20/20 - Giving It All The Nerves - When You Find Out
It seems like whenever I hear people talking about power pop (which, admittedly, is not as often as I’d like) they talk about the Midwest. And well, it makes sense. You can picture bands like The Raspberries and Blue Ash, stranded in Ohio, or Pezband and Cheap Trick (although of course a true power pop aficionado would only admit to liking early
Cheap Trick) stuck in suburban Illinois being so far removed from the “happening” scenes that they didn’t realize it wasn’t cool to be playing this outdated Beatles-esque bubblegum music. That fantasy kind of dissipates however when you realize that some of the best power pop of the mid-70s was coming out of Los Angeles on the seminal Bomp! Records
In fact, Bomp! claim to have actually invented the phrase "power pop" and while this seems like a dubious boast at best (most sources attribute it to Pete Townsend circa 1967), you certainly can’t deny their contribution to the genre. The Flamin’ Groovies, The Plimsouls, Shoes and even The "What I Like About You" Romantics all released early singles on Bomp! before making the jump to major labels. 20/20 and The Nerves were two legendary bands in the L.A. power pop scene that Bomp! was documenting.
"Giving It All" was 20/20’s first single, a blistering burst of crisp harmony and catchy melody with an absolutely irresistible soaring chorus. And I’m not sure if the English-accented "oh oh" bridge is a knowing wink at the Beatles or just an outright theft, but it’s pretty brilliant either way. The band went on to release two full length records on Bomp!, received some moderate radio play and somehow scored an appearance on American Bandstand
(which is shockingly not yet available on youtube) before buying some synthesizers and jumping ship to a major label. Unfortunately 20/20 were caught in the power pop backlash of the early 80’s brought on by the annoyingly massive success of The Knack and were dropped from the label before their third record could be released.
The Nerves met with a little more commercial success than 20/20, mostly due to their "Hanging On The Telephone" being a Top 10 hit for Blondie and included on the album Parallel Lines
(and currently being covered by someone else in a commercial that runs about every 15 seconds on TV). "When You Find Out" is from the same four-song EP as "Hanging On The Telephone", the band’s only recorded output, released on Bomp! in 1976. All three members of The Nerves, Peter Case, Jack Lee and Paul Collins, shared songwriting and vocal duties (Case sings lead here), which may have led to their premature break up. There was too much talent to be contained in just one band. Case and Lee went on to sporadic Billboard success with the aforementioned Plimsouls and Collins formed The Paul Collins Beat. But the music snob in me, and power pop is nothing if not a music snob's genre, feels the need to tell you - I only like their early stuff.
(The Nerves’ self-titled EP was recently re-issued by Bomp! as a commemorative 10". 20/20’s records are out-of-print but their early singles can usually be found on any good power pop compilation.Click here
for the Bomp! Records mail order catalogue)