1977. Jimmy Carter is the new President, Elvis Presley is found dead on the toilet, and the bicentennial decorations are put away, or more often, left to decay in yards as America moves on to the next hundred years. FM radio is the big format, actively embracing full albums and not just singles. Into this vaguely starry-eyed but rapidly disillusioning environment drops one Edward Joseph Mahoney, a Brooklyn cop’s son with a sandpapered Dion DiMucci set of pipes and a naked hunger for stardom that’d leave the American Idol crowd in the dust. Eddie Money’s eponymous debut is a superb example of “girl rock.” It’s hard enough for the boys but there’s as many drippy, dancing-by-yourself, sighing ballads as rockers (see Def Leppard and Nickelback for more modern examples). The singles – Baby Hold On, Two Tickets To Paradise and You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me – are indestructible, obvious classics, the sort of thing you know you’ll be hearing the rest of your life the very first time they come out of the speakers. But, dig a bit below and you find one of the most overtly romantic artists of the late ’70s, who also had a few tough aces up his sleeve.
Money got his big boost from Bill Graham, who caught Money at a Bay Area club, signed him to his management roster and lined up a record deal with Columbia. Looking like a scrubbed-up piece of rough trade in his ascot and suit coat, he stares out from the cover with intense, smoky eyes, his sharp cheekbones and burning cigarette giving him the feel of a party extra in a Warhol flick (which does nothing to diminish the gay hustler vibe, further reinforced by the pink lettering and teenage girl signature – there’s a goddamn hand drawn star to dot the “i” – hovering over his shoulder, and the swishy back cover shot). One gets the sense that Money, Graham and all involved knew that the guys would come around but the girls would understand right away. And they did.
My introduction to Eddie Money came through my stoner aunt who lived with my mom and me in the ’70s. From the moment she heard Two Tickets it was all over and she played the album almost nightly for months, maybe even a full year. She approached the album with a sense of ritual, rolling up a couple doobies, strapping on her King-Kong-size headphones and moving a rocking chair close to the stereo. Usually by candlelight – frequently provided by sand candles one of my stoner uncles had made – she’d slip on Side A once the rest of the household had turned in and dance with one of the most sublime smiles I’ve ever seen on a human face. Songs like So Good To Be In Love Again and Save A Little Room In Your Heart For Me played to a sensibility that all the drugs and wildness of the decade couldn’t whip out of young women raised on princess fantasies. However, the cranked up guitars and lascivious snarl elsewhere on the album revealed Prince Charming had a bad boy side that appealed to someone ushered into adulthood to the soundtrack of Led Zeppelin, The Eagles and other impresarios of hedonism. She’d sit and rock dreamily during the slow ones and she’d dance with real beauty and abandon when things picked up. More than once I sat in the shadows and watched her delight in this album, and surely some of my affinity for Money’s debut and maybe rock ‘n’ roll in general was seeing what great joy and comfort it brought her in those long ’70s nights, where no one seemed to sleep much, perhaps for fear of missing out on something, or maybe just resisting what we’d find in our dreams.
After years of shunning Eddie Money after his precipitous artistic and commercial fall in the ’80s, I rediscovered this record after my aunt passed away. It was a way back to those rockin’ chair nights where thin echoes of these songs filtered into my room hundreds of times as I drifted off. It brought me back to seeing how happy, understood and even held, in a way, this music made my aunt feel. And I also found a surprisingly sturdy, well played, well constructed bit of rock ‘n’ roll. For all the hand-holding sap on the first half, Side B is lethal, beginning with the stop-start strut of Baby Hold On into the post-Boz Scaggs, horn-dappled shuffle of Don’t Worry through the sprightly pop of Jealousys and concluding with the double whammy of Got To Get Another Girl and Gamblin’ Man. The secret weapon on Eddie Money is guitarist and co-writer of many pieces Jimmy Lyon, a smart shredder in the mold of Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielson. And Money himself can actually sing and puts punch and pathos into what could be mere throwaways. With a crew of studio pros and engineer Andy Johns, a veteran of Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones at their studio peak, Eddie Money endures as a splendid piece of meat ‘n’ taters rock that might just get you some cuddling, too, if you slip it on with the right gal.
If you don’t believe us, maybe you’ll believe this vintage commercial:
Performance from 1982: