The end of the 1980s was supposed to mark the end of hair metal, but that’s not quite how it worked out. In 1990, Motley Crue were still packing arenas and the radio was full of songs like Poison’s “Unskinny Bop,” Warrant’s “Cherry Pie” and Bon Jovi’s “Blaze of Glory.” Record labels thought the genre had plenty of life left, which is why they poured big money into new acts like Nelson, a duo consisting of Ricky Nelson’s twin sons Matthew and Gunnar. Their debut single “(Can’t Live Without Your) Love and Affection” hit Number One on the Hot 100 on September 29th, 1990, knocking down “Release Me” by Wilson Phillips.
MTV put the video into heavy rotation. It shows the brothers sitting in a dusty basement. Gunnar lusts after a model on the cover of Vogue, while Matthew works on a new guitar riff. He convinces his brother to put the magazine down and join him on a catchy new tune. It instantly whisks them off to a fantasy world of white pianos, women dancing around in bikinis and a sky made out of pastel sheets. By the end snow is falling upwards as the scene fades back to the basement. They walk out, but Gunnar goes back to grab the magazine.
The huge success of the song and the follow-up “After the Rain” briefly shot Nelson into the big time. In the most 1990 pairing imaginable, Matthew even dated Bobbie Brown, the blonde bombshell from the “Cherry Pie” video. (She didn’t have very nice things to say about the brothers in her tell-all book Dirty Rocker Boys.) But as the year wound down, a new band called Mookie Blaylock started playing tiny clubs in Seattle. They’d change their names to Pearl Jam early the following year, right around the time their fellow Seattle act Nirvana began recording Nevermind.
Nelson had little in common with hair metal acts like Motley Crue – besides long locks and a penchant for power ballads and blonde video vixens – but it didn’t matter. Songs like “(Can’t Live Without Your) Love and Affection” sounded 100 years old by the time “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Even Flow” hit the radio. A label battle meant that Nelson didn’t even release their second album until 1995. That five-year gap might as well have been 50 years. Grunge was basically over, but they didn’t fit into a world of Green Day, Weezer and Smashing Pumpkins either. The album didn’t even crack the Billboard 200. They’ve spent the past few years recording country albums and playing tribute concerts to their father.
“I’m at a place now – like my dad sang, ‘You can’t please everyone, so you have to please yourself’ – where I don’t give a shit what other people think,” Matthew told Rolling Stone Country in 2015. “I’m going to do what I love to do and if people dig it, it’s great.”