Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Getting The Knack: Rock Band and sodomy beats

Like a lot of people who like music and video games, I've been playing Rock Band for a couple of months now. Not all that well. I can fumble my way through most of the songs on guitar or bass on the "hard" setting but it's not pretty. It is, however, pretty fun and has led me to download more songs as they become available.

Recently I downloaded "My Sharona" by The Knack or, to use the Rock Band term for the almost-but-never-quite-convincing cover versions they drop in when they can't get the rights to the original or obtain a master recording that works for their purposes, "'My Sharona' as made famous by The Knack."

I always liked this song. I have a soft spot for power pop and was too young and living in a house with no interest in rock music so I wasn't overexposed to it when it was a hit in 1979. I never quite understood The Knack's this-is-the-band-that-God-sent-to-punish-music-fans reputation. I think I kind of get it now. "My Sharona" is so insanely catchy that it's easy to overlook its sleaziness. It takes a pure pop sound and twists it until all the sex that's usually beneath the surface is on top. It's there in the lyric about lusting after underage girls but it's mostly in the beat and the riff that's all pounding and no foreplay. It's an insanely catchy song, but it's hard not to feel a little dirty liking it. (Also, the song-ending guitar solo is really tricky in Rock Band.)

I think that's why people who hated The Knack–does anyone still feel passionate about them one way or another?–really hated The Knack. Here was the sound of classic pop with all the subtlety and innocence stripped away. When The Raspberries sang "Go All The Way," there was little doubt what they were singing about, but they kept the romanticism and the sex. The sex-only approach works for The Knack, for one song at least (though "Good Girls Don't" is pretty catchy/sleazy too), but the song's the musical equivalent of a nasty one night stand you don't really want to see over breakfast the next morning. (I get the same vibe from a lot of modern power pop and power pop-influenced bands like Louis XIV, The Kooks, and Morningwoood, which why I've mostly kept them at arm's length.)

Quentin Tarantino originally wanted to use "My Sharona" for the scene in Pulp Fiction where Bruce Willis rescues Ving Rhames from the sexually sadistic pawn shop owner and his buddy, Zed. (He couldn't because it was already earmarked for one of the many unbearable scenes in Reality Bites or the band objected to its use in that context. Accounts vary.) His logic, if I remember the quote right, was that it had a "really good sodomy beat to it." The phrasing's unfortunate since what happens in that scene isn't sodomy in the sense of two (or three or four) guys having a consensual good time on a Saturday night. It's rape. But he's got a point. There's something irresistible and kind of wrong about "My Sharona."

All of which is a long way of saying I was wondering if anyone ever recut that scene to "My Sharona." So I went to YouTube. And someone totally did.