An important early figure on the Los Angeles power pop scene, Paul Collins was a key member of two bands that anticipated the “skinny tie band” explosion of the late ’70s and early ’80s, the Nerves and the Beat. Born in New York City, Collins’ father was a civilian who worked with the U.S. military, a job that kept his family on the move, and young Paul spent time in Greece, Vietnam, and Europe before ending up back in Manhattan at the age of 14. After graduating from high school, Collins studied composition at the Julliard School of Music, but listening to AM radio and seeing shows at the Fillmore East had a greater impact on him, and in the early ’70s he moved to California to pursue his musical vision of short, punchy rock songs with copious hooks.
In 1974, Collins met like-minded songwriters Peter Case and Jack Lee, and they formed a pioneering power pop band called the Nerves. Playing fast, ear-catching pop songs while wearing matching pink suits, the Nerves had more than a bit of the street energy that would later manifest in Los Angeles’s early punk movement, and like the punks, the Nerves made their own opportunities when L.A. clubs didn’t know what to make of them. the Nerves booked their own shows, did a nationwide tour of small venues on their own dime, and in 1976 put out a four-song 7″ EP on their own label.