminal hit, the first day she heard it was like yesterday. "One day, on my lunch break from my clothing store, I went to their [The Knack's] rehearsal," she says. "And I saw maybe Burton [Averee] or Doug [Fieger] say, 'Should we play it? Should we play it? All right, let's play it for her.' And I sat down. Cut to: I'm driving back to the clothing store, and I'm thinking, 'Did I just hear a song with my name in it?'"
The Knack’s label, Capitol Records, had mixed feelings saying, “Well, you know, Top 40 doesn’t play harder rock music these days.” Nevertheless, their album “Get the Knack” went gold, selling half a million copies in just under two weeks. As Fieger said in the documentary About My Sharona, “They didn’t release the single until two weeks after the album had been released, but the day the album was released to radio, 'My Sharona' became the most added record, as an album cut, in the world. It went from nobody ever having heard it to heavy rotation in one day.”
Sharona Finally Relents
Amazingly, Sharona stayed loyal to her boyfriend up until The Knack’s America tour. As she saw it, “He made it very clear he was in love with me. It wasn’t like my boyfriend and the world didn’t know. I always say that he was my groupie, I wasn’t his!” Still, she couldn’t resist the temptation of such a unique experience. “By the time the American tour came, I was gone,” she says. “There was too much not to go for. This man was so in love with me, beyond in love, and I just went for it.”
Although as Sharona grew up, she learned she needed to find herself. “I broke up with Doug because I had to,” she says. “My line was, it was time for me to become my Sharona. There probably isn’t more of a possessive or obsessive word in the English language than 'my.' It wasn’t that the phenomenon of the song was something I had to escape from; our relationship was something that I had to escape from. He was overwhelming.”
The pair did remain friends and Sharona never regretted taking the plunge, “Michelle, Yoko, Roxanne — there’s maybe 40 or 50 [great] songs named after women in the history of a billion songs written. I feel incredibly fortunate that I’ve had this experience. It’s a really exciting adventure that never leaves me.”