New The Knack, Live at the House of Blues View larger

The Knack, Live at the House of Blues

New product

The Knack recorded live at The House of Blues playing "My Sharona" and their other great tunes.

LP available now at your favorite participating Record Store Day merchant.

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Tracks:

  1. Pop Is Dead
  2. Baby Talks Dirty
  3. Oh Tara
  4. Can I Borrow A Kiss
  5. Another Lousy Day In Paradise
  6. Good Girls Don’t
  7. One Day At A Time
  8. It’s Not Me
  9. Harder On You
  10. Siamese Twins (The Monkey and Me)
  11. Seven Days Of Heaven
  12. Tequila/Break On Through (To The Other Side)
  13. That’s What The Little Girls Do
  14. Frustrated
  15. (She’s So) Selfish
  16. My Sharona
  17. Let Me Out
  18. Last Train To Clarksville

Sometime in the middle of February 2001, almost nearly 20 years ago, I got a message from a woman who had called me about an article profile she happened to read that was about me in Music Connection.

I can’t recall if I was super eager to get back to her immediately (probably was but was trying to play it cool and not look fervid) but I know I did very shortly thereafter and in the conversation she explained that she was a consultant for a company looking for entities or product if you will, that she could introduce to the owner and put us together for a distribution deal and collect a finders fee of sorts…her name was Patty Leonard.

Patty was very interested in the 12,000 song catalog my family owns and mentioned she thought there might possibly be some interest in the label I was trying to launch…as it turns out she was very instrumental in helping to put together a deal with Smile Records and Image Entertainment.

In the article that she read, there was a section about where I had been putting bands on Sunday nights over at the House of Blues on Sunset Blvd.

As I was trying to build the label and it’s roster with all of these power pop bands that were emerging again (it had rekindled in the late ‘90s), I had a good stable of talent right here in my own back yard (I would soon be labeled as the “King of LA Power Pop”), so I had thought this was a good way to get noticed by the majors to get a dist deal.

She introduced me to Marty Greenwald, the owner of Image Entertainment, and he said they were looking to get in the audio business, as they were strictly a video business at the time and that Smile Records would be a great fit (I liked the idea, but also knew I was going to be the guinea pig)… a week later they called me and asked to have a meeting with their VP and new head of the Audio dept...about the record label... a few months later we had a deal in place.

I knew I had to have a flagship artist to kick off the label with a bang, an artist with a name, established and with a fan base that would sell records so I looked good to Image coming out of the gate. 

I immediately thought of friends that I had seen back in 1978, who, by 1979, were the ultimate and biggest power pop band in at least the last 8-10 years of that decade.
When I first saw The Knack, they hadn’t been signed yet and they were playing at the Troubadour here in LA working up a bidding war between the majors… Interestingly enough, a guy named Scott Bergstein who was working for my father’s label, Allegiance Records at the time (I was working in the mail room not even out of high school yet) told me he was managing a killer kind of “Beatle” band that I would totally like because he knew I was a Beatle fanatic… (They even played “Hard Days Night” as an encore…and the right chords as well!).

I had soon become friends with them and kept in touch throughout the years and became tight with their bass player Prescott Niles (and are still good friends for all of these 40 plus yrs later). 

When it came time to sign a “power pop stalwart” act for my label launch, I felt they were a catch- even though they hadn’t done a record in some years- I knew that anybody who was into power pop were already fans of them and the built in audience from their debut till now would spawn off of that and introduce this style of music to others who may not even have heard the term “power pop” or The Knack and that was my goal.

I met and had a talk with their management and let them know I was interested in signing them. After a few more meetings, we put a deal together. 

Now, you have to understand at this point, the band still had the “burned bridges” label they made while they climbed to the top back in the day, and it was a challenge to get some of those exact people that the band had shunned or pissed off, who surprisingly, were still writers for national magazines and now the internet was becoming huge and socials were just starting to become part of the norm on how to relay info- good or bad- to many more people than before, to have those exact people come down to see the show and give a favorable review or write a nice article about the new album was going to be an uphill battle…..and the weird part was they had not played LA for those 20 years in between!

Turns out the old adage “time heals all wounds” worked to our advantage as a lot of them seem to have no real animosity towards the band anymore (mainly Doug). Doug and the band were a total turn around at this point in their career….very much open to speaking to the press and dealing with the mistakes in the past, or angering press people and now were actually giving all the time the press requested and answered all the questions they threw at the band without, well, being jerks as they had been perceived.

Now it was the summer of 2001 and as we were putting together a release schedule for the 8 of the 12 artists I had signed by then, we wanted to release albums on three artists at a time that would come out every month and so on, starting on the 25th of September, 2001…(the first three being The Knack, The Andersons and Supremium).
Because I had done so many shows over the previous 15 months at the HOB, I knew the booking agent very well and said I would like to basically buy a night so I could kick off the label, show off the bands Smile had signed and get the exposure I was looking for and he was very into it…plus it didn’t hurt that the HOB was the best and most respected venue in town.

We started to promote it heavily a month before, it was all working well and we felt very confident the project and the night would be a great success.

And then it happened… I had gone to the gym that Tuesday morning around 9 AM and surprisingly all the machines were available... there was no wait... I could start working out and getting on the treadmill the moment I walked in to the building… I thought strange but, hey, don’t complain this is rare so take advantage..

I did notice, however, there were some clusters of people and they were all looking up at the TV’s that were spread out around the gym and saying things that I didn’t hear quite clearly at the time.

And then as I looked up at the TV in front of me a few rows away, I saw what looked like a tall building on fire but way up near the top of the building, like 70 floors high which didn’t look right and the comments in captions underneath saying some plane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers and shortly after the other building was hit by a plane and we heard the Pentagon had a crash near them as well and no one had any idea why or answers to what was going on


Well, most of us know where we were at that time that terrible moment occurred and now things had changed forever. 

Weirded out, I made my way over to my office at Image. Everyone there was around the TV talking about what was going on and happening and the furthest thing from all of our minds was anything about signing bands or selling records or having a big kick off show for their newest business acquisition. 

And that’s what we were dealing and living with when we started to discuss to either cancel the show or reschedule it way down the road. But of course things had already been in motion (business wise, with many wheels turning) and over the next few days the consensus was we shouldn’t let other people or countries dictate how we should live by trying to intimidate us with what they did and we as a country and individuals were not letting them, that’s for sure…

I had discussions with the bands, management, distributor, who were all very concerned of course, but after talking pros and cons, we all agreed that we should do the show…and wanted to do it for the best possible reasons…to show how strong we are as humans and Americans and keep on living our lives undeterred, no matter the circumstances….again allot pride was being thrown around and would for months to come.

The HOB couldn’t have agreed more and started going on the local radio stations letting people know they were going to be open, they were there for the town and, for just a little while on one night, make us feel a little bit normal anyway they could (very much like what we are all going through now with this virus pandemic and trying very hard to get back to some normalcy over a year after it hit us).

While the bands were still loading in, the booking agent came down and told me that we sold out. I knew this town, despite what most of the country thinks of it, was as proud and ready to be strong as any other place in the country and was coming out in full force to show it.

Excited by the news, I let the bands know we got a full house...the Anderson’s and Supremium were in the small dressing rooms upstairs in the back and they were becoming close friends and having a good time together and then the Knacks roadies started to load all their gear in as they would show up later to do their sound check.

So when it came time to open up the evening, I brought The Andersons downstairs to it kick off and I told them I was going to do some talking and announcements and then introduce them and they could jump right into it. I did my “thank you for coming, people I want to thank, so glad you came to see what we’re doing” schpeel, introduced the band and we were off. I then did the same for the next act, Supremium.

Both bands killed it… They had a good time and they got the crowd going. Just the warm-up I needed to get everybody in the place ready for the Knack to come out and do something they hadn’t done in in LA for 20 yrs..

So I’m in the Knack’s dressing room, everyone’s excited, everyone’s been looking forward to this show for a while, an HOB staff member comes up and tells us five minutes to show time, we start heading downstairs to the stage and I said the same thing to them as I said to the other bands, “I need to go out there and finish my night with the final thank you’s, acknowledgments” and so on.

As we got on the stage before the curtain was going to open, Doug turns to me and says “Do not introduce us”…What?.. I asked “You don’t want me to do a rocking introduction for you guys?” He said “No, we just go out and start, just make sure the lights are down when we kick off the first song”.

So this had thrown me a tad off because I really wanted to do a big “finale” introduction, but when I got to the end of my last thank you, I just walked off stage and everyone looked kind of confused and then the lights went down, they went on stage without saying a word and then they just kicked off the song count intro and BAM!,.. that’s what you will hear on this record, exactly how it was done and played that evening on September 25, 2001 at the HOB on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.

I was happy and thankful we got to do that night just 2 weeks after we had been attacked…it shaped all of us in a different way or whatever path we were on before that day, but all these years later I can still recall, especially when I listen to the tape, how that night buzzed…not just for the show that was being put on, but more because we were all in one accord about being strong and united, no matter what you looked liked or age or whatever, we all were in this together...and music has a way of doing the exact same thing…making us one and feel the way we do about it and the feeling lasts a lifetime.

One interesting side note: When I went back to the mixing board to watch the show (usually best seat in the house), the Knack’s mixing guy said to me after the set, “Listen, when you were up there talking to the crowd before they played, you were on Doug’s mic (middle mic) and for some reason, this time we couldn’t hear you that well.. probably because the crowd was starting to get anxious for the band coming on that there was a little bit more crowd noise than before, so I moved the fader up a little bit so they could hear you when you were speaking... I wanted to let you know because at the beginning of the first song when Doug comes up to sing, it’s a little slammed because I hadn’t realized I didn’t move it back when they started, I didn’t know it was happening until it was happening…. So sorry about that first two seconds of that tune, it has a vocal “jolt” at the top but the rest of it was all at the same level”…

So if that “jolt” sounds a little out of place, that’s why…Hey….its only Rock-n-Roll!!

Tony Valenziano
President, Smile Records
May 9th, 2021