Paul Collins – King Of Power Pop – Alive – ALIVE0110-2 - **** London Sunday Times by Stuart Lee
Nobody told Paul Collins guitars were over. Thirty-five years into his career, the former songwriter of The Nerves re-embraces that skinny tie and white sneakers Seventies punk pop sound, and you are duty bound to fall in love with his latest album. King Of Power Pop is precision-engineered to embed itself into your subconscious, each song a terrible psychic hookworm, with harmonies, lead breaks and key changes falling perfectly into place at the most emotionally manipulative of moments. You’ll have the stand-out track, Losing Your Cool, on permanent repeat, like a rat wired to a sugar dispenser. Covers of The Box Tops and The Flamin’ Groovies seal the deal.
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The Original CBS Bio:
THE BEAT(1979 C.B.S. Records)
American culture has had no stronger influence and ally during the past twenty years than rock 'n roll. The music thrives on social conflict, making its impact in the face of turmoil - or in spite of it. The popular ascent of black-rooted rhythm & blues and its marriage to white rockabilly in the 1950's - the marriage that formed rock 'n roll - was in part a reaction to the complacency of that decade. In much the same way, rock would graduate to an environment of communal activism and unrest in the 1960's.
The Beat is four very determined young men - Steve Huff (bass), Mike Ruiz (drums), Larry Whitman (guitar), with Paul Collins fronting the stage. "We're just four guys playing music," says Paul, "no trickery, no bullshit, just rock 'n roll. It's a whole new ball game now. All of a sudden, people who had their fingers on the pulse of what was going on - no longer do. All of a sudden, groups that were the definition of the times - no longer are... It's a big toss-up. What we're doing is no big deal to us, we're doing what comes to us naturally, the difference is that we're not trying to be the stuff that's going on now. We think we are what should be now."
Their first album for Columbia was produced by Bruce Botnick, of Doors, Rolling Stones, and Buffalo Springfield renown; who has also produced Dave Mason and Eddie Money. The Beat's recording sessions were fast (not hurried), efficient, five days for basic tracks and out. Rehearsals were carried out in advance, no time to be wasted inside the studio. Whitman; himself an L.A. veteran at the ripe old age of 23, is proud of the fact that four tunes on THE BEAT album are first takes.
About Paul Collins: Born in Manhattan, he lived near Army bases in Greece, Vietnam, and around Europe, his father being a civilian attached to the service. At 14, he was back in Manhattan, eventually landing at Juilliard Music School as a composition major involved in modern and avant-garde music - which had nothing to do with anything, he testifies.
He went to the Fillmore East a lot, and claims WABC radio as his biggest musical influence, circa 1968-69. At one point he wound up living in England, moved back to New York briefly, and then headed west to satisfy his curiosities, musical and otherwise.
Settling in San Francisco, he joined with songwriter Jack Lee and formed The Nerves in 1974, an original new rock band whose repertoire included "Hanging On the Telephone," later a successful single for Blondie. The song was included on The Nerves' 1976, 4-song EP, a successful record in its own right. It sold 10,000 copies in the U.S. and gave the band the momentum they needed to carry out a profit-making coast-to-coatst tour of underground and alternative rock venues.
They shared the stage with The Ramones, Mink DeVille, the Shadows of Knight in Chicago, and most importantly Eddie Money at the Longbranch in San Francisco. Eddie became an early supporter of The Nerves; and a close friend of Paul Collins, even after the group moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 1977· A year later The Nerves split up, and Paul met Steve Huff through the Musicians Personal section of The Recycler, southern California's newspaper of free classified advertisements.
Huff is described as "Mr. Bass Player" (or "Mr. Mellow"), from Redding, Cal., quiet, reserved, wears horn-rimmed glasses, and is a truly gifted bass player. He has a healthy dose of rock 'n roll sensibilities, and the right attitude to pull it off. He and Paul spent long hours in his living room, at first just formulating mental song ideas, later translating them onto a couple of TEAC tape decks for demo purposes.
Those initial demos found drummer Mike Ruiz joining the lineup of what was already being referred to as The Beat. Born and raised in New York, Mike has been in and out of every imaginable type of band - rock and otherwise - since getting his first set of drums at age 10. For our purposes, however, it was his stint in Milk 'n Cookies that is most important. Their-debut LP on Island was produced by Muff Winwood in 1975, while the band was still New York-based; eventually they moved to Los Angeles and, as these things happen, Mike found himself drumming on The Beat's demos. (Ask, and Mike'l1 also tell you of his half-year spent as Music Director of KROQ-FM in Los Angeles.)
Mike had drummed earlier (briefly) in a fairly well-known L.A. band, Needles & Pins (known for their prejudice towards the 'girl group' sounds of the '60's), featuring lead guitarist Larry Whitman. It was no trick for Mike to introduce Larry to Paul and Steve - thereby completing The Beat's lineup. Born in Pittsburgh, Larry's lived 20-odd years in L.A., playing guitar professionally since age 8. His playing credits are boggling: Shaun Cassidy's first backup band at age 14; on tv's "Groovy" rock series; formal study with Joe Pass and Mike Bryant; a power trio called kickback; endless Page-Beck-Hendrix bar bands; in Jeff Porcaro's high school band, Still Rural Life; and stints with Buddy Miles, Monte Rock, Kim Fowley, Iggy Pop, and others prior to Needles & Pins.
In mid-April, 1979, the Bill Graham Organization added The Beat onto Eddie Money's soldout night at San Francisco's Kabuki Theater. It was a resounding success, though unadvertised,and unexpected, and won The Beat a management contract with Mr. Graham. Now, THE BEAT album represents only the second act to appear on Columbia through Graham's Wolfgang Productions, the other being Eddie Money. The Collins-Money relationship also continues to thrive - they collaborated on Eddie's newest single, "Get a Move On," from the Americathon soundtrack LP on Columbia; and one track on THE BEAT album, "Let Me Into Your Life."
"To become successful is hard," Paul says, "but to maintain being successful is harder than anything." The band is keenly aware of who they are, what they are, and what their music is about.
Now… What is it that everyone likes about rock 'n roll? it's THE BEAT!
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From Whisky's parking lot to its stage comes the Beat
Rock in Review
By Milt Petty
In the small San Joaquin Valley town where I spent my formative teen years, the local radio station played rock 'n' roll just fifteen hours a week. Each weekday night at 8, one Dave Myers -- God bless his soul -- played Dave "Baby" Cortez' "Happy Organ" and launched into his show with a sometimes happy, sometimes spooky intro, "from out of the night with the beat, this is 'Night Beat."
"I wish we had had groups like The Beat around then. Instead, I remember a lot of dedication songs like Rosie and the Originals' "Angel Baby." The Beat does have the beat, as their debut Columbia album and their four recent L.A. shows proved conclusively. They are one new pop/new rock band that would appear to be a sure thing. And, like Myer's broadcasts, they did come from out of the night, a Whisky-A-Go-Go night.
"I was parking cars at the Whisky earlier this year," says Paul Collins, The Beat's lead singer, rhythm guitarist and songwriter. "I wanted a short, declarative name. And The Beat came to me like a thunderbolt," said the modest, mild-mannered and friendly Collins.
A more perfect name for a rock band could not have been chosen. "In a nutshell, The Beat got together off the streets. I met our drummer, Michael Ruiz, at the Whisky. He used to play with the group called Milk and Cookie's and he was a fan of my old group, The Nerves. I hooked up with the bass player, Steven Huff, through the Recycler, the musicians weekly paper.
"Our lead guitarist, Larry Whitman, formerly of Needles 'n' Pins, was a friend of Michael. He's done everything." Whitman, few will remember, was the kid guitarist on the old "Groovy" TV show. "We had all had previous experience and we had no grand illusions. We just wanted to get out there and do it, no horsin' around," says Collins.
At 23, Collins has already done a lot of living. The son of a career Army man, he traveled a lot as a youth, spending some time on an Army base in Vietnam. But he was born in Manhattan, where he also attended the Julliard School of Music for a while. "No big deal," says Collins. "I was really into rock 'n' roll. I started off with WABC in New York in about '64-'65, playing both American and British stuff that the big guys -- Presley, the Stones, the Beatles, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Hank Williams and Ray Charles -- put out. And also the not quite as big -- the Rascals, the Four Seasons, the Buckingham's, Tommy James." Collins headed west at 19, first to San Francisco and then to L.A. with a band called the Nerves.
"There was no name for what the Nerves played," says Collins. "Nobody wanted to know from a three-piece band with short songs and sparse production. There was no scene and no place to play. We had to produce our own concerts at out of the way places."
"But we knew we had the spirit of the original rock. I think that that justification period was good in a way. The new musical style needed time to develop. Early on, we were like three guys coming out of nowhere." The Nerves did produce a four-song extended play disc. One of those songs, by member Jack Lee, was "Hangin" on the Telephone," which was covered by Blondie. (The third member of the Nerves, for the record, was Peter Case, who now works with the Plimsouls, an excellent L.A. band that will surely get a record contract.)
Collins has long been friends with Eddie Money, the critically maligned, but commercially successful, fast-talking San Francisco rocker. It was Money, in fact, who hyped The Beat to any and all who would listen, and rock entrepreneur Bill Graham finally did. Graham was at first unimpressed but eventually signed The Beat. Soon thereafter, The Beat was inked to a CBS recording pact and was opening for Money at S.F.'s Kabuki Theater.
The Beat played to capacity crowds at Madam Wong's on Saturday, and opened for the new Warner Bros. group, Pearl Harbor and the Explosions at the Whisky Sunday. On Monday they opened for The Members (a white reggae band) at the Starwood. Tuesday they did an outdoor concert at USC and proved that even Trojans can rock.
On stage, Collins is a charismatic whirling dervish as The Beat plays the best kind of short, catchy rock songs guaranteed to please without offending. "Our songs stay away from long guitar solos and indulgent ego gratification. Instead they impress the primal everyday feelings that everybody has. I particularly like "Different Kind of Girl" and "Rock 'n' Roll Girl." Though there's no way to be sure, I'd bet that Dave Myers would have liked them too.