Terry Nelson is the newest City Councilman from the city of Beacon, New York, a Duchess County town of 15,000 people that sits about an hour north of Manhattan, and which has recently seen an influx of metropolitan New Yorkers who can’t keep up with the rising cost of living in the city that never sleeps. He was sworn in at the beginning of 2018, but he took a long and circuitous road to get there.
His professional life began in the 1980s as a buyer at Tower Records, and after that he went into production, post-production, voiceover work, journalism, and much, much more. Getting into politics may seem like a departure, and maybe it is. But since the election of a certain real estate mogul, staying on the sidelines was no longer an option.
Despite his newfound status as a politician, Nelson’s passion for music has never waned, and he was kind enough to create a playlist for The Z Review in addition to granting us an interview. You can find the playlist at the bottom of this probing question-and-answer session.
TZR: When did you first get interested in music and who were your earliest musical infatuations?
TN: I got interested in music at a very young age because my parents were into music and it was constantly playing in our house. My father loved Frank Sinatra and he would play it all the time, while my mom was more of a Motown person. Because I grew up in the era where there was very little parental supervision, I discovered how to use the record player on my own by the time I was five. I would play my mom’s 45s and when I was at my grandmother’s house, I would play my aunt’s 45s also.
The record that sent me off into this musical journey was Otis Redding‘s “Respect.“ On the label was a stick-like figure made out of lightning bolts. The reason behind this was because he was on Volt Records, which was a sub-label of Stax Records. I was mesmerized by Otis’ voice and I wanted to explore what else was in that box of 45s.
Another one of my earliest musical infatuations was Jimi Hendrix. I remember watching the news with my mom when I heard that he had died. Another aunt on my father’s side used to listen WNEW-FM and one time when I was visiting her, she was listening to the radio on “Sunshine of Your Love” came on and I had this “Whoa” moment. I think we can agree that song has one of the greatest opening riffs ever, right?
TZR: Do you have pleasant memories of the New York City club circuit during the 1990s, and was there an ideal period in that time that you’re the most fond of?
TN: I really wasn’t into the club circuit during the 90s. I think my days of going to clubs ended around 1991. I’m pretty sure that was because I did most of my clubbing in the 80s and by the time the 90s rolled around, I was burned out.
The ideal period for me was between 1981 and 1989. I got to see The Clash and Grace Jones perform at Bonds International. Two different shows of course. I also caught a lot great bands like Living Colour at CBGB‘s in that period as well. There were many great places to dance during this period, like Danceteria, Nell’s and Gotham‘s just to name a few. New York City in general was a lot more fun in that period. In the 90’s, Giuliani time began and he started to basically outlaw fun and joy. The whole ban on dancing in bars was ridiculous. Giuliani was a humorless, race-baiting weasel who managed to suck the joy and flavor out of NYC.
TZR: What made you decide to run for public office?
TN: It seems like the go-to answer in this day and age for many is the Trump election, but I think it goes much deeper than that for me. I’ve always had an interest in politics as well as an interest in public service. I’m not sure exactly what the impetus was, but I decided to run for office when the opportunity presented itself. My wife also suggested that I should do it.
TZR: How has holding elected office been different from how you thought it would be?
TN: I knew it would be unlike any experience that I have ever had. A former City Council person told me once that I’ll never really know what it’s like until I actually do it. Living in a city in which the population is almost 15,000 people, it’s kind of hard not to run into somebody who has a question or wants to talk politics. I love talking to people and it’s one of my favorite parts of the job, but there are days when I just want to get a loaf of bread and get back into my car without it turning into a long conversation. I do realize that it is just a part of the job and I have come to accept that.
TZR: Do you still consider yourself a music person first and foremost or has the politician part taken over more than 51% of your personality?
TN: I don’t know if I’ve ever really considered myself a music person even when I was an LP buyer at Tower Records. Deep down I’m still that kid who spent a lot of his allowance money on records. Music will always be a part of my life, but it never will define me just as being a politician will never be the thing that defines me. I think we’re all made up of made up of many different and fascinating parts. The cool thing is watching all of those things come together.