I Don’t Fit In: My Wild Ride through the Punk and Power Pop Trenches with The Nerves and The Beat By Paul Collins and Chuck Nolan, 272 pgs.

I was beyond stoked when this book showed up in my review materials. The Razorcake gods had truly smiled upon me.

For the uninitiated, Paul Collins was a founding member of The Nerves and the main force behind The Beat (sometimes known as The Paul Collins Beat). These two bands pioneered and helped define the musical style that we know of today as “power pop.” I Don’t Fit In promises and delivers a peek into the personalities, development, day-to-day function, and imaginative pre-internet survival methods of these two iconic bands (and of Collins’s solo career). One thing is clear in all cases: it wasn’t what Lynn Anderson would refer to as a “rose garden.”

As a child, Collins is relocated from New York to Saigon to Greece and back to New York. This nomadism continues into his adulthood and throughout his career in music, and it serves as a perfect organizational device in this book. Collins digs in and exposes how different locales and cultures drive his artistic output and help determine its success or failure, as well as his mental state. While L.A. is portrayed as a soul-sucking beast that pretty much puts The Nerves out to pasture, Madrid is literally compared to a Garden of Eden where a struggling band like The Beat is allowed to flourish. Considering this, is it any wonder that one of The Beat’s biggest hits was an ultra-rocker called “All Over the World”?

Another factor that dominates the book is Collins’s unending hard luck. The Nerves never get their fifteen minutes (like, they never even play to more than 150 people). The Beat get signed, go on major tours, and get so close to breaking into mainstream success, but it never quite happens. At one point, Collins gets banned from the Berkeley Church of Psychics because he “brought a black cloud over the building.” I get the feeling this was something he wouldn’t have argued with at the time. Still, instead of falling into a dirge of doom and gloom, I Don’t Fit In keeps it kicking with pure rock’n’roll desperation.

Of course, I Don’t Fit In is a must for any fan of the genre. The book itself is absolutely gorgeous and totally packed with old photos, flyers, and all sorts of fantastic never-before-seen-by-me images. The stories are incredible, fun, and totally hard-boiled, especially the early days of The Nerves and The Beat: historic tales of true rock’n’roll bad-assery in cities that no longer exist. In addition, we learn that The Jam are actually total fucking nitwits while Eddie Money is pretty cool. –Buddha (Hozac Books, hozacrecords.com)