Today is the 31st birthday of twins Matthew and Gunnar Nelson, sons of the late rocker
and teen idol Ricky Nelson, of "Ozzie & Harriet" television fame. The twins have been
recording and performing pop-metal music as the duo Nelson since 1988.
Matthew and Gunnar Nelson joined the heavy-metal band Strange Agents in the '80s.
By the turn of the decade, they changed the band's name to Nelson and were soon the
only members in the group. Their 1990 debut, After the Rain, featuring Matthew on
bass and Gunnar on guitar, highlighted light, slickly produced pop-metal. The LP sold
more than 1 million copies in the U.S. and spawned the #1 single "(Can't Live Without
Your) Love and Affection."
The Nelsons' long, flowing hair and radio-friendly tunes made them teen favorites, but
surprisingly, they took five years to deliver their next album, Because They Can
(1995), which wasn't as successful as their debut.
Another lengthy hiatus ensued, during which the twins spent time working with
songwriters based in Nashville, Tenn. The resulting music had more of a California
country-rock feel than did Nelson's previous work. This sound is in evidence on their
latest album, Imaginator (1998).
The Nelsons explained the genesis of the album in an America Online chat earlier this
year: "Imaginator was more of a cathartic experience. This record was right after
we'd been going through a lot of trouble with our label and with the media. We were on
DGC, an offshoot of Geffen. Then they signed Nirvana. Overnight, everything shifted. We
didn't feel welcome around the offices. It got weird. So the music is more intense. I don't
think we'll ever make a record quite like this again. This is more aggressive, darker. We
ventured over to the dark side."
The twins said they've incorporated the pressures they had to endure as members of the
idyllic Nelson television family on "Ozzie & Harriet" into the new album's music: "There
was the added pressure of being raised in the Nelson family. We were taught never to air
your dirty laundry in public. You're here to entertain. Don't dump your problems on them.
The Imaginator album is selfish, then. We went against that. It was neat to be able
to do that. Our label rebelled against it. It scared them. The music was very different. We
symbolized an era and all of a sudden it wasn't cool anymore. Geffen Records, their
agenda was 'we're about being hip.' They told us we weren't hip. We wanted to be about
heart. That's what's important to us."
The Nelsons issued Imaginator on UNI/Varese/Fuel 2000; the album features
tracks such as "We Always Want What We Can't Get" and "Do You Believe in Religion?"
Other birthdays: Mick Rogers (Manfred Mann's Earth Band), 52; Chuck Panozzo (Styx),
51; Christopher Gordon Dowd (Fishbone), 33; Nuno Bettencourt (Extreme), 32; Ben
Shepherd (Soundgarden), 30; and John Panozzo (Styx), 1947-1996.