Neat Neat Neat

Album: Damned Damned Damned (1977)
Charted: 52
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Songfacts®:

  • This frenetic punk rocker was written by the group's guitarist, Brian James. The lyric makes reference to cops and guns ("No crime if there ain't no law"... "She can't afford no gun at all"), but James insisted his lyrics had no political inclinations. With that in mind, it's best to think of the lyric as a series of disjointed images meant to be sung at high speed.
  • The chorus is pronounced "Ni, Ni, Ni," as in the Monty Python Knights Who Say "Ni!" The Knights appeared in the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which was released in 1975.
  • This was the second single released by The Damned, following "New Rose," which became the first punk single by a British band when it was issued in October 1976. "Neat Neat Neat" was the opening track on their debut album, Damned Damned Damned.
  • The Damned had been playing this live for months by the time they recorded it. When they went in the studio, it was cramped quarters with little time or budget. In just three days, they cranked out the entire album.

    Instead of trying to enhance their sound with production flourishes and overdubs, they went for a live sound to capture their raw energy. Their producer, Nick Lowe, was the right man for the job. Nicknamed "Basher," he could git-r-done with no wasted time.

    In a Songfacts interview with Damned frontman David Vanian, he said: "Like everything at that point, it was a burst of pure energy and excitement. I think of all the albums, that first album - with 'Neat Neat Neat' and 'New Rose' - perfectly encapsulates what you would see when you came to see the band."
  • Elvis Costello covered "Neat Neat Neat," releasing it in 1978 as bonus single with some copies of his This Year's Model album.
  • Brian James wrote "Neat Neat Neat" just before Christmas 1976. "In those days, songs tended to spill out," he told Uncut magazine. "I was sitting around playing my Gibson SG and the riff came out. I was a big Eddie Cochran fan. Forget Elvis, it was always Eddie for me, and to a lesser extent, Jerry Lee Lewis. I bastardized it a little, and that twanging riff formed the basis of the song and the bassline."
  • "Neat Neat Neat" was a mishmash of references from the time, such as the Sex Pistols' Anarchy In The UK tour. "There's a bit about the punk scene, with cops and all that, verging on the anarchy thing the Pistols had," James said. "There's no big message."
  • James was dating a girl named Judy at the time who lived off New King's Road in Fulham. "Judy was American, and she used a lot of colloquialism," he recalled. "That had a little influence on the lyrics. Also, there was an old Doors album called Absolutely Live where Jim Morrison says something like, 'kinda good, kinda good, kinda neat, kinda neat... 'Things like that stick out, you remember them. Really, the song wrote itself."
  • James nods to Chuck Berry on his guitar solo, which he recorded at the same time as the rhythm track. "No instruments were overdubbed on that song," he said. "Then Dave did his vocals and backing vocals."

    Bass player Captain Sensible added. "I remember when Brian taught me the song. He sat me down and said, 'It's Eddie Cochran - with a trust!' The twist is that the third time you play it, there's a little lurch, a kink, in the riff."

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