It’s hard to write a hit. But from the moment he had one, the critics savaged Eddie Money.
It started with “Baby Hold On.” The lyrics were not intellectual enough for the cognoscenti. But the music was undeniable, you heard it once and got it whereas so much vaunted stuff, then and now, you listen to over and over again and still don’t get.
Then came “Two Tickets To Paradise.”
Now that was a smash right out of the box. Great title, great track, great, emphatic chorus:
I’ve got two tickets to paradise
Won’t you pack your bags, we’ll leave tonight
This was 1978. When airline travel was still expensive. When you didn’t hop on a plane to go to a show or a game, you were stuck at home, dreaming, of what could possibly be, and Eddie Money was opening the top of your brain and filling you with hope, and isn’t that what we all need to get by?
But then people started commenting on his weight. Said he ate too many cheeseburgers. Sure, the cover of Money’s debut was stylized, but it fit right in with the era, which might be one reason disco killed rock and then the whole business imploded until MTV resuscitated it.
And that wiped a lot of acts out.
But not Eddie Money. He made the transition. First came “Think I’m In Love” and “Shakin.” And there’s not a soul alive who was conscious in the eighties who does not know “Shakin’,” the video was all over MTV. Even bigger was “Take Me Home Tonight,” featuring Ronnie Spector, this guy brings back an original and he’s the butt of jokes…why?
Now I bought the debut. Got a promo for two bucks the week it was released, and played it into the ground. It made me feel good.
But not as much as “Unplug It In.”
It was 1992, “Unplugged” was flourishing on the now totally dominant MTV. Not that Eddie Money was cool enough to be featured, but he released his own acoustic live album, that positively ROCKED!
You see in ’92, labels sometimes sent cassettes. At this point vinyl was almost done, in promoland anyway, and I got one of those little Philips creations and pushed it into the Alpine and immediately got into the groove, from the very first note of “Gimme Some Water,” the opening cut. This was an album track from Money’s mostly hitless second LP “Life For The Taking.” Oh, “Maybe I’m A Fool” made it to number 22 on the singles chart, but at this point no one was listening to Top Forty, AOR ruled, and you didn’t need a pop hit to go platinum, as “Life For The Taking” did.
Now the studio take of “Gimme Some Water” was a studio concoction, slick, kinda like Bon Jovi’s “Blaze Of Glory.” You were watching the movie, but in this ’92 acoustic take you were LIVING IT! You felt like you were at the gig, it was immediate, engrossing, it made me feel alive, just after my father died.
That’s a weird thing, a parent passing. My father had terminal cancer, but when he left this mortal coil I still was not prepared. Little music sounded good, but “Unplug It In” did, because it exuded the feeling of being alive, embracing the excitement of the moment, the power of rock and roll.
And track 2, “She Takes My Breath Away,” continued the energy. Originally from Money’s 1991 LP “Right Here,” featuring writers like Mutt Lange and Diane Warren in search of an impact, it did not make one. The end of this live recording amped up the power. The original was the same song, but it was studio intimate. The live version, once again, was for everybody, you know the feel of a singalong.
But the piece-de-resistance was “Trinidad.” A redo of the opening cut of Money’s third LP “Playing for Keeps,” from 1980, the live iteration has a distinct groove that gives the illusion you’re all in a small club together:
She calls my name
To come on back to hold me
Trinidad, Trinidad, Trinidad
The only person I ever knew from Trinidad was Roger Ames. Who went to college in Canada. But we’re all eager to be called back to the good times of yore, those memories call to us, they’re what we think about when we put our head on the pillow.
And I’d have it down. Push the button to flip the cassette. Know how much to hold the fast-forward and reverse buttons to hear these three songs over and over. I distinctly remember listening to them on my ride back from that April day at Mt. Waterman, skiing locally, taking time off, grieving, and now after expending energy on the hill I had the sunroof open and the music blasting and…
I was smiling.
That’s what Eddie Money’s music did, make you smile.
And then we became friends. He had an AXS show. I asked him to do a podcast. He invited me to his interview and show at the Grammy Museum. He told me what I thought was an anti-Semitic joke, about his wife shopping, and then when I cried foul it turned out he had a Jewish mother, which is something I never expected, but now it made sense, Eddie Money was haimish, you met him and you were immediately his best friend. He whispered in my ear, he’d e-mail me, like we knew each other from way back when. But maybe we did, we both grew up praying to the god of rock and roll. And Eddie was over the hump, the drugs were in the rearview mirror, and then the cancer caught up with him.
First he told me it was gone.
But then it came back.
But he was checking up on me, on my pemphigus. The subject line of his e-mail was “How you feeling?” He was the kind of guy who cared. Oh, he could self-promote, although he had a sense of humor about himself, but I genuinely felt he did care, and to tell you the truth, very few people do, especially rock stars, they tend to be narcissistic and socially awkward, they let the music do their talking.
But not Eddie.
This is what he wrote:
Could be better
Esophagus Cancer stage 4
Leaked into my liver n lymph nodes
No pain n hopeing for the best
Glad you like the new material
I’m excited about a second season of “Real Money” AXS tv show ) and releasing the new cd
Kids are good and I’m still doing shows
How is your health
Good , I hope
At the usc Cancer Treatment Center right now ….in God’s hands
Lost 40 pounds
People say I look great
Go figure. .huh Bob
I know you must know how famous your column is ….the power of the pen …. i have people excited we’re communicating
I just hope your in good health
And then, nine days later, on March 13th of this year, Eddie wrote:
Hush on my illness
Please. Feeling pretty good
Doing a pod cast with Louie Anderson
Will announce it like Alex Trubeck
Short , sensitive with a positive vibe
Although ALEX is in worse shape than me
And then he went dark.
I thought about Eddie, figured he was doing well, figured I’d hear from him if it was otherwise, but then Peter Paterno told me the curtain was falling.
And today he passed.
Which is strange, because he was so alive, he was a funny dude, a good hang.
And the music lives on.
And when I first saw the news this AM, it didn’t shock me completely, I knew he was sick. But as the day wore on and the e-mail came in, all I could hear in my mind was “Trinidad,” it kept playing in my head.
God took Eddie Money home tonight. They took him back to Trinidad. The music lives on, but 70 is too damn young.
The Big C knows no bounds. If it can get Steve Jobs, it can get you. Sometimes you beat it, sometimes you don’t. But I know if Eddie were here now, he’d tell you to spin his records and do your best to have fun, that was his goal, to inspire you to grab hold of this rock life, chuck off the straight world, stop being a policeman and cut loose.
Eddie certainly did!