Totally True Memoirs of a Metal Producer: Nelson’s After the Rain
It was the winter of 1989, and the IRS announced they were going to audit me. My oldest friend and attorney, Howie Baumsteinowitzenberg, told me I should get the hell out of Dodge while he dealt with it, lest I spend the rest of my year in an orange jumpsuit.
But where could I go? The government wasn’t going to let me leave the country, and it would be too easy to find me if I stayed in one my friends’ guest bungalows.
“Don’t worry,” Howie promised me. “I’ve got the perfect spot.”
A few calls later, and Howie had set it up so that I was being hired as a “caretaker” at some massive hotel in Colorado. They shut down every winter because of the snow, which meant nobody would be able to get to me even if they figured out where Howie’d stashed me. I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of spending the whole winter someplace alone (I’d just completed my eighth divorce), but it sounded better than jail.
I’d been alone in the hotel for a few days and was feeling pretty okay because even though I had no company I’d brought an incredible amount of top-notch drugs with me.
So naturally, the first time I saw the twins in the hallway, I thought I was hallucinating.
“Come play with us, Tommy,” they intoned, “forever… and ever… and ever…”
“Alright, kids,” I said, still unsure if I was actually speaking with anyone or not. “Let’s hear what you’ve got.”
The twins each produced a guitar as though out of thin air and played some song about the weather. It was one of the worst pieces of drek I’d ever heard in my life. But I was still going to be stuck in the hotel for a few months and I had nothing better to do, so I said I’d record their album.
Much to my surprise, they had a recording studio all set up in the hotel’s ballroom, The Gold Room. I couldn’t remember it being there before, but I was so high I couldn’t remember my middle name, either, so I just went with it.
The twins explained to me that their names were Gungan Nelson and Nelson Nelson. Their father was an old performer, Ricky Nelson, who had come to the hotel to play its summer concert series. When he got back to his room, though, he found that Gunnar and Nelson had cleaned out the mini-bar. The cost wasn’t covered in Ricky’s rider, so he killed the twins and then killed himself. Now they were ghosts, stuck in the hotel for all of eternity.
“Well, I’m sorry to say it, but you had it coming,” I told the twins. “You can’t empty the mini-bar and expect to get away without consequences.”
“We know,” the answered sadly in unison.
I changed the topic by asking them to play me some more of their music. But I figured if I’d made Poison stars, I could make these schmucks stars.
Fortunately, the hotel was built on an ancient Native American burial ground, allowing it to act as a conduit to the great beyond. We weren’t able to get anyone really good to swing by the studio and help us polish the turds Gungan and Nelson had written (using a ouija board, I asked Randy Rhoads to lay down a guest solo, and he replied “I’d rather be dead”). But we were able to get some really mediocre people onboard, and that was better than just having the twins.
So Mal Spooner from Demon, John Curulewski from Styx, Karen Carpenter, Liberace — they all had a hand in shaping the record. We even got Chris Holmes to stop in; he wasn’t medically dead yet, but he was already dead on the inside, so it wasn’t too hard to summon his presence.
When the whole process was finished, I found that we’d made an album I would never listen to, but I would tolerate if one of my grandkids played in the car. I thought that was pretty good.
The record sold more than 2,000,000 copies in the U.S. alone and peaked at #17 on Billboard 200.
Meanwhile, Howie got me off the hook with the IRS, and I was able to come home. So we all won in the end.