An Interview with Paul Collins of The Nerves & The Beat

All images courtesy of Paul Collins

Image credit: Matt Condon/All images courtesy of Paul Collins

Several artists have had a substantial effect on music, yet many of us wouldn’t realize it. Unfortunately, superb musical content doesn’t always lead to commercial success and recognition from the general public. One such artist is Paul Collins with bands such as The Nerves, The Beat, as well as his solo work.

Paul Collins’s stories are as fascinating as his songs are catchy. Below we discuss The Nerves song, “Hanging on the Telephone,” and its subsequent cover by Blondie, his title as “King Of Power Pop,” and his outlook on the DIY scene, amongst other things.

If you want to find out more about Paul, and his celebrated career, please read on, and check him out here

Joe:
What have you been up to the past year considering the current circumstances of the world?

Paul:
I think you’ll find if you do a survey, it was a welcome change for some people. I was one of those people. It destroyed some people’s lives, and I feel terrible for them. In the beginning, I was wondering what would happen. I was afraid I was going to do just sit around the house. We were petrified. I would come home in a cold sweat from food shopping and wash my milk containers. It was crazy. I would look out the window and it was dead silent. There was this silent killer out there and no one knew where it was. I mean, it was a trip. I eventually just settled into a couple of different things to help me through.

I’ve been pursuing my career in music for forty some odd years. That was a very single, focused, all-consuming drive. 24 hours a day, every day. Waiting for the phone call or trying to write songs. Hoping that the album would take off or that I would get the show on the right date. That the tour would line up and all the related stuff. It took a tremendous amount of energy. Since 2008, I was hardcore DIY. I was just booking shows like crazy for myself. I got to the point where I could just wake up on a Monday and decide to do a tour of the US. Then, by Friday, the whole tour would almost be booked.

So, during the pandemic, a couple of things happened. I finally got a little bit of extra money, which, surprised the shit out of me. I started to learn how to invest in the market. That took up a tremendous amount of time. I’m not a gambler. Never was. I don’t have the stomach for it but somehow something switched in me. The market became almost like a gateway to the world. Part of the stock market is investing in companies that do things all over the world. I would start to find out what they do and develop my own philosophy. My philosophy was to invest in the future. Invest in companies that were doing things that I thought were going to make a difference in our lives going forward. I spent hours upon hours each day on the computer researching that kind of stuff.

The second thing that happened was I rediscovered my love for working with wood. That was the impetus for me to build a little shop in my home. I was building tables. Just learning how to use Japanese and American planes. Using chisels, sandpaper, shellack, and varathane. I would be in my shop, and before you knew it, four hours had passed. Just like that, it was time to go food shopping and make dinner. My whole thing was just to make it to dinner. Anything I could do that could get me to that timeframe. At that point, I would consider the day done. I would pop open a beer or some wine and have a nice dinner.

The other thing that took up a good part of my time was redoing my house. I was living with my son. When you have a kid, you kind of do everything for the kid. He finally moved out, so I redid my house for me. That enabled two major things to happen. One is I found a beautiful piano on the street that I now had room for in my house. I used to have pianos in my home when I was a kid growing up. I haven’t had a piano in my home since I was fifteen. Having a piano in the house was a total game-changer. It’s just a beautiful instrument, and it’s a great way to kill an hour. Sit down and play the piano. The other thing it enabled me to do was put out the album, Another World: The Best of the Archives. This finally happened because I found my forty-year-old collection of cassettes with all of my music on it, and digitized them. I had tapes dating back to 1976 with The Nerves. I originally digitized them so I could keep the music, and save space in my apartment. Then I was able to turn that into a record and release it. Around the same time, I came out with my book, I Don’t Fit In. It was a long labor of love. Both of those things, the book, and the album deployed my massive archive collection. I had somehow managed those archives even though I have traveled from New York to California to Spain and France. Back and forth, and up and down. Yet, I somehow kept this collection intact.

Another thing that kept me busy was something else that I found along with all my archives. When my dad passed away, I took about five things from the house. One of those things was a nylon string guitar. He had bought it on one of his trips to Czechoslovakia. It didn’t seem like anything special, but it had a nice hard-shell case. I took it and it kind of banged around with me. I never really took care of it. I decided when I found it that I was going to put it on a stand. When a guitar is out and ready to use, you use it. It needed some work, so I took it to one of the great guitar shops that we have here in New York. I took it to the shop, and they redid the binding on the back. I have it out still, and I play it every day.

One last thing I have been doing is religiously taking an hour-long bike ride every day. To keep the heart pumping and the blood flowing. I’m going to turn sixty-five. When you get to be my age, it’s essential to keep the physical side going. Otherwise, you’re just gonna have lots of problems. I have a nice well-rounded mix between the stock market, woodworking, guitar, piano, my book, and my album.

Image credit: Adam Bubolz/All images courtesy of Paul Collins

Joe:
Sounds like you have managed to keep yourself busy. I know you were talking about the fact that you just released some older archival material recently. But do you have any new projects or material coming out in the future we should know about?

Paul:
The last studio album came out in 2018, called Out of My Head. I did it in Brooklyn with my friend Tony Leventhal. He built a beautiful studio in his home. I did it with Paul Stingo as well. We toured behind it in both Europe and The States. That was a great experience to get back to. I don’t have anything new planned right now. I have to tell you the truth…one of the byproducts of the pandemic, for me personally, is that I decided to give up the hustle for a while. The whole process of writing and promoting your own material, it’s such a hustle. As I said, I’ve been doing that single focus for so many years. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I’ve accomplished. I’m proud as heck. But it was nice to not have to drive myself crazy to try to write the next best song. That’s the way I attack everything. We had to write the next song that was going to be better than anything The Beatles ever did. That was how we approached it. Which, to our credit, enabled us to do some pretty fine stuff. However, it’s emotionally exhausting, and I’ve decided to take a break from that. For me, especially in these last ten to fifteen years, coming up with an album worth of material was real emotional labor. I want it to be really good every time. I don’t want the mindset that I’ve got some so-so songs for this album, and I’ll just put it out. Put it out because I need a record, so what the hell. If you feel that way about it, it’s so depressing. Right now, the slate is open. I don’t know what’s going to happen when this is over, or when it’s going to be over. I’ve been vaccinated, and I’ve got my two shots. But the world has a way to go before we’re all out of the woods on this.

I certainly am not going to jump back into playing small clubs. I feel for the younger musicians and the young people in general. They’ve got to go out and do stuff. Of course, they do. If I was eighteen, I’d probably say, “The hell with the fucking pandemic.” I’d be out there chasing girls all over town. Playing Rock ‘N’ Roll, and doing whatever. It’s tough for them. I understand that. I understand why they are willing to take risks. We all did that. We did crazy stuff. I mean…cat of nine lives kind of stuff. That’s not the boat I’m in at this point in my life. I really feel for these younger musicians. It can’t be easy going through this while they are in their prime. This is when they want to be out there, sowing their oats, and learning their craft. Fine-tuning their chops and all that stuff. I was talking to the owner of a record label, and he said he thinks it’s going to come back with a vengeance here in the United States. Back on the club level with all these young bands, and kids going out to see them. I get that that’s not exactly what would happen if I went out on the road. I’m not a young kid anymore. I support what they’re doing, and hopefully, it works out. Hopefully, it’s not dangerous, and it doesn’t cause a situation where everybody gets sick again.

Joe:
You have always taken a DIY approach, going back as far as your days with The Nerves. How do you think taking that approach has shaped your outlook on the music industry, and your career?

Paul:
To tell you the truth, objectively speaking, that’s the kind of career I have had. I’m not a major label artist. My music is not mainstream. Major labels don’t know what to do with acts that aren’t mainstream. They even had a tough time with bands like The Ramones. The DIY approach today is a lot different than it was when I started. Now, you have so many advantages with technology and the internet. You can distribute the music so much easier.

When we started out, if you didn’t have a major label, your possibilities were so reduced. You could play in a local club, and that was it unless you took matters into your own hands. Which we did, but it was tough. We were thrown out of places for that. We went to a studio to record the first EP, and we had cash on hand. We had one thousand bucks in our pocket, which in 1976, was a lot of money. We had the greenbacks, and we were ready to put them down. The guy threw us out anyway, he said, “What are you doing? You don’t have a major label. You don’t have an agent. You don’t have a manager. Get out of here.” Really screaming and yelling at us. I remember thinking, “What the fuck man, we got money.” They had a lock on the situation. Fortunately, that lock has been broken.

But a lot of the things are still the same. It’s still really difficult to make a name for yourself. It’s still difficult to attract attention to yourself. The tried-and-true ways are still the same. You’ve got to get some music out there any way you can. You’ve got to tour your ass off, and you’ve got to bring it to the people. I’m happy about that because that keeps the whole thing honest. You still see people who can break out, and you may not necessarily like what they’re doing…that’s a separate issue. I’ve got to take my hat off to someone who can stay original, and at the same time, connect with a crowd. That’s not easy.

Joe:
Let’s talk about your first band, The Nerves. How did you guys come together? Why do you think you had such a lasting effect, even though you were together for such a short time?

Paul:
For me, it was one of my big strokes of good luck. I went out to California as a kid. I was barely eighteen years old. I went to San Francisco. My friend drove me to Colorado, and I hitchhiked to San Francisco. I had no idea what was going to happen. I was a world traveler with my family. We lived in Vietnam and Greece. I’d been around, but I’d never done anything like that on my own. I was terrified. I just kept telling myself, “You’re not gonna wind up sitting on some curb someplace starving to death. Something’s got to happen.” And it did, on my third day there. I went down to Don Weir’s Music City, which was the big music store in San Francisco. That was where I found the three-by-five index card that changed my life. It read, “Looking for a drummer for all original band. Call Jack.” I called and went right to Jack’s [Lee] house. Within twenty-five minutes of being there, he played me “Hanging On The Telephone,” which just ripped the back of my head off. The rest was history. He wanted to put a band together again. He had gotten rid of his last band. He and Peter [Case] had done stuff periodically in the past. So, he knew about Peter. I think around the time I met Jack, Peter and Jack were kind of on the outs. Peter was doing his own thing. Jack knew that Peter was the guy because he said, “There’s one guy we got to get, Peter Case.” I said, “Well, let’s go get him.” And we did get him.

We didn’t know what we were doing at the time. I mean, Jack had some songs, and Peter had some songs. When I heard those songs, I decided I wasn’t gonna get left out on this, and thought, “I’ve got to write songs too. Write very compact songs.” The thing about Jack and Peter was the level of quality they demanded. They were not going to put up with anything that wasn’t first-rate. Something that was only okay would be forgotten. That’s garbage. Throw it out. The competition to get a song in with those guys was very, very high, which was good because it forced me to really push myself. Push me to do the best I could do. To my credit, the first few songs I wrote were “You Won’t Be Happy”, and “Working Too Hard.” Some forty-odd years later, they still stand up as good songs. So, something was right there. And why we had such an impact was partly good luck. The other part was that quality material will make you pay attention to detail. If you do your homework, and you come up with quality, history will remember it, and hopefully, revere it. I mean all these years later The Nerves still have an impact. That reaffirms our belief that those recordings we made back then were great. I remember Jack saying, “Once this record is done, it’s not ours anymore. It goes out into the world, and it does its own thing. So, you better make sure it’s good.” And he was right.

All images courtesy of Paul Collins

Joe:
It blew our minds at VWmusic the first time we found out Blondie’s version of “Hanging On The Telephone” was a cover. Can I ask how the song came to be covered by Blondie? What are your feelings regarding the history of the song?

Paul:
There are two stories that I know. One is from my personal experience, and the other is from what has been written about in the history books. The one in the history books involves Jeffrey Lee Pierce, the singer from The Gun Club. Before he started The Gun Club, he was a Blondie fanboy. I think he was the head of Blondie’s fan club, or at least, one of the members high up in the organization. From what I’ve heard, he was on an airplane with Blondie. I guess they were going to Japan, and maybe he was coming along for the tour. He had a mix-tape, and he gave the mix-tape to Chris Stein. Jeffrey Lee Pierce had told Chris Stein that there was a song on the mix-tape he had to listen to called “Hanging On The Telephone.” Jeffrey had told Chris that he thought Blondie should do this song. So, Chris took the tape so that he could listen to the song. When they got in a taxicab to leave the airport, they told the driver to put the mix-tape on. They put on “Hanging On The Telephone,” our version. The driver was going crazy, tapping the steering wheel, singing along, and whatever else. I guess…at that point, they thought the song was pretty good, and they liked it themselves. That’s the official version from what I’ve read. I think it might even be in Blondie’s book. That’s what Jack has told me as well.

The other version is only in my book. Before my book came out, I was one of a few people who knew the story. What had happened was we ended up in New York on The Nerve’s only national tour. This will give you a clue to how insane we were. We were always trying to come up with some idea that was going to blow the doors off everything and change the world. Something that was going to make us famous. One idea we had was to do a national tour. Nobody was touring back then unless you were at a major label, and had a manager. We had decided the key element was that the tour had to be national. Meaning we had to play from Los Angeles to New York, and back again. We couldn’t just go to New York, and go home. We had to tour on the way back, otherwise, it wasn’t going to be a real national tour. I don’t know why we thought that, but that’s what we thought. So, we get to New York, which was a herculean effort. It took everything we had. I was doing the booking. When we were in New York, we wound up doing four nights at Max’s Kansas City. The shows were very well attended primarily by a lot of musicians. Back in the day, when somebody new came down, all the musicians came out. The musicians could get in for free because they played in the clubs. The deal was, you don’t get much when you play, but anytime you want to see a show, you’re on the guest list. I don’t know if Debbie Harry herself was there, but I think it’s been documented that members of Blondie were there. Their producer, Richard Gottehrer, was there as well.

However, before those shows, we decided to take a two-week break. I was tasked with figuring out the route back and booking the tour dates. During the two weeks, Jack and Peter decided to drive back to LA to visit their respective wives and girlfriends. In the meantime, I stayed behind to book the tour route back to California. The plan was they would meet me wherever the first concert back after the break was. When we were in New York, the scene was starting to take off. There were only two bands that I knew in New York at the time. I figured if we could work with these bands, that could really do something for us. Their audiences would hopefully love us, and it could help us get going. Those two bands were Blondie and The Ramones. I planned to go and see the managers of these two bands. Give them our shit. Our 45, which included “Hanging On The Telephone,” a big spread article in the New York Rocker, and a few other press things. That was our package we would give out in the hopes of scoring some gigs with bands.

The Ramones meeting with Danny Fields went great. He was extremely nice, and avidly in love with The Ramones. I remember sitting there thinking, I wish we could have a manager like that. He adored The Ramones and thought they were the next thing. He was a real gentleman. He said, “I’ll tell you what, if you can get me a show in Cincinnati, I’ll give you the five shows of the Texas swing with The Ramones.” At that time, for whatever reason, Punk bands couldn’t get a show in Cincinnati. I had my little black book with me, and I had all my numbers in it. I told him I would call the guy from Bogart’s because I knew that was a legitimate club. So, I get the guy on the phone, and I say, “Listen, how about a show with the with The Ramones, and The Nerves?” Then Danny Fields said, “Okay, kid, I’ll take it from here.” He grabbed the phone, and he booked the gig. True to his word, we did the shows. We got the show in Bogarts, and he gave us the five shows in Texas. I thought it was awesome. I couldn’t believe we were going to play with The Ramones.

Next was my meeting with Peter Leeds, who was the manager for Blondie. So, I go see this guy Leeds and bring the same press package. I told him we were looking for some support shows. He goes, “Okay, I tell you what, the band picks all their support. I’ll give them the package, and I’ll let you know what they say.” I said my thanks and I left. A couple of days later, I get a phone call to come back to his office. At this point, I’m thinking that this is a great sign. They’re calling me back because they got some good news for me. Boy was I wrong. I get there and he takes the package and pushes it slowly across the desk. He goes, “Listen, I played this for Blondie. They think you’re the worst band that they ever heard. They would never ever, ever, ever consider playing with you.” He said ever three times, I’ll never forget it for as long as I live. I’m sitting there with my mouth hanging open like the people in that Mad Magazine column, Snappy Answers To Stupid Questions. I don’t think I said anything back. I didn’t know what to say. I mean, I was just so shocked and flabbergasted. I was still a pretty young kid. I’d seen a lot of shit go down, but I was like, “What the fuck? Why didn’t they just tell me over the phone?” I dragged my ass all the way up here for him to tell me to go screw myself. I was so shocked and dismayed. So, I leave the office, and that was that.

We were always desperate to get some kind of legitimate business support. A manager, agent, producer, or anybody connected with the business. We never could though. Coincidentally, at some point, before I met with Leeds, I contacted Richard Ghoetterer. I said we had a tape of like thirteen or fourteen of our original songs. Cassette demos, live shit, and whatever. I had given it to him to see if he wanted to produce us. So, I had his number and called him up. I told him what happened. He said, “Oh, there’s got to be some mistake. I know Blondie very well. They would never say that. I’ll tell you what, I’ll get to the bottom of this. I’ll tell you what’s going on when I see you at Max’s.” I get to Max’s and it’s packed. Richard Ghoetterer walks up to me and says, “Yeah, it’s true.” Then he walked away, and I never saw him or talked to him again. I was so embarrassed that about the whole thing that I never told Jack or Pete. I kept it under my hat until the summer of 1996 when I went back to California to hang out with Jack. We had these plans to make The Nerves movie, and all this crazy stuff. One night, we’re sitting around shooting the shit, and the story of this thing comes up. I tell him and he said, “No man, that’s not how it happened.” Then he tells me the Jeffrey Pierce thing. I said, “Look, that may be true. But I’m telling you, Jack, this is what happened to me.” So, I’m the other part of the puzzle.

Blondie never mentioned the fact that it’s a Nerves song. When it came out, I thought, “Great, we’re finally going to get some kudos.” Unfortunately, The Nerves had already broken up. I was in my fantasy world. I’m still a kid. I’m thinking that we’re going to get back together again. That now we’re gonna get some industry acceptance. The road will be easier. Maybe we can get back together, and go out on tour. Of course, none of those things ever happened. It seemed like they went out of their way to keep it a secret. The only band that I’ve ever seen publicly say that “Hanging On The Telephone” was by The Nerves was Def Leppard. It was about twenty to thirty years later when they covered it and put it on their album. It was an album of covers. Next to each song that they covered, they put a little description that told you why they liked the song, who it was originally by, and whatever else. Next to “Hanging On The Telephone,” they wrote, “We know you think it’s a Blondie song, but actually, it’s not. It’s actually by this little-known band from LA called The Nerves.” I thought that was very cool. But listen, it is what it is, as my kid brother loves to say, and it ain’t what it ain’t. I can’t complain about how things went down. That’s the way they went down. So, that’s what I live with. It doesn’t kill me. “Hanging On The Telephone” is a great song. It’s a great example of the difference between a major label band and DIY. In the DIY world, The Nerves are king. Everybody in the major label world knows about Blondie, but very few know about The Nerves. That’s kind of how it works. That’s okay. I can live with that.

All images courtesy of Paul Collins

Joe:
After The Nerves were The Breakaways, which lasted even less time than The Nerves. I believe The Breakaways material was finally released in 2009. Why did it take so long for that material to be released, and what was the impetus for it finally to be released?

Paul:
The Breakaways were a band that got their first label deal thirty years after they were in existence. We have to thank Steve Huff because he is a great archivist. He had a lot of my archives at one point. He called me up and he says, “Look, man, I got all these Breakaways tapes, and I was listening to them. They’re really good, you ought to send them to Patrick at Alive, and see if he wants to put it out.” We sent it to him and he, in fact, released the material. It was nice that the band finally got its kudos. In all honesty, the band was extremely short-lived. We did maybe five or ten shows. It was kind of a testament to how hard it was back then. There was just no acceptance for this kind of music, especially in Hollywood. Nobody cared about this kind of music back then. It was a discouraging experience, especially after what happened directly beforehand with The Nerves. In contrast, what happened with The Beat was like zero to sixty in three seconds. Steve and I worked on the demo for a year straight. We got signed, and before we knew it, we were on one of the biggest labels in the world. We had the biggest manager in the world, and we were on our way. It was head-spinning how fast that went. 

Joe:
Shortly after The Breakaways, you developed your long-standing and everchanging band The Beat. I know many people point to the first album when speaking about the early phase of The Beat. It’s a classic album. It got lots of critical praise when it came out. At VWmusic we feel The Kids Are The Same is also a great album and stands up to the first album. What do you think of the first two albums? How would you compare them?

Paul:
There are two camps on that. It’s kind of like The Beatles vs. The Stones thing. Barcelona vs. Madrid. Second albums are very difficult to accomplish. They say you have all your life to make your first album, and six months to make your second album. The pressure is on for the second album, and people are generally prepared to be disappointed. There was a great review of the second album. The reviewer said, “If you listen to this album, song by song, and not as an album, all together. Just each individual song, it’s great.” The first album is always special. It’s like your firstborn kid. It’s special for a million different reasons. The first album has a lot of joy in it. The second album has a lot more work in it. Then there was the pressure of being on a major label. The whole thing about selling and the radio. God, what a nightmare. We recorded it three times. That’s the most difficult album I ever made. We just had so many problems from personnel to political, to business, to this, and that. The second album was heavier. It was meatier. There is nothing wrong with that. I love Rock ‘N’ Roll, man. I grew up on that shit. “Dreaming,” “On The Highway,” “That’s What Life Is All About,” “The Kids Are The Same,” “Crying Won’t Help,” “I Will Say No,” there are great songs on that record.

Joe:
In 1992, you came out with your first effort without The Beat, Paul Collins. We think you perfectly blend your signature Power Pop sound with Country. What made you decide to go in that direction musically for this album? What do you think of this album?  “In Another World” and “Livin’ Off The Land” seem to be the strongest efforts of the album to us. Do you agree?

 Paul:
First of all, I think most Rock musicians have a healthy dose of Country music. Whether it’s Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, or whoever. Rock ‘N’ Roll and Country have been fellows from day one. I’ve been listening to Hank Willams and Johnny Cash since before I was born. I think it’s healthy if you’re an artist, to explore different music and sounds. You’re growing and doing something different. I didn’t want to spend my whole life trying to write “Rock N Roll Girl.” You know what I mean? Some artists do that.

We had Country influences, and we love that kind of music. We wanted to express it. That was a great opportunity to work with some of the best San Francisco musicians. We had Chuck Prophet, Cyril Jordan, Dave Immergluck, Jeff Trott, and Chris Solberg.  We had Kenny Dale Johnson and Rollie Salle, from the Chris Isaak band. We had the Stench brothers from Pearl Harbor and The Explosions. We had some of the best guys around stop by, and lay tracks down. The album really only came out in Spain with a few limited copies in Italy. It never really saw the light of day in the United States. That’s why I’m so happy about the compilation album, Another World: The Best Of The Archives. The version of “In Another World,” on the archives record, is the demo that I made in Spain. It features my brother Patrick on guitar, as well as background vocals by Steve Huff, and my ex-wife. It’s just a stellar version of that song. To me, “In Another World” is one of the best songs I’ve ever written. You could release it today, in my opinion, and it would resonate with people.

All images courtesy of Paul Collins

Joe:
What is your process like for writing and recording? Has it changed at all?

Not much. A good song is a good song is a good song. It’s goddamn hard to get one. When I am making an album, I try to start with one good song. Then once we get that one good song, I try to see if we can add another good song. It can be deceiving because one day you write a song off, and it’s the best song in the world the next day. But usually, when I get something that’s really good, I know it. I kind of get goosebumps, I’ll think, “Here it is, it’s coming.” Sometimes, I have to stop and just wait. Not try to get it all done at once, otherwise, I get overwhelmed. You gotta love it. It’s got to be about joy.

Joe:
How do you feel about your title as the “King Of Power Pop,” and where did the title come from?

Paul:
It’s kind of funny. When I first heard the term “Power Pop” — I absolutely hated it. I thought it was wimpy and stupid. I thought Power Pop was going to work against us. Power Pop used to be relegated to nerdy Pop music that was never going to make it. Girls weren’t going to go for it. I felt our music wasn’t Power Pop or even New Wave. We were just Rock ‘N’ Roll. We were, of course, Power Pop and New Wave. They are both parts of Rock ‘N’ Roll.

Years and years later, when Bandcamp was starting to take off, everything changed. With Bandcamp, you can visit different bands’ pages, and see their influences. You can see the style of music they play, and what they like. I started seeing Power Pop thrown around a lot. The first time I thought, “That’s cute, Power Pop.” Then I saw it again and again and again. A lot of bands were citing Power Pop as an influence or a way to describe their style. That’s when I realized there were a ton of musicians that were taking the Power Pop vibe, and ethic into the next generation. That’s when I embraced Power Pop. Power Pop now had a positive image from what I could see. It was a way to market myself. It was a way to tap into all those people. I got the “King Of Power Pop” title after making an album with the name. It was named after a song that also had the same name. At the time, I was flat broke. I had just dropped my kid off at the airport. He was going to see his mom in Spain. I was coming back to New York on the train, and I wrote a few songs without an instrument. The “King Of Power Pop” was one of them.

So, the song was written. Of course, every time you make a record, you have a great job trying to figure out what to call the record. Always a nightmare of a job. The first thing you do is look at your song titles for inspiration. In the collection of songs, I had for the album, that one seemed to work the best. I thought, “Do I dare?” I called the label and said, “I’m thinking, The King Of Power Pop.” You got to have balls to Rock ‘N’ Roll. I also figured, “I do have the song and that song is legitimately good.” It’s a kind of autobiography but it’s not just about me, it’s about all the guys that did that type of music. I started thinking, “Do I owe anyone else a rationale? Am I going to offend any of my other contemporaries?” Peter Case wasn’t playing this kind of music. Jack Lee wasn’t performing. Doug Fieger had passed away. I’m going through the checklist. The Romantics weren’t doing any new music anymore. I’m thinking, “I’m safe. If I do this, no one will challenge me on it.” So, I do it. I put it out. It’s fine. You say it and put it in print, enough people will believe it. It doesn’t even have to be true. It doesn’t. I mean, I’m not the “King Of Power Pop.” I’m just one of the guys who plays Power Pop. I am part of the first generation of Power Pop but not the “King Of Power Pop.”  

One day the phone rings, and it’s Dwight Twilley. I say, “Oh shit, I forgot about Dwight Twilley.” I’m a huge Dwight Twilley fan. He was doing this before I was doing this. He was one of the guys we listened to when I got to San Francisco. I’m thinking, “Here we go, oh boy, I’m in trouble now.” I told Dwight, “I’m so sorry that I completely forgot. You’re the King Of Power Pop.” He was such a gentleman. It turned out not to be why he was calling. He said, “Don’t worry, you can still be the King Of Power Pop.” I had the great opportunity to play with him here in New York at this Power Pop extravaganza. At the end of the day, it was a useful marketing ploy. [Laughs].

All images courtesy of Paul Collins

Joe:
How have you been able to sustain a career in the music industry?

Paul:
It was tough. During the 90s, I had menial labor jobs. I delivered furniture. I delivered newspapers. When I can’t play music, I deliver things, except for when I ran a bar in Madrid. Those jobs are how I stayed alive. But I always had that dream. I always felt that all I had to do is write a hit song, and then we’re out of here. Then I’m gonna have the money and the fame. Everybody’s gonna love me, and it’s gonna be great. I’m gonna go on the road, play stadiums, and blah, blah, blah. It doesn’t work like that, at least it never did for me. When I moved to Spain, I kind of resurrected myself. It was my comeback album after a twelve-year hiatus, which in the music business is like eighteen lifetimes. I just slowly built myself back up to where I was working consistently again in music. In the 2000s, I did more shows than I ever did in my entire life.

I’ll tell you the truth — I persevered through times where most people quit. I just couldn’t quit. That’s something about my character. Depending on which girlfriend, or ex-wife you talk to, it can be a good or a bad thing. [Laughs]. I just could not quit. Then once you’re like forty, how are you going to start a new career? It was too far to turn back. That’s really what happened to me. 

All images courtesy of Paul Collins

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