The Neats were a jangly rock quartet that formed in the late ’70’s and dissolved in 1990. During the first wave of the punk invasion, they were big in the alternative/indie rock universe; and had a short but important and influential run on the Boston music scene. The band featured well crafted tunes and a psychedelic power pop sound similar to The Dream Syndicate, The Feelies, The Lyres and Question Mark And The Mysterians. “We actually met and started playing together in a basement apartment on Beacon Street in Back Bay. Friends of friends. We eventually moved to Allston in late 1980,” Phil Caruso remembers. Caruso on guitar and vocals, Eric Martin also on guitar and vocals, harmonica and Vox organ, Terry Hanley behind the kit, and a succession of three different four stringers: first Jerry Channell, then Jay Parham (The Flies) and finally David Lee. “Jerry decided to leave the band to work in the graphics field. Jay was only in the band briefly. When Dave joined the band the sound was becoming more blues oriented and louder. More improvisation,” Caruso notes. Their discography closely reflects the band’s history. They first recorded for the Independent label Propeller, and appeared on two compilation albums in 1981: Their swirling Vox organ song “Six” appears on “Propeller Product” a 7″ 33⅓ rpm EP (Propeller 1981); and “Do the Things” and a live version of “Another Broken Dream” appears on a Propeller Cassette Tape, only sold by Newbury Comics in Boston (Propeller 1981). Psychedelic garage rock at it’s best. The following year came their 7″ EP “The Monkey’s Head In The Corner Of The Room” with Rick Harte doing the production work on his label Ace Of Hearts. This release was voted one of “The Best EP’s Of 1982” by The Village Voice in their annual Pazz + Jop Poll. Three full length and an Ace Of Hearts archives album followed. “The Neats” (Ace of Hearts 1983), “Crash At Crush” (Coyote-Twin Tone Records 1987), “Blues End Blue” (Coyote – Twin/Tone Records 1989), and “NEATS 1981-84 The Ace Of Hearts Years” (Ace Of Hearts Records). Terry Hanley died in a fall from a balcony on Oct. 5, 1999. Eric Martin still can be seen on the scene in Eric Martin And The Illyrians. Many people consider The Neats as a ‘long lost band’ that shoulda woulda coulda. Caruso considers: “I agree in that early on during the time Jerry was in the band we were more psychedelic. We used more reverb and fit in well and played shows with The Lyres. I would agree with that about The Feelies and The Dream Syndicate as well. We shared some music structure with The Feelies in that we had two guitars strumming chords using reverb creating a lot of overtones in our sound. One of our fans described us as “two of the best bands in Boston in the eighties.” I like that. It described our jangly, chordy beginnings with Jerry and then our louder, blues based sound with Dave.” The Neats’ clean cut onstage image and clean and mean guitar riffs still strike a chord with many local music buffs.
(by A.J. Wachtel)