The Beat formed in 1979 by Paul Collins, drummer of Los Angeles power pop legends The Nerves, whose "Hanging On The Telephone" became a hit for Blondie.
The Beat's 1979 self-titled debut album on Columbia continued in the vein of the Nerves and is considered one of power pops greats. Following their second album, 1981's The Kids Are the Same, the band, now calling themselves Paul Collins' Beat to avoid confusion with the UK ska band, splintered after they were dropped from their label.
They regrouped with a new lineup and harder sound for To Beat Or Not To Beat. Recorded in New York in 1983, it featured the single "All Over The World" that was played regularly on legendary Los Angeles station KROQ. Another EP Long Time Gone was released in 1985.
Paul recalls the days fondly, "I remember getting an $800 royalty check for "All Over The World" when I was living in San Francisco so I went out and bought a used green Datsun B210! I would always hum "All Over The World" as I drove up and down all those hills in SF!"
Long out of print, Long Time Gone and To Beat Or Not To Beat, have recently been re-issued on Lolipop records..
Though the Datsun B210 is no more, Collins continues to play and tour his music and is about to embark on a run of European shows. Read an interview and listen to some tracks below.
Noisey: To Beat or Not To Beat featured a new lineup and slightly harder edge. What was it like writing and recording music in LA at the time?
Paul Collins: We wrote the songs in LA but recorded in New York so it was more like a bi-coastal effort. Most still had that sunny California pop vibe except for "Gimme The Drugs," which definitely had that New York grit to it. It's when Steve Huff and I moved to New York and started working with drummer Jay Dee Daugherty [Patti Smith] and Jimmy Ripp [Kid Creole & The Coconuts] that the music started to take on a tougher edge. We were hanging out in the East Village, staying up all night going to clubs like Danceteria and The Mud Club. The music in the clubs seemed more exotic and exciting. The New York scene was tougher and it rubbed off on us, we were ready to shift after years of hanging around in sunny LA.
Why did the original Beat splinter in 1981?
We'd survived getting dropped from CBS and we were just hanging around Los Angeles with no real plan except to gig as much as possible and try to score another recording contract. The whole New Wave scene had lost a bit of its excitement, The Knack had come and gone and the recording industry had more or less moved on, leaving us behind. Lack of interest began to show and soon the band just disintegrated from lack of interest.
Trying to make it in the corporate rock world of Los Angles wasn't going to happen for us, it was the wrong environment. I had taken a trip back home to my native New York to visit family, when I saw what was going on I convinced Steve that we should try to relocate, we desperately needed a breath of fresh air.
By this stage you had a more new wave sound. Would you still call the music power pop?
Yes and no. We were still at our core trying to write solid pop songs, but in order to survive we had to try and meet the demand for that big rock radio sound. The industry was all about getting that Big Rock Radio sound, songwriting had become secondary. The charm of the first wave of the whole New Wave/Power Pop explosion had most definitely worn off.
I read an interview where you said that the problem with power pop is that it isn't dangerous like punk or rock?
Yes, I still believe to a certain extent that that's what keeps the genre relegated to the minor leagues. There have been shining moments when songs like "My Sharona" or "That's What I Like About You" have broken through on the mainstream level but by and large most people are still unaware of power pop. Oddly enough, it refuses to go away and today it would seem that it's enjoying a much needed resurgence!
Living and working in LA are you more aware of films and getting your music on soundtracks?
I have always fantasized about getting my music into films, hopefully one day I will! "There She Goes," an outtake from the first Beat LP did get on the soundtrack of CaddyShack!
The single "All Over The World" was featured regularly on KROQ in Los Angeles but my favourite track is "Making You Mine" it has a really 80s feel.
I also am partial to that song. I loved the way the recording came out, it's the one that best illustrates the new direction we were trying to take when we moved to New York - pop but with a tougher edge. That song was written with Chris Fradkin. Chris was a good friend and songwriting partner of Joey Alkes. They had both worked with Peter Case on "A Million Miles Away" which was how I met them. To me it had all the elements that you needed to get on the radio at the time, great hooks with a cool tough sound. With that release we effectively moved back into the DIY world, which is where I am still to this day. At the time we didn't know it, we were still hoping we could get back into the big time music biz. Soon after that we moved to Europe and enjoyed almost five years of rocking and rolling… All Over The World!
Paul Collins' Beat's Long Time Gone / To Beat Or Not To Beat is available now through Lolipop Records.
Catch Paul Collins at these shows:
May 10 - Rouen, France at 3 Pieces
May 11 - Vannes France at Jam Session
May 12 - Paris, France at La Mecanique-Ondulatoire
May 13 - London, England at The Finsbury
May 16 - Kortrijk, Belgium at Den Trap
May 17 - Rotterdam, Netherlands at V11
May 18 - Amsterdam, Netherlands at Patronaat
May 19 - Düsseldorf, Germany at The Tube
May 20 - Berlin, Germany at Cortina Bob
May 21 - Hamburg, Germany at Monkeys Music Club
May 23 - Malmo, Sweden at Folk & Rock
May 24 - Gothenburg, Sweden at Liseberg Amusement Park Power Pop Festival
May 25 - Eskilstuna, Sweden at Ölkultur
May 26 - Karlskoga, Sweden at Rockbar
May 27 - Stockholm, Sweden at Pet Sounds record shop show!
May 30 - Madrid, Spain at Fun House
May 31 - Burgos, Spain at Matarile
June 1 - Leon, Spain at Chelsea Bar
June 2 - Zarragoza, Spain at Teatro Arbolé
June 8 - Barcelona, Spain at A Wamba Buluba
June 22 - Elche, Spain at Hotel Galicia
June 24 - Fuengirola, Spain at Fuengirola Pop Weekend
June 28 - Algarve, Portugal TBC
June 29 - Lisbon, Portugal at Popular Alvalade
July 21 - Tourville-Sur-Mer, France at Le Sable, Les Mouettes et Les Guitares Electriques Festival
Image: Joy Whalen