Rock fans who like their music raw and undiluted, as in the MC5, will probably come across this artist in the course of their sweaty research. He is something of a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and bandleader as well as a collaborator whose activities in New York City brought him into the same orbit as David Johansen, Mick Farren, and Wayne Kramer, the latter artist one of the original
members of the aforementioned classic Detroit hard rock band. Collins seemed to start leaving tracks in the mid-'70s with his own John Collins Band, then as a member of the band the Terrorists. While the latter group was booked fairly solidly into New York dance clubs, and wound up collaborating with heavyweights Roland Alphonso and Lee "Scratch" Perry, this was a band that was ahead of its time, committed to punk-reggae several years in advance of the ska and rocksteady revival in England and decades too early to cash in on any controversy connected with the "war on terror." One curious question is whether original band founders such as the drummer Dro and bassist Gary Schiess conceived of the connection between Collins and the Terrorists cult that is part of the role-playing game entitled Wraith, whose leader is named
It is the kind of weird irony that Collins himself might enjoy, if this assumption can be made from a career that includes material based on legendary gangsters and over the top cover versions of songs such as "MacArthur Park" and "The Man in Me." He seems a perfect collaborator for Kramer, who began restarting his career in the early '80s -- in other words, when he got out of jail. Kramer hooked up first with Mick Farren, whose former band the Deviants made a good pairing with the Terrorists in terms of creating a socially unacceptable marquee. The pair first brought the Deviants back to life, which sounds like the opening scene in an Italian horror movie. From there the next move seemed to be what was described as an R&B musical. The Last Words of Dutch Schultz was based on William Burroughs' text of the same name, at one point the subject of a doomed Hollywood screenplay treatment. Collins was hired as one of the original singers for this production, which had a nice stretch as an off-Broadway phenomenon.
The Death Tongue album, featuring Farren and Kramer with Collins on guitar and vocals, is obviously an outgrowth of the play, and includes the song "Who Shot You Dutch?" A decision to use the newly invented drum machine on this record, for one thing because it meant nobody would have to deal with an obnoxious punk rock drummer, would eventually make the recording sound dated. Critics who used even harsher adjectives in connection with this recording might tone their criticism down were they forced to spend time in a van with a drummer. Farren and Collins continued working together in the Tijuana Bible band, of which one album has been released, not to cause confusion with another apparently better-stocked band named Tijuana Bibles. Collins has also recorded with the Scoldees. A ROIR compilation CD of live tracks from the Max's Kansas City venue presents Collins leading his own band as well as performing with the Terrorists, capturing a great deal of the club's crummy ambience along the way.