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Eddie Money looks back on his music, Cleveland connection

Eddie Money to reconnect with Cleveland on March 28th
Eddie Money

There’s reverence in Eddie Money’s thick, New Yawk-accented voice when he talks about his music. Songs like “Baby, Hold On,” “Think I’m In Love,” and “Two Tickets To Paradise” are more than just meal tickets for the swaggering, sax-toting rocker—they’re like his children. Money created them, nurtured them, and set them loose upon the world.

Now they’re all grown up.

Born the son of a tough-as-nails Irish cop in Brooklyn, the man formerly known as Edward Mahoney eschewed a career in law enforcement for a life on the West Coast Club circuit. There, he won the attention of Columbia Records guru Bill Graham, who signed Money to the prestigious label (on his own Wolfgang imprint) in the late ‘70s. An eponymous debut yielded the now-classic “Baby, Hold On” and “Two Tickets,” along with an uber-cool Smokey Robinson cover.

The hit parade continued into the ‘80s. Life for the Taking and Playing for Keeps sustained listeners’ interest even as punk and New Wave thrived, extinguishing disco’s halcyon sparkle. Money’s good looks and badass image made him a sure bet for the then-fledgling MTV, whose programmers put the No Control smashes “Shakin’” and “Think I’m in Love” into heavy rotation in 1982-83. Money also availed himself a tireless self-promoter, touring relentlessly and doing press with any newspaper or radio outlet that’d have him. His frequent visits to the North Coast made him cause célèbre at the Cleveland Agora, where his photo still hangs today (alongside Bruce Springsteen and Todd Rundgren).

Although substance abuse sidetracked Eddie in the late ‘80s, the Moneyman was able to rally the troops for the platinum-selling Can’t Hold Back. Spawning the #1 single “Take Me Home Tonight” and the pop ballads “I Wanna Go Back” and “Endless Nights,” the album provided a welcome mid-career boost and restored the singer’s shaken (pun intended) confidence through 1988’s Nothing to Lose and 1989’s Greatest Hits: The Sound of Money—both of which saw additional chart entries with “Walk on Water” and “Peace in Our Time.”

The hits dried up in the late ‘90s and ‘00s; times had changed and tastes shifted. But Money made good use of his schedule, completing rehab and turning his attention to his wife (and fatherhood). Regaining his health, Eddie starting booking new dates in earnest—and hasn’t let up since.

Money’s still one of Cleveland’s favorite (if adopted) sons. The feeling’s entirely mutual: The singer counts Browns town on his shortlist of preferred destinations, and he still boasts a long list of friends and business associates beneath Tower City’s century-old shadow. If Eddie could walk on water to prove his love for fans is as sincere as the devotion they’ve shown him over the years, his sneakers would be soaked.

Everyone will be high and dry when Money returns to House of Blues on March 28th with his suitcase of memorable hits. We caught up with Mr. Shakin’ himself last week by phone, chatting at length about Eddie’s past, present, and future.

CLEVELAND MUSIC EXAMINER: Hey, Eddie, thanks for talking with us. We’re looking forward to your show here in Cleveland in late March.

EDDIE MONEY: We’re ready to rock. Got a lot of great fans in Cleveland. You know that!

EXAMINER: Have you been busy? Any shows this weekend?

EDDIE MONEY: Well, no actually. My kid’s career is taking over. A got a kid—Desmond Money—who is into music now, and he’s got a big showcase in San Diego this weekend. And I’m always staying busy, too. If you look at my website, we keep active. We got a lot of hits the people love hearing, so we get out there and just keep rocking and rolling!

EXAMINER: I’ll have to look Desmond up. I know your daughter, Jessica, is a singer, too. She joined you last time at House of Blues, I think.

EDDIE MONEY: Jess is a singer, too, but Desmond’s career’s taking off. He’s got a lot of great songs, and I wish him the best of success.

EXAMINER: So what’s new in Money Land? I think your last LP was Wanna Go Back in 2009 or so.

EDDIE MONEY: Well, we got a new song called “One More Soldier Coming Home,” and a lot of the proceeds are going to…which is a non-profit organization for these kids coming back from Afghanistan. Now they just built a new facility in Maryland. So we’re out there trying to promote “One More Soldier.” What else is going on? I’m trying to get my play back. I’ve got this Broadway show that’s been going on for three years, and there was a lot of interest in that. You know, just keeping sober and keeping the weight down. Having a good time, you know?

EXAMINER: How’s Glenn [Symmonds], your drummer? I read about his condition, the tumor surgery, and how everyone rallied around the cause.

EDDIE MONEY: Yeah, and thank you so much for asking. I appreciate that. He’s doing a lot better. He’s cancer-free, which is great. Glenn’s a lot of fun. He’s been playing with me on and off since like, 1973, so it’s always good to have him back. We were worried about him, but he’s doing good.

EXAMINER: You started on Columbia Records back in the late ‘70s--

EDDIE MONEY: We were with Columbia for a long time, yeah.

EXAMINER: --with your self-titled album. “Baby, Hold On” and “Two Tickets to Paradise” were songs I heard on the radio. I was too young to go out and buy up the songs I liked. But by the time the albums No Control and Life for the Taking were released, I had a paper route and could hunt down all my favorites on cassette—with you being among them. “Shakin’” and “Think I’m in Love” were huge; I have vivid sense memories of my grade school friends and I singing those tunes. Even if we just recited that spoken bit from “Shakin’.” The “I got real nervous, she took her coat off” bit. Good times! They called your ’86 album—Can’t Hold Back—a “comeback,” but only a couple years had passed since the last record.

EDDIE MONEY: [Laughs] Well, thank you Peter. No, we haven’t really gone away. We had like twelve songs in the Top 100: “Baby, Hold On,” “Two Tickets to Paradise,” “Think I’m In Love,” “Peace in Our Time,” “I Wanna Go Back,” “Shakin’.” When I think about it, I’ve been blessed with a lot of great songs. That’s why touring is always great, because people wanna come out and hear you. People like me and Rod Stewart, we’ve always got that ace in our back pocket, you know?

EXAMINER: I specifically wanted to ask about “Take Me Home Tonight.” It’s about as close to a perfect pop song as you can get, from that opening arpeggio and Geisha girl keyboards to the monster chorus and killer sax solo. How’d you manage to get Ronnie Spector herself to remake her “Be My Baby” part for the song?

EDDIE MONEY: Ronnie did that original “Be My Baby” when I was just a kid. Back when she was married to Phil Spector. And I got her phone number and called her—she’d been out of the business a while—and I heard all this clinking and clanking, and I’m like, “What are you doing?” She said, “I’m doing the dishes!” So I told her that this new song is a real tribute to you, we want to work in your original chorus. And actually, Pete, I think the song was a hit because it’s got those two big choruses in it—“Take me home tonight” and “Be my little baby.” She came out and sang on it, and we did a great video for it. We still keep in touch with each other. She’s a great lady.

EXAMINER: Casual listeners might not know just how good a sax player you are. How did you start playing sax?

EDDIE MONEY: You know, I picked up the sax in junior college because I thought it was like an extension of a voice. You can hit notes on the sax that you can never hit with your voice. I had that sax around my neck, and I was driving my wife crazy with it for the longest time. It’s great to play. One thing that’s great about the sax is that you can always get better with the horn and improve upon what you did.

EXAMINER: Tell me about the “water” songs. Where did “Give Me Some Water” come from, and how’d “Walk on Water”—which came later—come about? I’ve always thought of them as sister songs, if only because of the aquatic theme.

EDDIE MONEY: “Give Me Some Water” was a song I wrote for a band called Rage. They were a band back in the early ‘80s. They broke up because the lead guitar player’s girlfriend didn’t get along with the drummer’s girlfriend, or something. Women are so good at breaking up bands, you know [laughs]? So they never got around to doing the song. So I used it myself, and it turned out to be a real favorite. So we do that one live all the time. “Walk On Water,” that came later—a couple years after Can’t Hold Back—for my first Greatest Hits collection.

EXAMINER: The TV spot you did for GEICO a couple years back was a nice surprise. I didn’t see that one coming! What was the story there?

EDDIE MONEY: Thank you, sir! I tell you the truth, my wife is like all women, where she’s Lucy McGillicutty and I’m Ricky Ricardo, and she wanted to get back on TV or something. So we hit the button on a CD player, and I was going sing “Two Tickets to Paradise,” but in the commercial there was this little old lady pushing the CD button—but my wife wanted to be in the commercial. And this little old lady was actually a pretty famous Broadway actress. She’d been in Oklahoma, Carousel, Damn Yankees. I had to fire her, and she gave me the dirtiest look, like the kind my mother used to give when I left my car in the driveway. My wife got her hair done up, got a few new outfits—but she ended up on the cutting room floor, because they did an a cappella version. It was a fun thing to do. We did that, we did The Drew Carey Show, Arsenio Hall—even the Pat Sajak Show when he was around. Leno, Ferguson, all kinds of shows. Career’s are. I guess doing the “One More Soldier” song for the troops might put me back on the radio somewhere. But I found out, Pete, that once people buy your Greatest Hits, they just put you out to pasture, you know?

EXAMINER: Yeah, you see that these days. But you didn’t really go anywhere in the ‘00s. You were constantly touring. The fans always know where to find you, and your songs are readily available on CD or the old vinyl.

EDDIE MONEY: Yeah, they do—and I appreciate that!. But I do have another record in the works right now. I’m not sure who’s gonna buy it. Maybe I’ll put ‘em up on iTunes. There’s even a great instrumental on there, kind of like ZZ Top, called “Shake That Thing.” So that’s what we’re gonna call the record. Maybe I’ll just put it out on an EP with four or five other songs somewhere down the line. And of course “One More Soldier” is going to be on that record, too, because so much of the proceeds is going for the vets, you know?

EXAMINER: You’re known for your pop-rock hits, but you’ve covered lots of styles of the years. I think it was “Running Back” that had a sort of reggae vibe. “Trinidad” also has an island feel. And you’ve got a few soulful songs, too. “Maybe I’m a Fool” is a good example.

EDDIE MONEY: Yeah, I grew up singing a lot of R&B, because I actually broke out of Oakland. I saw Buddy Guy play, and B.B. King, and Albert King, and Freddie King. Oakland’s a pretty black town, and I grew up doing a lot of R&B. A lot of James Brown, Otis Redding, Four Tops. I was in a few cover bands in high school, you know? So it’s all part of my repertoire, I’d have to say.

EXAMINER: You were an NYPD trainee before your career started taking off. Would you have stayed on the force if things hadn’t started clicking on the show biz side?

EDDIE MONEY: I was gonna be a policeman and was a police trainee. But I should have joined the Marine Corps or the Army, because I really couldn’t stand being in a uniform. My dad—my grumpy dad—and his dad were cops for like twenty years. And I was like, if I wanted to wear a uniform, I’d could’ve worn one in the Marines and been done in three! So I just wasn’t really…it was a little too systematic for me. I wasn’t really cut out to be a policeman. Like The Beatles said [in “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window”], I quit the police department and got myself a steady job, you know?

EXAMINER: You’re a Cleveland favorite. They still have your photo up at the Agora with Todd Rundgren and Pat Benatar. Any old memories of your visits here on the North Coast?

EDDIE MONEY: Oh, man. I used to hang out at Swingo’s and The Agora Ballroom. I got stuck in Cleveland in that blizzard in 1978. I was there for like, a week and a half. I remember Cleveland before they sand-blasted and washed all that bird shit off the buildings. I’m from the “old” Cleveland. Got lots friends and fans there. We used to go to the Browns games and Indians games at the old stadium. You know the phone’s gonna be ringing off the hook whenever we play Cleveland, because I’ve got a guest list bigger than the Rolling Stones when it comes to playing there!

EXAMINER: Well, Mr. Money, thanks again for your time. We’ll catch you March 28th back at House of Blues Cleveland.

EDDIE MONEY: Peter, thanks so much for the great interview and doing your homework! It’s a fun show. It really is. Just tell everybody Eddie Money’s got two tickets, but he’s taking everybody. C’mon down and do some shakin’ with the Money Man!

EXAMINER: Will do. And thanks for keeping us company throughout the years, so to speak, with your music.

EDDIE MONEY: Peter, thanks so much for the great interview and doing your homework! It’s a fun show. It really is. Just tell everybody Eddie Money’s got two tickets, but he’s taking everybody. C’mon down and do some shakin’ with the Money Man!

EXAMINER: The House of Blues gig is on a weekend, so yeah, it’ll be shakin’ for sure. Thanks, Eddie.

EDDIE MONEY: Lots of luck out there, Pete. Button up that overcoat, big guy!

Eddie Money at House of Blues Cleveland. Friday, March 28, 2014 at 8:30pm. Tickets $27 general admission / $30 / $40 reserved balcony seating.

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