"The main thing going on in the music business today is that all the free downloading and streaming has forced bands to go back to playing live," observes Paul Collins, known as the King of Power Pop. "Unfortunately, that has resulted in astronomical ticket prices for some bands and performers. Sadly enough, people are willing to pay gobs of money to see some performers, but then they balk at paying anywhere from $5 to $10 to see good local and touring bands who may not yet be superstars. This needs to change!"
This is today's battle cry of the sonic underdog.
Better-known for his work with the Nerves and the Beat, Collins' long and storied rise to the crown has been an exercise in perseverance, honesty, and a blind belief in the dream. He was one of the leading figures of L.A.'s power-pop scene that begat the Knack and the Plimsouls. Following a stint with the Beat, he renamed the outlet the Paul Collins' Beat to avoid confusion with British ska contemporaries with the same name.
One would think that all of this derailing from a beeline to success would be enough to deflate Collins' career, but in the end, every moment helped shape and define one of the clearest and most lucid voices in the business.
When asked about those formative years, Collins keeps them in the rear-view mirror without nostalgia. "I had a blast learning about rock 'n' roll, and we always stuck to our guns, something I am very proud of," he says. "It's nice to have a past that you can look back on fondly. I was able to be a part of the music revolution here in America in the late '70s and then again in Spain in the early '80s, very lucky to have been a part of both memorable times."
Aside from maintaining a fairly busy touring schedule — the success of which he attributes to rest, healthy eating habits, and hydration — Collins' greatest current contribution to the music industry is the formation of the Beat Army in 2005. It's a network of people online with a hankering for power pop, punk-pop, new wave, and rock 'n' roll that aims to keep the genre alive and well at clubs around the globe. He describes it as "an attempt to show the outside world that there is indeed a good following for power-pop music.
It has worked to a certain extent, but the job is by no means done yet. We still need to reach a lot more people and get them involved in supporting what all these new bands are doing. In my experience, when people listen to our music, they generally like it. What's not to like? It's music to have fun with, dance, jump around, sing along to, and smile!"
Paul Collins might not become a household name, and that might be just the way he likes it. As the King of Power Pop, he knows his office well and cherishes it for what it represents: "Power pop basically incorporates the best elements of rock 'n' roll into one genre — great songs with great vocal harmonies, cool guitar riffs, and short songs about girls, work, and traveling. It is a much-overlooked subgenre of rock that is now going into its second generation and slowly picking up steam thanks to all the new, up-and-coming bands everywhere that keep the power-pop spirit alive."
His embodiment of the DIY spirit that first gained him exposure with the short-lived Nerves is the same force that continues to guide him as he tours and records different genres with a revolving door of musicians. He also maintains a firm grasp of the infrastructure that makes a music scene great — not just the bands and players but the venues, record stores, and fans. Locals shouldn't miss out on this show as Collins shares the stage with South Florida's very own King of the Country Punk Guitar, Charlie Pickett.
Paul Collins with Charlie Pickett, the Talking Dogs, the Done, and Radio-Active Records. 8 p.m. Saturday, February 28, at the Hollywood ArtsPark at Young Circle, 1 Young Circle, Hollywood. Free admission. Call 954-921-3500, or visit hollywoodfl.org.
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