An award-winning screenwriter at international film festivals and labs, Caitlin McCarthy has two projects in development: “Wonder Drug” with director Tom Gilroy (“Spring Forward”); and “Resistance” with director Si Wall (“Marbella Nights”).
“See Me, Hear Me – Why Matthew and Gunnar Nelson Deserve A Second Look” By Caitlin McCarthy
“People only hear what they see.” Sandra Dee said this to Bobby Darin in the great biopic “Beyond the Sea,” when he wasn’t being taken seriously by audiences because of his hippie appearance in the late 60s.
The same could be said of Nelson. They have undeniable talent as musicians and songwriters. Their harmonies are to die for. But some people are blind to this, because they only remember what Matthew and Gunnar looked like 20 years ago. You’d think the twins were the only ones who ever wore long hair and spandex.
I think it’s time for Matthew and Gunnar to experience a career renaissance. They’re young (42) and still rocking. They’ve recently reformed Nelson as a band, and they’re currently putting the finishing touches on a new album. (I believe the title will be “The Blond Leading the Blond” – clever!)
I recently caught Matthew and Gunnar’s latest tour celebrating the 20th Anniversary of their multi-platinum debut classic album “After the Rain” at Mohegan Sun. Mark Slaughter, the Nelsons’ longtime friend, was a special guest who opened the show with a solo acoustic set and then played guitar with Nelson. Matthew, Gunnar, and Mark had an amazing banter and entertained every single person in the Wolf Den.
And let me tell you, there were A LOT of people in that Wolf Den. The line for the show started forming three hours in advance. (Seating was first come, first serve.) The show was standing-room-only, with a large crowd swarming the stage. Those who couldn’t get into the show leaned against the rails that separate the Wolf Den from the casino.
After the show, another ginormous line formed for autographs and pictures with Matthew, Gunnar, and Mark. I *so* got in on that action! In my pictures with the guys, I look like a “shiny happy person” a la REM, but the shine on my face serves as evidence that everyone there had a great time.
After the show, I went out to dinner in the casino. Over an hour later, I headed out and discovered Nelson and Mark Slaughter *still* signing autographs and taking pictures. That’s commitment and gratitude for you –from both the fellas and the fans.
It’s not an overstatement to say that many Americans grew up with the Nelson family. My parents, a few years younger than Rick Nelson, grew up watching “The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet.” As a child, I listened to Rick’s music at home and in the car. (“Lonesome Town” is still my fave Rick Nelson song.)
When I was twelve, Tracy Nelson appeared as Valley girl Jennifer DiNuccio on the classic TV show “Square Pegs.” The nuns at my school were none too thrilled when my friends and I started using her Valley Girl speak (“like, you know”). We were ordered to stop, or else we’d have to write the glossary during recess. (This punishment was second only to standing in a dark closet – something I had to do on occasion to atone for my “venial sins.”)
Through Tracy Nelson, I became aware of her twin brothers Matthew and Gunnar. They were all photographed together in various magazines, including the bible of my household: PEOPLE Magazine.
When Nelson’s debut album “After the Rain” was released 20 years ago, I bought the cassette and played it to the point of ad nauseum. My college roommate couldn’t take it after a while. In protest, she refused to attend their concert with me at the old Citi Club in Boston, so I took my big sister Erin. It was an all-ages show. We were surrounded by a lot of young teenage girls and their thirtysomething mothers. Erin and I could barely hear the music over the screaming (this included the moms!).
Matthew and Gunnar weren’t much older than me, but they worked the crowd like pros. I remember them saying “Hi” to their teenage brother Sam at the show. Good thing the twins didn’t point out where Sam was standing – the young girls were whipping their heads around, trying to find him in a frenzy. Whenever Matthew and Gunnar threw out guitar picks, the girls jumped up like puppies and grabbed them. It was cute, until a group of girls turned around and glared at *me*. I didn’t know why. I hadn’t caught anything.
While changing for bed later that night, I realized that wasn’t true. I heard a “clink” on the floor and discovered a pink guitar pick with a mini-autograph from Gunnar printed on it. The guitar pick had fallen down my shirt, into my bra, during the show. Well, that’s one way to catch a flying object!
Grunge soon changed the music scene, and the Nelsons stopped getting the airplay they deserved. But I never stopped liking them. I’m not a fair-weather fan. Below is some proof.
In 1999, while working in high tech public relations, I moved to Seattle, the very heart of flannel, uncombed hair, and mumbled lyrics. PEOPLE Magazine published an unflattering article about the Nelsons during this time, so I wrote a letter to the editor, which was published by the pub:
“Matthew and Gunnar Nelson”
I was very disappointed by your article on the Nelson brothers. As a writer, I understand the need to find an angle for a story, but Matthew and Gunnar are not hard-luck cases and should not be portrayed as such. They have successfully founded their own record company, written and recorded their own material through the years, treated their fans with the utmost respect and promoted peace and love in every song and interview. As musicians—and, more important, as people—they have demonstrated time and again that they are survivors. Everyone should be so lucky.
Caitlin McCarthy, Seattle
Upon discovering my letter to the editor, one of my superiors at the PR agency – only a few years older than me – started hazing me. “You like Nelson?” she’d sneer. “Oh my God. You actually like them?”
I looked her dead in the eye. “Yes, I do.”
This episode was one of the things that turned me off to the world of PR, and influenced my decision to move back east and pursue my writing. So in a way, Nelson is responsible for putting me on the right path.
I can’t wait for the new Nelson album. And I proudly say right here, right now, that YES, I like Nelson. Always have, always will. I hope you see what I do!
(photos courtesy of the author, and uulyrics.com)