Sunday, May 15, 2016

Welcome to THE NEIGHBORHOODS [1986]

Text © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 1986
Introduction © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2016
Images by Rocco Cippilone

This interview was originally published in FFanzeen, issue #14, dated 1986.

Dave Minehan is a powerhouse and a Boston legend. While the Neighborhoods unfortunately never broke through the barrier into the A-list, they still managed to make it into the Boston Music Awards Hall of Fame in 2005. Considering the sheer number of bands from that city, and the volume of sales that they all generate, this is pretty astounding. But also, it is rightfully so.

I had quite a nice conversation with Dave when I first met him at a Salem 66 gig in Boston (Cambridge, actually, if I remember correctly) in the -mid 1980s. Of course, we talked music in the form of bands we liked. One band we both obviously liked was Salem 66. Honestly, I had forgotten about this conversation (more about my age and distance in time than the content or Dave, himself) until I retyped this interview.

When I look back at the article now, I realize I spelled Dave’s last name wrong, and for that I am sorry. Putting the story in the ‘zine, though, was certainly the right thing to do. Nowadays, Dave is the “owner, producer, engineer, session musician, songwriter, arranger” (as it states on his LinkedIn page) of Woolly Mammoth Sound/Productions, in Arlington, MA. He is also the touring guitarist for the Replacements since 1993. Lee Harrington went on to be both a music producer and a powerhouse lawyer with the firm Nixon Peabody. Oh, and yes, Dave he and Lee still tour as the Neighborhoods, currently with Johnny “Rock” Lynch on drums.

Check out the documentary which discusses their career (among others), Boys From Nowhere: The Story of Boston’s Garage Punk Uprising (2016), reviewed by me HERE: – RBF, 2016
The Neighborhoods. A good rock’n’roll trio from Boston. They have a bunch of records out on Ace of Hearts Records.

Springtime at the now-defunct Peppermint Lounge, I had a chance to talk to two of the three. Plain, simple, and to the point, like their hard-driving music. Check it out. Check them out. ‘Nuff said.

FFanzeen: The Neighborhoods usta play with Willie Alexander, didn’t they?
Dave Minehan (vox/guitar): Yeah.

FFanzeen: Was that when the Neighborhoods was formed?
Dave: Very shortly prior to. We pretty much jumped in after Willie’s band, probably after six months of playing.

FFanzeen: After the Boom Boom Band, right?
Dave: Yeah, after those guys just dissolved. They still had a lot of gigs to do, as far as I was led to believe, and that’s what first actually brought us down here to New York. And our long-time friendship with Jim Fouratt [who founded Danceteria – RBF, 2016] started then. It’s been going ever since. That’s why we’re here tonight, once again.

FFanzeen: When you played with Willie, it was at Hurrahs, right?
Dave: Uh-hunh. At Hurrahs, and that was about ’79, or something. Or ’78.

FFanzeen: It was when the [Willie Alexander and the Boom Boom Band] album came out in ’78.
Dave: The second one [Meanwhile…Back in the States – RBF, 1986]

FFanzeen: Do you ever still team with him?
Dave: Last time has been a while.
Lee Harrington (bass): My sister has a band, and every once in a while he’ll come down and sing with them. For a while I was playing bass.

FFanzeen: What band?
Lee: It’s called Barry Marshall and the Rockin’ Robins. It’s like a big soul review, kinda. But Willie just comes down and sings once in a while, so I’ve played with him a few times. He’s doin’ all right. He’s playin’ again. He’s writing a lot still, too. I saw his set the last time he was on stage. We were playing the night after he played.

FFanzeen: The type of music you play doesn’t seem to be played too much. It’s just sort of a straight ahead rock’n’roll.
Dave: Yeah. Well, at this point of the game, I don’t care or worry too much about anything because I finally see good rock’n’roll finally getting listened to, in terms of independent bands doing okay. So, as long as we keep behaving ourselves, keep writing, keep working hard, keep meeting people and doing all the things we’re supposed to do, our day should come. Hopefully. I mean, we’ve stuck it out this long, and we’ve been stuck it out during periods when the direction wasn’t as solid as it’s been in the last couple of years. So with all that working for us now, I hope it’s just a matter of time.

FFanzeen: How did Rick Harte of Ace of Hearts Records get in touch with you?
Dave: Rick was just starting and we did a single for him [“No Place Like Home” b/w “Prettiest Girl” – RBF, 1986]. It was his second single ever and it helped put us on the map, and it helped put Rick on the map, also. It was quite the New England hit. It probably carried us. [I show them my copy of the single – RBF, 1986]. And you know what’s great, now the place on the cover, Paragon Park, was just torn down this winter. So this is a really classic item. This was Revere Beach.

FFanzeen: When it came out, you were being, like, touted as the rock’n’roll band in Boston. There’s a lot of press that said that.
Dave: Oh, yeah, and there’s the Battle of the Bands that we won [1979 WBCN Rock’n’Roll Rumble – RBF, 2016], and that single did take off without too much hype behind it at all, in New England and the surrounding areas, as an AOR hit. So, a lot of people had a lot of reasons to be saying such things, but press can come and go. And it did.
Lee: Plus there was so much press at one point that I think people just got sick of hearing about it.
Dave: Yeah, and they were considered Neighborhoods fans.
Lee: The people were so quick to say the band was gonna break, that when it didn’t break immediately, people thought that the band must be washed up.

FFanzeen: Also, it was a long time between that record and when the next one came out.
Dave: That’s partly the band’s fault, partly managerial fault. ‘Cause everything was so animated at that point in time, and we had every kind of lip service available speaking at all sides. The band just really sat in things for a long time and let a lot of good things pass. We had a chance to do something else with Rick Harte, but we felt the execution of the songs at that point was not very developed, and not as rocking as we’d hoped, so we were reluctant to move on that, and time passed. And before you know it, two years-three-years-four years down the line, you’re kinda starting over.

FFanzeen: Do you see any major signings upcoming?
Dave and Lee: No.
Dave: We’re recording now on our own. We’re in the studio in the middle of doing something. We’ll shop around. We shopped the last record around and got some fairly positive response, but not positive enough to give us any money. So, we’ll do it again and see what happens.

FFanzeen: I’m must afraid that what’ll happen to you is what happened to the Stompers. They were a decent pop band, but then I heard their album and said, “I paid for this?!”[The Stompers’ “Coast to Coast” indie single is amazing; the LP version not so much – RBF, 2016]
Dave: That’s rough. I feel bad for those guys.

FFanzeen: And DMZ. Sire really screwed them over with their album.
Dave: Yeah, but both those bands you’re talking about didn’t really have any real idea of what they wanted to do, or at least one strong enough to grasp the situation and take control. They both just let someone tell them what to do and they made bad records.
Lee: And also, still, it was the first wax from both bands, and DMZ didn’t know what the –
Dave: Yeah, that’s definitely part of it, too.
Lee: We had our sniff of that stuff. We’ve dealt with major companies in the past, in the time period we were just talking about, that were paying for studio time and these were all fairly major labels and stuff. We’ve seen the inner workings of that whole scene. We’re very comfortable working on the independent level right now. Hopefully this next album will do something to get us released to another step up there, touring more. The record we released a year ago is now allowing us across the country. So hopefully this next one will be on an even broader scale.
Dave: Plus we’re never gonna make a record we don’t want to make, anymore. There’s no way it’ll happen.

FFanzeen: What record did you make that you didn’t want to make.
Dave: We haven’t yet. That’s what I’m saying. We’re not gonna put ourselves in that position where we make somebody else’s record.
Lee: The Ace of Hearts thing was our fault; that we just didn’t know what we wanted.
Dave: The second one.
Lee: Right. We just didn’t want it out, really.

FFanzeen: What’s the name of that one, ‘cause I don’t have it.
Lee: No one has that.
Dave: It’s never been released.

FFanzeen: Well, what would it have been the name of it?
Dave: It’s just The Neighborhoods. It’s a four-song EP on Ace of Hearts. It didn’t even get to the drawing board in terms of names. It was just, like, no one was groovin’ to it.

FFanzeen: Your taste in music is a little different at times from the music you play; it’s a lot heavier. You play very straight rock’n’roll, and I know for a fact that you, Dave, like early Slade, Sweet [we had discussed this mutual affliction when we met at a Salem 66 gig at a club in Boston – RBF, 1986].
Dave: We all have our heavy metal backgrounds.
Lee: We all grew up in the same time frame and we all listened to the same radio. It’s suburban America.

FFanzeen: It surprises me, happily, that you didn’t turn out to be just another bar band.
Dave: Well, punk and New Wave, once we were all exposed to it, showed us that whole other angle thing, and I think somewhere in the middle we found a fine medium.

FFanzeen: The scene in Boston is, like, a couple of years ago in ’82-’83, [in New York] you heard most of the bands in Boston and they were real popular, but in the last couple of years or so you don’t really hear about Boston bands too much.
Dave: Couple of years?
Lee: See, I think it’s, like, the other way around. It had slowed down and now it’s kinda like – I don’t know, I have a different perception. Maybe we’re just seeing bands that haven’t broken nationally yet.
Dave: I see a lot of records coming out of town right now.

FFanzeen: I’m talking press-wise. I remember when your first single came out –
Dave: That’s true.

FFanzeen: – There was this influx of Boston bands everywhere.
Dave: Well, now there’s the Lyres, Del Fuegos, Salem 66, Lifeboat, Dumptruck. I mean, they’re all bands from Boston who, like, tour to some degree and, like, I see a lot of press and stuff.
Lee: I guess there’s not a collective scene so much anymore.
Dave: Maybe people just realize that they have to go out to do it. There’s a lot of guitar bands to be had in Boston, and a lot of the press has paid attention to guitar bands from Boston, it seems. I know there’s a very different scene in Boston that hasn’t really let itself be known, but I know it exists ‘cause I see it here and there, and it’s, like, the Cure type of scene where there are lots of synthesizers and dirgey-type music. And these people are very, very sincere about their music, and very serious about it. But because a lot of the press doesn’t pay attention to that sort of music they’re not really collective about it in any kind of scene. Maybe we’ll see some of that in the future, I don’t know. I’d like to see a little of both… Maybe we’re just inbetween scenes again.

FFanzeen: Like the [mid-]’70s.
Dave: It seems like we’re not in Boston so much anymore. We’re on the road a lot more, like down South and stuff, and hopefully on the West Coast before too long. So maybe we’re not playing our part so much over there. Maybe we don’t quite know either, ‘cause we are busy. I go out enough – we all go out enough – we all have our favorite bands we go see and stuff, but to truly be a part of a scene takes a lot of effort. You gotta be out a lot, and because you’re working in a nightclub a lot, the last thing you wanna do is go out to a nightclub.

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