One could certainly make a case that the 1960s was the prime time for the rock instrumental, with The Ventures, The Marketts, Booker T. & The MGs and The Fireballs just some of the groups behind the decade’s hit melodies. Of the music-making individuals who were, well, instrumental in sending wordless tunes up the charts, few are as beloved as Sandy Nelson. Ace Records has previously anthologized the drummer’s explosive work on Rock ‘n’ Roll Drum Beat (Ace CDCHD 586) and Sandy Nelson’s Big Sixties Beat Party (Ace CDCHD 1080). Now it’s time to “let there be drums,” again, for Nelson is the subject of the label’s new Big Sixties Frat Party!!!, currently in stores.
A native of Santa Monica, California, made inroads in the music business from an early age. While attending Los Angeles’ University High School, he made friends and soon formed a band with future Beach Boy Bruce Johnston and hipster par excellence Kim Fowley. Nelson was in on the ground floor of rock and roll. Though he honed his chops while listening to big bands and jazz, Nelson couldn’t keep this burgeoning new music off his mind, and Johnston was a kindred spirit. Nelson played live dates with the Kip Tyler band and “graduated” to session work before joining Phil Spector to play on The Teddy Bears’ “To Know Him is to Love Him.” Tyler’s Flips were a proving ground for other soon-to-be influential musicians including Wrecking Crew stalwarts Steve Douglas, Larry Knechtel and Mike Deasy. With Johnston and future Three Dog Night producer Richie Polodor, Nelson recorded “Teen Beat,” and it went gold in 1959, charting in both America and the United Kingdom. (Though the three young men continued to work together, the success of “Teen Beat” strained Nelson’s relationship with Johnston and Polodor when Art Laboe of the Original Sound label didn’t credit them properly.) Two years later, Nelson recorded “Let There Be Drums,” co-written with Polodor, on the Imperial Records label and scored another gold record.
Big Sixties Frat Party!!! presents 24 tracks from Nelson’s Imperial catalogue, drawn from ten LPs recorded between 1965 and 1969. (The prolific drummer recorded 21 albums between 1965 and 1975!) The best of the Los Angeles scene contributed to these albums including Bill Pitman, Barney Kessel, Mike Deasy, Carol Kaye, Lyle Ritz, Steve Douglas, Larry Knechtel and Plas Johnson. (Needless to say, Wrecking Crew drummer Hal Blaine wasn’t on call for Nelson’s sessions.) Al Capps, Rene Hall and Mike Post were some of the arrangers. Production reins were taken by notable figures like Nick DeCaro, Dave Pell and Joe Saraceno.
Hit the jump for much more, including the full track listing with discography, and an order link!
It’s fair to say that Nelson’s style helped shape what we think of as “rock and roll drumming.” His furious drive and powerful drum breaks enliven the familiar favorites on Frat Party. Nelson plied his trade on Motown gems like “Nothing’s Too Good for My Baby,” “My World is Empty Without You,” “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” and “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.” He raided the pop charts for covers of The Mamas and the Papas’ “Monday, Monday,” The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer in the City,” and Tommy James and the Shondells’ “Hanky Panky.” There’s also a full-speed-ahead rendition of Neil Hefti’s propulsive “Batman Theme,” and an equally wicked take on Wilson Pickett’s “Mustang Sally.” Even Nat Adderley’s jazz standard “Work Song” and Henry Mancini’s “Peter Gunn” get the Nelson makeover.
Nelson conquered his demons and has been sober since 1976, and has continued to make music, even releasing a new album in 2008. Big Sixties Frat Party!!! is a limited edition of 1,500 copies and has been produced and copiously annotated by Dave Burke and Clive Poole of Pipeline Magazine. Duncan Cowell has remastered all of the tracks. You can join the party by ordering below. As the great man once said: Let there be drums!
Sandy Nelson, Big Sixties Frat Party!!! (Ace CDLUX 007, 2012)
- Nothing’s Too Good for My Baby (Imperial LP 12314, 1966)
- Casbah (Imperial LP 12287, 1965) (Mono)
- Batman Theme (Imperial LP 12305, 1966)
- Mustang Sally (Imperial LP 12340, 1967)
- Sabre Dance (Imperial LP 12439, 1969)
- Let’s Go Trippin’ (Imperial single 66209, 1966) (Mono)
- Uptight (Everything’s Alright) (Imperial LP 12305, 1966)
- My World is Empty Without You (Imperial LP 12305, 1966)
- Just Like Me (Imperial LP 12305, 1966)
- Ain’t Too Proud to Beg (Imperial LP 12329, 1966)
- Hanky Panky (Imperial LP 12329, 1966)
- The Clapping Song (Imperial LP 12287, 1965)
- Hang On Sloppy (Imperial LP 12298, 1966)
- Tim Tom Drum (Imperial LP 12283, 1965)
- Monday, Monday (Imperial LP 12314, 1966)
- Niki Hoeky (Imperial LP 12314, 1966)
- The Jerk (Imperial LP 12278, 1965)
- Got My Mojo Working (Imperial LP 12314, 1966)
- Summer in the City (Imperial LP 12329, 1966)
- Pipeline (Imperial LP 66209, 1966)
- I Need Somebody (Imperial LP 12340. 1967)
- Peter Gunn (Imperial single 66253, 1966) (Mono)
- Good Thing (Imperial LP 12340, 1967)
- Work Song (Imperial LP 12329, 1966)
All tracks stereo except where indicated.