shakin’ with the money man

posted at 9:31 pm by brandon in now hear this

He was studying in the New York City police academy, aiming to follow in his father’s footsteps as a Brooklyn beat cop. But his killer voice, his love of music, and his dream to be a part of that world carried him out west. A string of smashing club gigs in the Bay Area brought him to the attention of Columbia Records, which — thanks to the bracing success being enjoyed by a young Jersey Everyman called Bruce Springsteen — was at the forefront of the burgeoning regular Joe movement that was spreading like wildfire across the rock music landscape, which had struggled for a time to stay relevant in the wake of the disco explosion of the late ’70s. A strong debut album and a simple name change — Edward James Mahoney became one Eddie Money — and the rest was history.

Money was an instant hit in his new career: his first two singles — “Baby Hold On” and “Two Tickets to Paradise” — wasted no time in becoming rock radio classics, and as MTV’s auspicious arrival ushered in the video revolution at the turn of the decade, Money was among the first of his peer group to truly grasp and respect the power of this strange new medium; despite an inexplicable slow stretch at radio throughout the first half of the ’80s, Money’s clever videoclips kept his mug in the spotlight (particularly in those early years when MTV — starved for viable content — was airing anybody’s videos) and left him ripe for a sizzling comeback.


Said comeback arrived in 1986, via a raucous, blistering smash called “Take Me Home Tonight” which revived not only Money’s career, but that of legendary ’60s chanteuse Ronnie Spector, the haunting chorus of whose indelible touchstone “Be My Baby” Money himself drafted her to recreate for his single.  The incendiary chemistry between the two resulted in a brilliant, unforgettable triumph (one that still gets heavy airplay some two decades hence) that put Money back in the drivers’ seat.


In the wake of “Home,” his surprise resurgence — made even more refreshingly stunning by the fact that almost all of the hitmakers with whom he shared his sonic sensibilities (men like Bob Seger and Leo Sayer, and bands like Toto, Survivor, and Foreigner) had fallen largely out of favor at radio, having been supplanted by a new wave of pop-driven British bands like Duran Duran, Tears for Fears, and the Pet Shop Boys, each of whom lifted wholesale that signature American anthemic rock sound, repackaged it with smooth synthesizers in place of jangling guitar riffs, and sold it right back to us — led to a solid string of hits which extended well into the ’90s.


Every last one of those hits can now be found on a magnificent compilation — appropriately titled The Very Best of Eddie Money — that appears under Sony Legacy’s sterling new Playlist umbrella.  (Other recipients during phase one of Playlist‘s rollout include such disparate artists as Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton, John Denver, Kiss, Johnny Cash, Hall and Oates, and the divine Mary Chapin Carpenter, whose own disc in this series is such an extraordinary overview of her blessed career — it even includes “Only a Dream,” her harrowing, heartbreaking early-’90s masterpiece — that it almost surpasses 2004’s Essential hits collection.)  While I was doing my music shopping last week, I stumbled upon this disc at Best Buy and quite nearly fainted from the ensuing rush of adrenaline:  the Time-Life Rock Ballads infomercial about which I waxed eloquent a couple of weeks back had already reawakened my infinite devotion for Money — surely his generation’s most undervalued performer — and even though there already exist multiple Money best-ofs (as the peacock-proud owner of three of ’em — 1989’s Greatest Hits: Sound of Money, 2001’s The Best of Eddie Money, and 2004’s The Essential Eddie Money — believe that I know wherefrom I speak), I instantly knew there was no way I would be leaving the store without this disc in my possession.  (You can just intuit these things sometimes, although, to be absolutely fair, Playlist does contain a handful of out-of-print rarities — the single mix of “Paradise,” for instance, and an unplugged version of his shamefully ignored 1992 would-be hit “Fall in Love Again” which appeared on a little-heard acoustic EP — which brilliantly assist in fleshing out Money’s oeuvre.)


Sherry Ann lives to mock me for my ferocious allegiance to the Money man — I say she’s just jealous that nothing (and I do mean nothing) in her idol Jason Mraz’s discography is this much fun to sing on karaoke night — but I’m totally fine with that.  (Being right often means standing alone, besides.)  But, even though he has likely picked up at least a chorus or two through osmosis — “Walk On Water” stays in eternally heavy rotation on my iPod, after all — A has yet to be formally introduced to this man and to his incredible body of work.  And that, folks, simply ain’t gettin’ it:


1.  “Baby Hold On” (from Eddie Money) — Eddie Money - The Best of Eddie Money - Baby Hold On — all it took to create a star back then was a simple chorus — the final word of whose four lines managed to rhyme with breathtaking precision — and a played-straight lead performance.  After hour upon hour of The Bee Gees, Donna Summer, and KC & the Sunshine Band, this must have seemed like a fucking oasis to that era’s radio listeners.

2.  “Take Me Home Tonight” (from Can’t Hold Back) — Eddie Money - The Best of Eddie Money - Take Me Home Tonight — you probably can’t fathom how many record executives tried to talk Money down from the ledge when he announced he wanted to sing a (quasi-)duet with Ronnie Spector, who had fallen off the planet more than twenty years prior.  (“Why can’t you try to get Belinda Carlisle?” must have been the climax of more than one frustrating conference call, don’t you reckon?)  But he managed to bag the last laugh and a career-saving classic out of the deal; so clearly influenced by Ronnie’s apeshit crazy ex-husband Phil and his soul-drenched “wall of sound” approach to making records, “Home” builds to a frenzied, orgasmic peak the likes of which we may never see ’round these parts again.  A dazzling melange of fire and ice, Money and Spector made one of the most fascinating musical couplings the ’80s ever witnessed; when Money roars “I hate to sleep alone!” in the pressure-packed second verse, he sells it with such thorough conviction, you can practically taste his lust-fueled desperation.

3.  “I Wanna Go Back” (from Can’t Hold Back) — Eddie Money - The Best of Eddie Money - I Wanna Go Back — one thing you gotta love about Money:  in his world, the sax player is at least as vital to the success of a record as the drummer.

4.  “Walk On Water” (from The Essential Eddie Money) — Eddie Money - The Best of Eddie Money - Walk On Water — in an achingly close race with number six below, this — a searing vocal crossed with flawless percussion — is my favorite-ever Money track.

5.  “Peace in Our Time” (from Greatest Hits: Sound of Money) — Eddie Money - The Best of Eddie Money - Peace In Our Time — a radical reinvention of a Jennifer Holliday track (she originally recorded this for One Moment in Time, the 1988 Summer Olympics compilation), this would be Money’s final brush with the top ten.  Talk about exiting in high style.

6.  “I’ll Get By” (from Right Here) — Eddie Money - The Essential Eddie Money - I'll Get By — not exactly known for his love songs theretofore, Money changed course in the spring of ’92 and emerged holding all aces.  Radio had already moved on by that point — guys like Kiedis, Cobain and Vedder had just been thrust into flannel-swathed vogue, see — but no matter:  no performer with a penis offered up this gripping a gut-punch that entire year.

7.  “Don’t Say No Tonight” (from Ready Eddie) — Eddie Money - Ready Eddie - Don't Say No Tonight — from an ill-fated 1999 comeback project (essentially, I bought it, and nobody else followed suit), a tightly-constructed tune that would have sounded right at home on top 40 radio during Money’s mid-’80s heyday.  (If you believe a more poignant, more wrenching statement can be made on contemporary radio’s horrifying decline in quality, by all means, take your best shot.)



3 responses to “shakin’ with the money man”

  1. the buzz from A.:

    If the collection of Buzz playlists constituted a music curriculum of sorts, this one would be part of a course entitled “Introduction to 80s Music,” or, more likely, something more rousing, perhaps à la “Rock, Sex, and Rebellion.” Following the Buzz’s posts over the last few months, I feel that I am fully immersed in such a course, my first one since “Introduction to Music Theory” (which was, unjustly, nicknamed “Clapping for Credit”). While for most people, a course in 80s music would be akin to “Rocks for Jocks,” or “Mummies for Dummies,” I am finding it to be rather challenging (evidenced, e.g., by the George Michael saga).

    In any case, my education in 80s music seems to be paying off as I recognized almost every band mentioned in the playlist, though I must ask, who is Toto, other than a little black dog from Kansas? Eddie Money, however, was completely new to me, despite supposedly hearing “Walk on Water” many times before. The fact that I couldn’t recognize that song and Buzz’s own acknowledgement that Eddie Money is “surely his generation’s most undervalued performer” were both bad omens.

    Indeed there was only one song that grabbed me instantly, its first 20 seconds outshining the remaining 3.5 minutes. That song is, of course, “I Wanna Go Back” — the saxophone intro is simply fantastic. Every other song received at least three listens, with “Peace in Our Time” beating the rest with its easy-to-sing-along-with chorus and interesting lyrics (listen carefully!). Finally, a thought about “I’ll Get By”: it’s a good song, perhaps even a very good song, but there must be better love ballads out there, probably even in the 80s.

    Ready for the next lesson!

  2. the buzz from brandon:

    Literally, there are so many fightin’ words in this response that my mind is reeling. I don’t even know where to begin attacking this, A!

  3. the buzz from A.:

    My advice: don’t break your head thinking about how to attack my response! In the end, isn’t each of us entitled to his (her) opinion anyway? (Surely this response is not as “egregious” as some of my past reactions!)