(She's So) Selfish

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"(She's So) Selfish"
Song by The Knack from the album Get the Knack
Released June 11, 1979
Recorded April 1979
Genre New wave, punk rock, power pop
Length 4:30
Label Capitol
Writer Doug Fieger, Berton Averre
Producer Mike Chapman
Get the Knack track listing
"Oh, Tata"
(3)
"(She's So) Selfish"
(4)
"Maybe Tonight"
(5)

"(She's So) Selfish" is a hit song written by Doug Fieger and Berton Averre that was first released by the Knack on their #1 debut album Get the Knack in 1979. It also appeared on a number of live and compilation albums. It was intended for release as a single, but was prevented by its "scatological" lyrics. It was inspired by the same woman who inspired the band's #1 single "My Sharona." It was praised by critics for its hooks and style, but criticized for its nastiness and sexism.

Lyrics and music[edit]

The music of "(She's So) Selfish" is based on a Bo Diddley-like riff.[1][2] According to Averre, Fieger wrote most of "(She's So) Selfish" and Averre wrote the "release" section with its "dirty words":[3]

When she takes you by the short hairs
It's the only thing she'll leave you down there
No fuck-a me fuck-a me today
No fuck-a me fuck-a me today

The song was inspired by Fieger's as-yet-unrequited passion for Sharona Alperin, who also inspired other Knack songs such as "My Sharona," and Averre has called it a "teasing, playful look" at her.[3] Alperin concurs that she was the inspiration.[4][5] According to Ed Stephens, Jr. of Saipan Tribune, the song is about a "manipulative tease."[6] Taking a line from the song, Ira Robbins and Michael Sandlin of Trouser Press describe the girl in the song as "rich bitch."[7] Critic Robert Hilburn of The Los Angeles Times describes that the Knack uses crude, locker room language to portray a teenager's view of frustration.[8] Robert Wilonsky of the Dallas Observer described it as a "teen-beat [anthem] about doin' it to your girlfriend while Mom and Dad were out of the house"[9]

Reception[edit]

The Associated Press, TV Guide and others identified "(She's So) Selfish" as one of the Knack's radio hits.[10][11][12][13] Terry Atkinson of the Los Angeles Times calls it "one of the Knack's better songs."[14] Mike Daily of The Age claims that it deserves equal credit with "My Sharona" for the success of Get the Knack.[15] Audio magazine called it a "basher" with "plenty of style".[16] Tina Maples of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel praised its "hooky effervescence".[17] Charla Wasel of The Evening Independent described it as a song "with which we can all relate."[18] Billboard Magazine says that it is "delivered in a smart, sophisticated post-punk style that oozes Southern Californian snootiness."[1] It also uses the song as an example of the Knack being "mad about the way things are" with lyrics that "are as innocent as the chief of police in a Latin American dictatorship," citing such lines as "she got a smile in her ass" and "she says she'll make your motor run but she won't give you none" as setting the tone.[1] Author John Borack described "(She's So) Selfish" as a "mean pop tune" in which Fieger comes off "like a leering, sexist twit with hormones a-raging."[19]

Cue New York criticized the "sexist get-a-girl lyrics."[20] Jim Sullivan of The Boston Globe calls it "a tiresome, sexist rant."[21] The 3rd edition of The Rolling Stone Album Guide, music critic Robert Christgau and other critics commented on the song's nastiness, with authors Michael Uslan and Bruce Solomon calling it "by far the nastiest and most up-front cut on the album."[9][22][23][24] Eric Siegel of The Sun claims that lines such as "It's just me me me me/She's so (dramatic pause) selfish" make apparent the group's "lack of lyrical ability."[25]

Producer Mike Chapman considers "(She's So) Selfish" his favorite song from Get the Knack besides "My Sharona."[3] Actor/musician Robbie Rist considers it part of the "lethal opening salvo" that opens Get the Knack, which Rist feels few if any albums can match.[3]

Censored version[edit]

Capitol Records wanted to release "(She's So) Selfish" as a follow-up single from Get the Knack to "My Sharona" and "Good Girls Don't" in time for Christmas 1979.[22] However, they could not do so unless some of the more "scatological" references were edited out.[22] The band, having already edited out some lyrics for the single release of "Good Girls Don't," refused to do it again, preventing the single release.[22] According to Knack bassist Prescott Niles, Fieger felt that altering the lyrics to "(She's So) Selfish" would be "selling out."[3] Averre didn't see anything problematic about including the profane lyrics, since that is how teenagers spoke and they heard such language all the time.[3]

Despite the band's concerns, an edited version of the song was released in Canada, removing lines such as "fuck-a me today" and "she don't give a shit about anybody else but herself."[26][27][28] This version was accidentally included on the initial compact disc release of Get the Knack in the United States, despite the fact that according to Fieger the tape with the altered lyrics was in a box with big red letters stating "NOT MASTER! NOT TO BE USED! ONLY CANADIAN RADIO!."[26][27]

Other releases[edit]

"(She's So) Selfish" was a staple of the Knack's live shows and was included in several of the band's live albums, generally towards the end of the set right before "My Sharona." It was included on the 2012 live album Havin' a Rave-Up! Live in Los Angeles, 1978, which was based on two concerts the band performed in Los Angeles, California in 1978, before signing their record deal that would lead to Get the Knack.[29] The Knack performed it at the 1979 concert at Carnegie Hall which was used for the 1982 video disc The Knack Live at Carnegie Hall.[30] It was later included on the 2002 CD of Live From the Rock 'N' Roll Funhouse and on the 2007 DVD On Stage at World Cafe Live.[31][32]

"(She's So) Selfish" appeared on the Knack's 1992 compilation albums The Retrospective: The Best of the Knack and My Sharona.[33][34] Ben Folds covered the song on his 2007 album Get Nack,[35]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Nusser, D. (July 28, 1979). "Closeup: Get The Knack". Billboard. pp. 52, 66. Retrieved 2011-07-14. 
  2. ^ Cioe, C. (1979). "Be Hip, Get the Knack". High Fidelity (magazine) 29 (2). 
  3. ^ a b c d e f M. McLauglin, K. Sharp (2004). Getting the Knack. Passport Productions. 
  4. ^ "The Original "My Sharona" Remembers Doug Fieger". Us Weekly. February 18, 2010. Retrieved 2013-11-02. 
  5. ^ Wakim, M. (January 8, 2013). "Rock Muse". Los Angeles. Retrieved 2013-11-02. 
  6. ^ Stephens, E. (February 19, 2010). "Good Girls Don't". Saipan Tribune. Retrieved 2013-11-02. 
  7. ^ Robbins, I. & Sandlin, M. "The Knack". Trouser Press. Retrieved 2013-11-02. 
  8. ^ Hilburn, R. (August 3, 1979). "The Knack Brings Back Teenage Rock". The Spokesman-Review. Retrieved 2013-11-02. 
  9. ^ a b Wilonsky, R. (September 10, 1998). "Frustrated". Dallas Observer. Retrieved 2013-11-02. 
  10. ^ "Doug Feiger, leader of the Knack, dies in Woodland Hills". Los Angeles Daily News. Associated Press. February 13, 2010. Retrieved 2013-11-02. 
  11. ^ Eng, J. (February 15, 2010). "Doug Fieger, Lead Singer of The Knack, Dies at 57". TV Guide. Retrieved 2013-11-02. 
  12. ^ Barnes, E. (February 18, 2010). "The Real ‘Sharona’ Issues Statement on the Death of The Knack’s Doug Fieger". Gibson. Retrieved 2010-11-02. 
  13. ^ Moser, J.J. (June 11, 2005). "A Knack for Survival: Everything Old is New Again for Veteran New-Wave Act". The Morning Call. p. D5. 
  14. ^ Atkinson, T. (November 22, 1982). "Taking Chances Doesn't...". Los Angeles Times. p. G3. Retrieved 2013-11-02. 
  15. ^ Daly, M. (August 23, 1979). "More Laid-back Than Ever, It's J. J. Cale at His Best". The Age. p. 36. Retrieved 2013-11-02. 
  16. ^ "Get the Knack: The Knack". Audio. 1979. p. 104. 
  17. ^ Maples, T. (June 2, 1994). "Resurrected by Film, the Knack Can't Move beyond `My Sharona'". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 2013-11-02. 
  18. ^ Wasel, C. (September 29, 1979). "Concert Connection". The Evening Independent. p. 10–D. Retrieved 2013-11-02. 
  19. ^ Borack, J. (2007). Shake some action: the ultimate power pop guide. Not Lame Recordings. p. 60. ISBN 978-0-9797714-0-8. 
  20. ^ "Cue New York". Cue New York 48 (19–24). 1979. Retrieved 2013-11-02. 
  21. ^ Sullivan, J. (May 25, 1994). "A Band That Never Had the Knack". The Boston Globe. p. 70. Retrieved 2013-11-02. 
  22. ^ a b c d Uslan, M. & Solomon, B. (1983). Dick Clark's The First 25 Years of Rock & Roll. Greenwich House. pp. 444–445. ISBN 0517415976. 
  23. ^ DeCurtis, A., Henke, J. & George-Warren, H., ed. (1992). The Rolling Stone Album Guide (3rd ed.). Random House. p. 405. ISBN 9780679737292. 
  24. ^ Robert Christgau. "The Knack". robertchristgau.com. Retrieved 2013-11-02. 
  25. ^ Siegel, E. (September 18, 1979). "Pop Beat". The Sun. p. D8. Retrieved 2013-11-02. 
  26. ^ a b Dominic, S. (February 15, 2010). "Doug Feiger Remembers Part 2: When fame got the Knack". Phoenix Music Examiner. 
  27. ^ a b Anderson, M. (March 5, 2012). "The Knack – Get The Knack (Pop, 1979), Vinyl Re-Visions". Gear Diary. Retrieved 2013-11-02. 
  28. ^ Ulmer, J. "The Knack: Live from the Rock 'n' Roll Funhouse". Digitally Obsessed. Retrieved 2013-11-04. 
  29. ^ Deming, M. "Havin' a Rave-Up! Live In Los Angeles, 1978". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 2013-11-02. 
  30. ^ "The Knack Live at Carnegie Hall". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 2013-11-02. 
  31. ^ Doerschuk, R.L. "Live From the Rock 'N' Roll Funhouse". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 2013-11-02. 
  32. ^ "On Stage at World Cafe Live". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 2013-11-02. 
  33. ^ Erlewine, S.T.. "The Retrospective: The Best of the Knack". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 2013-11-02. 
  34. ^ Erlewine, S.T.. "My Sharona". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 2013-11-02. 
  35. ^ "Get Nack". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 2013-11-02.