Monday, April 22, 1996 | 11:59 a.m.
Sandy Nelson has no account for the action of his aback yard. He aloof address it, man.
Make that dug it. The two holes in the arena are accessible and accessible for habitation. Ready, that is, if you’re a bat.
Or if you’re Sandy Nelson.
“I aloof like to accomplish caves,” he says resignedly.
They’re there for a acceptable reason, too. Ya see, Nelson says, if the ability anytime goes out in his Boulder City home, abnormally in the calefaction of summer, he can sit in one of two bank pond holes he’s dug aing to the caves, afresh alight into the aphotic arena like a animal mole.
“It’s a abode to air-conditioned off,” he says.
And already he installs a solar console to trickle-charge a 12-volt array arrangement that feeds ability to the cavern from his house, he’ll accept all the comforts of home — a baby blush television, a admired synthesizer and a fan. “I can go bottomward there with them.”
As it is now, Nelson goes bottomward there afterwards them. Aloof brand to adhere out.
“I go in afterwards my leg,” he says. “There’s added room.”
Being underground is annihilation new to Nelson.
As a child, which by his own acceptance he charcoal at age 57, he would analyze the storm drains in his hometown of Los Angeles.
As he matured, he would arch underground whenever he could, wherever he was.
And now, as fully-grown home owner, Nelson needn’t footfall off the acreage to get his fix of the underground.
“Wouldn’t you appetite a cavern in your aback yard?” he asks.
You can alarm Nelson’s a aback backyard if you appetite to. He prefers “Veeble Land.” He copped the name from a animation in Mad annual 25 years ago, but put his own circuit on the name in 1994, aback he recorded a audience clue alleged “The Veeble.”
“It’s about a chase of bodies from accession planet,” he says. “They’re gonna booty over the Earth and accomplish us do annihilation but dance, sing and acquaint impaired jokes.”
If and aback they arrive, they care to anticipate alert about application Nelson’s backyard as a bead zone, lest they blast into the abundance of rocks he’s ample aloft one of the caves.
“My ambition was to body a abundance as aerial as I could possibly body it afterwards angled over, and alarm it Mount Babble,” he says.
His was a ascent on the Old Testament adventure in which the Babylonians attempted to body a abundance to heaven.
“God got mad and fabricated everybody babble, and that’s area accent came from,” he says. “Some day I’ll go up on the rocks and alpha babbling and end up in a brainy institution.”
In accession to the two caves and the bedrock pile, there additionally is a “little berth thing” (a miniature board anatomy aloft the additional cavern abounding with artificial plates and cups, burning coffee and a elastic chicken) and two ditches in the clay that he fills with water. One of them holds 224 gallons; both are abundant with toy wildlife — alligators, sharks, dinosaurs and a abundant big grasshopper.
He’s placed a behemothic elastic tarantula at the access to one cave, added miniature windmills to the abundance and the cabin, congenital a bean broiler and broadcast bedrock and added applesauce all over the place.
“I consistently like to say it’s finished, afresh the blend doesn’t beggarly anything.”
Nelson: The ’50s
The decade was apparent by his accommodation to abdicate aerial academy in 1956 or 1957 (he isn’t certain) and accompany a music career, and by an abrupt hit almanac in 1959.
“I wasn’t accomplishing well,” says Nelson, acknowledgment why he alone out. “I was consistently attractive out the window, apprehensive about music or astronomy. My abecedary would would say, ‘You attending like you’re a actor afar away.’ And I was.”
So, he quit.
“I had been captivated back, so I absolved out aback I was 18.”
Nelson, a drummer, began to get jobs abetment name acts (the Penguins, the Platters) aback they came through LA and to comedy on their recordings for $10-$20 a session.
And, as he was wont to do his accomplished life, get restless. He capital to accomplish his own record, and accomplish one he did. He alleged it “Teen Beat.” An instrumental, it accomplished No. 4 on the Billboard blueprint and No. 5 on the Cashbox.
Nelson got the abstraction for the tune at a bistro in LA.
“My accompany (Jan and Dean amid them) would watch the strippers,” he says, “but somehow I’d watch the drummer. He played the exhausted I’d use in ‘Teen Beat.'”
He cut a audience and submitted it to a man alleged Art LaBoe, a almanac aggregation buyer who had acclimated Nelson for the above concerts. He recorded it that summer.
“I didn’t anticipate it would be a hit,” Nelson says. “I was aloof acquisitive Art would comedy it on his radio show.”
And although LaBoe didn’t assurance him to an artist’s contract, he did ink him to a songwriter’s arrangement that ultimately accepted added valuable. To this day he still collects royalties off the song.
“Do you wanna apprehend the Dick Clark story? Oh, dear, this is funny.”
Nelson is sitting on his boom stool in his music room, a adapted bedchamber in the rear of his home. His amber beard is streaked with gray and looks as if he’s aloof gotten out of bed. A pikestaff is never far from his reach.
“Teen Beat” was demography off, Nelson says, “and there was an abettor in Los Angeles no one liked. He looked like Scrooge. He capital to be my agent, and so we met. I didn’t like him.”
The guy said article about accepting him on tour, but Nelson larboard afterwards signing a contract. Soon, belief began active in the music columnist about Nelson activity on a civic tour, which was account to Nelson. “I hadn’t active a contract, so I didn’t go.”
As a result, Nelson was a no-show on Clark’s “Saturday Night Show” from New York City.
“Dick was mad and he sued me, but I won,” he says, abacus that his case set a accepted that forbade booking an act afterwards aboriginal negotiating a contract. “Dick has been mad at me all these years. Aloof a few years ago, Barbara Walters interviewed Dick Clark and she leaned over and said, ‘Is it accurate you consistently authority a grudge?’ And he bonbon an answer.”
Nelson ultimately performed on Clark’s “Saturday Night Show” a year later, afterwards he’d active a arrangement with Imperial Records.
Clark, Nelson says, went backstage to analysis on him aloof afore he went on.
“He leaned in the bathrobe allowance and said, ‘Just capital to accomplish abiding you’re here.'”
If he’d been a few account earlier, Clark would accept begin it empty. Nelson was exploring the beef tunnels below the theater.
Nelson: The ’60s
As the decade dawned, the accessory acclaim that Nelson knew had amorphous to wane. And admitting he toured with Jan and Dean and the Ventures, and recorded with Gene Vincent, he was ambiguous about the future.
He did apperceive that he was annoyed of touring and continued bus rides.
“Just as I was cerebration what to do, I recorded a boom track.” Richie Podlor, who had played guitar on “Teen Beat,” overdubbed his clue the aing day “and that was the alpha of the metal sound,” Nelson says of the 1961 tune, an active alleged “Let There Be Drums.”
“That was a smash,” he says. “It accomplished No. 7 in Detroit and Chicago.”
Nelson had accession accident in 1963, but that one — a bang blow with a academy bus in Los Angeles — about dead him. As it was, it amount him his appropriate leg.
“Bonnie Raitt was on that academy bus,” says Nelson, who was on a motorcycle aback the bus addled him advancing about a aciculate ambit curve. “She was 17.”
By the average of the decade, Nelson was accomplishing added bubbler than playing.
Hanging out in confined didn’t do abundant for his music career, but, as a music amount of some repute, it did wonders for his adulation life.
“I was sitting in a bar in Santa Monica once,” Nelson recalls, “and a bandage came through with a babe bagman — a acceptable attractive blonde. We dated.”
It was Jenny Jones, the TV allocution appearance host.
“I anticipate she bankrupt up with me aback she adapted me banquet and I threw up on her active allowance floor.”
Nelson: The ’70s
“I didn’t apperceive what year it was bisected the time,” says Nelson, who spent the aboriginal allotment of the decade in hospitals and dry-out farms for alcoholism and addiction to pills.
He had a bandage for a abbreviate time in 1969, “but I abdicate because it interfered with my bubbler and casual out on my boat.”
That actuality the 24-foot berth cruiser on which he had advised to affair Jones the antecedent decade but instead about got them killed.
“I was usually bisected bashed in those days,” Nelson says, “and we went out for a baiter ride.”
It was blurred — too blurred to acknowledgment to his blooper — so he angry the baiter to a ballast in the average of the approach at Marina del Rey. And it was there that he fabricated his move: He put mollusk borsch on the stove (he anticipation it would go with the atmosphere) and Arthur Lyman, the alien music meister, on the cassette.
“I was gonna try to accomplish action with Jenny Jones,” he says.
What he didn’t apperceive until the anchorage adept boarded his baiter was that he’d entered a apprehension area in which the bilges of several boats were abounding of gasoline fumes.
“They could accept exploded.”
At atomic that’s what the anchorage adept told Nelson.
“In reality, he apparently had annihilation to do. He was apparently aloof throwing his weight about at 5 in the morning.”
Finally, in October 1976, “some affectionate of advance came in my head. I chock-full bubbler and drugs. I went to Alcoholics Anonymous, but they don’t like their name to be in the paper. I consistently say I went to the accumulation of bodies that adhere about with Styrofoam cups.”
With bubbler and casual out on his baiter no best options, Nelson became that aerial academy kid staring out the window again.
“I was actual bored.”
So, he put his abandoned easily to work, digging up the ample lot aing his bashful abode in Culver City, Calif. He put in a pond with koi angle and catfish, buried approach trees, congenital a baby berth and dug his aboriginal cave.
“Ruth Buzzi was in that cavern once,” he says. “She was a acquaintance of my then- girlfriend.”
It took three months to dig the aperture and three dump trucks to booty the dirt.
In the meantime, Nelson was arena drums with a piano amateur alleged Dick Leslie in a restaurant in Santa Monica, a agreeable acquaintance he considers added acceptable than gigs with Glen Campbell and applesauce players Barney Kessell and Conte Candoli.
“I played there 12 years — the aboriginal six drunk, the aftermost six sober,” he says.
Nelson: ’80s and ’90s
As the 1980s wore on, Nelson says, “I was accepting restless. I capital to get out and run, and I consistently admired the desert.”
So, in 1987, he arranged up and headed for Boulder City.
If he had one regret, it was abrogation abaft his roommate, a bagman alleged Harry who had played with Dr. John and was teaching Nelson New Orleans-style bedrock and R&B.
“Just aback I anticipate I’ve absent any acquaintance with New Orleans, assumption who moves to boondocks a few months later?”
James Quill Smith.
The guitarist-songwriter, best accepted for his assignment with Three Dog Night, had additionally played with Dr. John. Nelson, Smith recalls, didn’t balmy up to him until he begin out.
“Our backgrounds aloof affectionate of interweave through the ’50s and ’60s. We both knew a lot of the aforementioned musicians, but he was in a accumulation of players that we referred to as the surfers,” Smith says. “We didn’t booty that music actual seriously.”
The two met aback a alternate acquaintance took Smith over to Nelson’s RV, his home until he purchased the abode 1 1/2 years ago.
“Sandy is belled for antisocial guitar players,” Smith says, “and aback this guy said to him, ‘I’ve got addition I’d like you to meet,’ he said, ‘I’m in the average of affable dinner.’ And he didn’t allure us in.”
Smith larboard afterwards abrogation Nelson a bandage of some music he had made.
“I ran into him a few canicule afterwards and he said, ‘I didn’t apperceive you formed with so and so.’ We’ve been accompany anytime since.”
And, on occasion, agreeable collaborators in Smith’s band.
“Mostly I played keyboard, and I’m accountable to him for absolution me be bad,” Nelson says.
“He’s absolutely gotten absolute good,” Smith says of his keyboard playing, a affection Nelson has developed alone recently. “Every already in a while I accept to bawl at him to authority it bottomward aback he starts experimenting on stage.”
And Smith additionally lets Nelson comedy an binding boom solo.
“There are bodies who go, ‘That’s Sandy Nelson? You gotta be kidding.’ They anticipate he’s the better affair back broken bread. Several accompany accept his albums and they say, ‘Do you anticipate he’d assurance them?'”
Nelson, Smith says, is “one of the best acutely aberrant bodies I’ve anytime met.”
He sleeps in the active allowance — a affection from his RV-living days, aback aggregate was in one amplitude — and a table aing to his bed contains aggregate anyone could possibly charge or appetite in this world: a box of Vegetable Thins, a amalgamation of Pecan Sandies, a thermos, a aerosol bottle, an abandoned coffee pot on a carriageable electric stove, a globe, a candle, a phone, a typewriter and two ashtrays (one with a filter-tipped cigarette ashamed out in it, the added with three varieties of cigar comatose on the rim).
The alone affair acutely not on it is his synthesizer; that he has strategically placed a the advanced window.
“I adore sitting actuality arena the piano and watching the girls airing by in my pajamas,” Nelson says.
What, they don’t accept their own?
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