After almost 30 years, power-popper Paul Collins is still working too hard
Paul Collins was the drummer in legendary L.A. band the Nerves, a power-pop trio that supported the Ramones — on a tour that they booked three minutes at a time through pay-phone scams — and changed the L.A. music scene forever. This is one of the places where punk and power-pop both were born, thanks to these three guys in British Invasion suits who were gonna do it themselves if it killed them. In the mid-1970s, the Nerves rented out halls so they could gig with proto-punk pals like the Weirdos and the Dogs; that helped lay the foundation for the coming L.A. punk scene. After the Nerves — and about the same time Blondie covered the Nerves' “Hanging on the Telephone” — Paul started the absolutely glorious Raspberries-meets-the-Ramones power-pop band the Beat, and, thanks in part to his friend Eddie Money, finally got that major-label deal he'd been thirsting for. He returns to L.A. for the kind of show he started with on Friday at downtown's Blue Star.
Your songs in the Nerves and the Beat have aged unbelievably well — there are bands now that would commit dark acts for those kinds of hooks. Why do you think they've held up?
The Nerves ethos was each guy writes his own song. We were not collaborative. I was the youngest in the band. When I showed up, I had not written any songs. [Guitarist] Jack [Lee] had the majority of the songs. But [bassist] Peter [Case] also had great songs. I was like, “I gotta write songs as good as these guys!” I was really driven because I was working with two fantastic musicians and I wanted to do it, too. For two years I worked incessantly. I was miserable. I wanted a song! They were very supportive but they also didn't bullshit me. “Good ideas, but still … not quite.” But when I came up with “Working Too Hard,” Jack was like, “Yeah. That's it, man. You got it.”
Why do you do it? What happens when it works?
What's nice about pop songs is that they're like our folk music. They're the soundtrack to your life. And it's your life — it puts into words and music your feelings, your hopes, your aspirations, what you're going for, what you're striving for. It's very, very important. People who love music — it's with them when they're up or when they're down. When they're happy or sad. It's a very, very important part of life!
Paul Collins with Audacity, Pangaea and Garbo's Daughter play the Psycho Beach Party at Blue Star Bar, 2200 E. 15th St., dwntwn.; Fri., July 1; 9 p.m.; $10; 18-plus; bluestarrocks.com.