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Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014 12:01 am

Experience the power of power pop

Power pop progenitor Paul Collins plays Bar None Sunday night.
PHOTO BY EMMY ETIÉ

 

Paul Collins, who will be performing at Bar None Sunday, Oct. 12, is responsible for some of the catchiest, punchiest songs to never crack the top 20. In 1970s Los Angeles, his first band, The Nerves, were pop-punk long before the term existed. They toured with The Ramones, Blondie covered their great track “Hanging on the Telephone” and the guys from Green Day worship at their altar. After The Nerves ended, co-leader Peter Case formed the Plimsouls and Collins formed The Beat (soon forced to change its name to Paul Collins’ Beat to avoid confusion with contemporaneous British ska heroes The English Beat).

Close to four decades later, Collins is still fronting that Beat, his love of solid, catchy, straight-to-the-point guitar rock undimmed. He’s made a weird journey from young upstart to one of the godfathers of an entire genre: power pop.

“Power pop embodies the best elements of rock and roll in my opinion,” he says, on the phone from the road, on his way to a gig in Austin, Texas. “Great songs, great melodies, great guitar hooks, short songs. But when we started playing this kind of stuff, we didn’t think of it in terms of being ‘power pop’ – we thought we were playing rock and roll music. When we first heard that term, we were like, ehhhh… We weren’t really very convinced that that was cool.”

Collins has found, much to his delight, that instead of being outmoded, the intervening years have found the audience for his music getting younger. “There’s all these young bands that cite power pop as one of their musical influences,” he crows. “That’s great! And I also think it’s great that these young bands aren’t purists – they listen to power pop, they listen to punk, they listen to this and that, and they each make their own version of it. They really have given me a new lease on life because of their appreciation of what I did way back then.”

The 58-year-old Collins has found that these younger musicians know his history and embrace it, which has allowed him to cultivate a whole new, youthful audience. A working musician to the core, Collins remains focused and ambitious, eyes on the power pop prize. “Right now my game plan is to dominate the $10-and-below rock and roll show,” he says. “The first-level trenches, I wanna rule that, I wanna own that, completely,” he declares. “I’ve done some bigger shows lately, with higher ticket prices, and to tell you the truth I don’t enjoy them as much. I just wanna stick in this little world that I’m in, ’cause it’s very comfortable, it’s totally unpretentious and down-to-earth and it’s enough for me. If I can do that, I’ll be very happy.”

Audiences who go out to see Paul Collins’ Beat are happy too. “This is good-time music and we’re in shitty times,” he says. “This is healthy. People at our shows dance around, they sing the songs and smile. It’s not about being cool or looking cool, it’s about having fun.”

Paul Collins’ Beat performs at Bar None Sunday, Oct. 12, with Looming and The Black Roses. Tickets are $10, $8 in advance, at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/880525

Contact Scott Faingold at sfaingold@illinoistimes.com

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