Interview: Eddie Money


Eddie Money’s musical career launched with his 1977 debut album, bringing us the timeless hits “Baby Hold On” and “Two Tickets to Paradise”. And thanks in part to his clever videos on MTV, the next decade gave Money even more hit songs including “Think I’m in Love”, “Shakin'”, and “Take Me Home Tonight”. At 66 years young he’s still out there touring, presently with three of his children.

The following mile-a-minute interview was for a preview article for 7/15/15 concert at the Santa Barbara County Fair in Santa Maria. It was done by phone on 7/10/15.

Jeff Moehlis: Hi, Eddie! This is Jeff calling from Santa Barbara.

Eddie Money: Santa Barbara – that’s where Kenny Loggins and Jackson Browne live. The water’s cold, though. People don’t realize that the water temperature never reaches over 64, 65 degrees. I’m from the East Coast, you know, Long Island. In the summertime, the water temperature’s like 74, 78 degrees. Of course I don’t like Hawaii because the water’s too hot. But people don’t realize how cold the water is up there. But it’s gorgeous up there. We just love it up there.

JM: Thanks for taking the time to do this.

EM: Just make sure you use a good picture, for God’s sake. That’s all I ask. Don’t use one of these pictures where I’m fat and I look like Stephen Stills [both laugh]. My wife’s got me on the treadmill. I feel pretty good, though. I quit smoking cigarettes about six months ago. I’m OK. I’d like to lose ten pounds – who wouldn’t? My wife says I’m fat. I said, “Honey, I love you.” She said, “Get off me!” [both laugh]

I’m working with the kids now, which is kind of crazy. My son [Julian] was taking drum lessons for about eight or nine years. He just graduated from high school. And Desmond’sgot a record out. I never knew that he was as talented as he was. I was on the road all the time. He started working with my old bass player, and he came up with some really gorgeous songs. I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree – not to blow my own horn, but the kid is a good writer. But then if you go to his website he’s only got one song on his website. You don’t even know how good the kid is. You know, you’ve got to get these kids all organized.

Of course Jessica, my daughter, she just turned 27. She could’ve been famous five or six years ago. She loves Etta James – I introduced her to Etta James. She met Gregg Allman – she did “Midnight Rider” by Gregg Allman. She just did a show with Joan Jett about a week and a half ago. She’s been doing a lot of good songs with me. She does high harmony on a lot of the songs, and she covers the stage like a pro.

So I’m working with the kids, and I’m going out of my fucking mind if you want to know the truth, but what are you going to do? Try to get them all in the car at the same time. Who’s missing at rehearsals? With my regular band I’m dealing with adults, people who have to pay mortgages, they’ve got car payments, they’ve got wives, they’ve got kids. Now I’m dealing with my kids…

The kids are getting better and better. People really like the fact that it’s a family show. A lot of these people grew up with me. As a matter of fact, I’m running into a lot of people in their mid-50’s, older women, and standing right next to them is a 20 year old son. For the last ten or twenty years they’ve been raising their kids, not coming to an Eddie Money show. Now the kid’s 21, 22, starting college, now they’re coming to the shows. And then you run into other people who’ve got kids who are 6, 7 years old, and they know “Think I’m In Love”, because of the power of the internet and plus the parents have listened to Eddie Money on cassette players for the last 20 years of their lives. So I’ve got 6 or 7 year old kids that know my material, college kids… for some reason all of these college kids are into ’80’s rock. They like me, they like Cheap Trick, they like Bob Seger, they like REO Speedwagon, they like Styx. It’s crazy!

JM: I don’t want to make you feel old, but in a couple of years your first album will be 40 years old.

EM: It’s incredible. I’ve really had some ups and downs, my DUI, and the drug overdose. People say, “How did you OD on drugs?” I say, “I was drunk and it was free. How do you think I OD’d, for Christ’s sakes?” But, yeah, 40 years, two wives, and five kids.

You know, now I’m thinking about how am I going to get the kids in the car at 7 o’clock in the morning to get out to Turlock, and then go back two days later to Santa Maria, then on Thursday I’ve got a show in Seattle, then on Saturday I’ve got a show in Illinois. I’m just hoping to God – not that my kids are stoned on oxycontin and drinking like crazy or something like that – but, you know, they sleep til fucking noon sometimes. They’ve got a tough week ahead of them.

You know, I love working with my band. I put my band on hiatus. I didn’t fire anybody. I just said, “Let me go out with Dez.” You know, I had Bill Graham, I had Columbia Records. I had a lot of things working for me. Of course, I was a good writer and a good entertainer. The thing the kids have got is me. All the record stores have closed. Everything’s on the internet, and all the kids these days think that music is free. They don’t pay for music. Amoeba Records, the biggest record store in L.A., is thinking about closing. All the Tower Records, all the father and son records all over the country, they’re closing up like hotcakes. If you go to Columbia Records, there used to be 300 people working on each floor, at Black Rock in New York City, which is where it was. Now you’ve got about 37 people. The record business has dried up tremendously.

I did a 75 minute show for $1000 dollars a minute! Opening up for the Rolling Stones, playing with The Who, playing with Fleetwood Mac, playing with Steve Miller, REO Speedwagon. I made a lot of money back in the day. That was my day in the sun. Now the kids today, I don’t really know what’s going on. But my kid, he wants to get into rock ‘n’ roll, and I’ll do anything I can to help him out.

Same thing with Jessica. She could’ve had a hit record out years ago. She’s very talented. She gets out there and does “I’d Rather Go Blind” just as good as Etta James. She’s really a good entertainer. My job… It’s like my dad – he got me on the police department. My brother retired as a cop.

JM: One of my favorites of your songs is “Two Tickets to Paradise”. What’s the story behind that song?

EM: I used to go with a girl in college. She was in Alpha Phi, which is a sorority, at UC Berkeley. Her parents didn’t like the fact that she was dating a musician, whether I was on my way up or not, they didn’t know. I had long hair, which really wasn’t acceptable. She went home every weekend, and I just wanted to take her someplace, some sort of vacation. Eventually I think she married a lawyer. “Two Tickets to Paradise”, I just wanted to take her on a Greyhound bus ride to the Redwood Forest up there in Northern California.

It’s a state of mind – it’s anywhere you want to go. It doesn’t have to be tickets to Hawaii. You give me two tickets to your brother-in-law’s house. It’s not the state, it’s the state of mind. But let me tell you, that is a fantastic tune. We close the show with it, that and “Shakin'”. We had a lot of big hits – “Walk on Water”, “Take Me Home Tonight”, “Think I’m in Love”, “I Wanna Go Back”, the list goes on and on.

JM: You’ve probably heard that some people claim to hear the lyrics to “Two Tickets to Paradise” differently, like “Two Chickens to Paralyze”. Does that crack you up?

EM: [laughs] A gay couple told me they call it “Two Dykes and a Pair of Dice” [laughs]. Two chickens to paralyze – everybody comes up with different lyrics.

JM: You mentioned Bill Graham. What was it like working with him?

EM: The guy was just amazing. You know, he started the rock ‘n’ roll T-shirt. He was the first one to put an emblem on a T-shirt. He was a kid that walked out of Russia – a Russian Jew – and he walked to Paris with 500 kids. 250 of the kids died of starvation trying to get there. His sister Esther, who used to cook for me, was actually in Auschwitz. She still had the tattoos on her arm from the Auschwitz concentration camp. This man was just a fantastic guy. When he died it was like losing a second father. We were very, very close, and he was a great manager.

He always wanted to be lead singer, but he didn’t have a great voice. Vicariously he would want to create his own self inside of me. I was like his little wind-up doll, but I never got it right. But the guy was really an incredible dancer, the samba and all that stuff. I never had any idea what a fantastic dancer he was. I miss him. I’m still close to his kids, his son David and his son Alex. I kind of check up on them. But you would’ve liked Bill Graham – he was really a great man.

JM: Your first few albums were produced by Bruce Botnick, who had already done some incredible albums before yours. What was it like working with him?

EM: Bruce Botnick was… I wouldn’t want to use the word “nerdy”, because that would be disrespectful to him. But he was like someone you used to kick the books out of his hand in high school. When you were running track, he was in the chess club. You know what I’m saying? But he’s a great guy. He turned me on to Evian water – I never thought I’d be paying for water in my life.

And he did work with some of the craziest sons of bitches. He worked with Jim Morrison. He was a staff producer for Columbia. He did get me Lonnie Turner and Gary Mallaber, which was the rhythm section for the Steve Miller Band. Lonnie Turner just died about a year ago. Gary Mallaber is still a great friend of mine. He worked on all of the Van Morrison records. But Bruce Botnick – a really wonderful man, just a nice man. We did two records together. I think he’s still around. He’s doing a lot of work in film. He’s a smart guy. He was carrying one of those men’s purses and shit like that. Not my cup of tea. He was just kind of a tech-y guy. But I liked his wife, and he was good.

Basically, you think about who produced the Eddie Money records. I mean, I still think they’re my fucking records. He was a staff producer at Columbia Records. I worked with Tom Dowd, I worked with Keith Olsen. Andy Johns was my engineer for years. Andy Johns did the a bunch of Led Zeppelin albums. He just passed away a couple of years ago. I’ve worked with some great people. Bruce Botnick was a great guy, he really was.

JM: I grew up on MTV, and I remember loving your videos – both the music and the videos.

EM: We were one of the first ones. That was MTV when they didn’t even show commercials on MTV. It was free! Everything was free, and there were no commercials. Nina Blackwood, J.J. Jackson, you had all these really great VJs. Martha Quinn. I did two videos… “Think I’m in Love” and “Shakin'”. The “Shakin'” video, I did with Apollonia. That was before Purple Rain. The first thing she ever did was my “Shakin'” video. “Think I’m in Love”, my first wife’s in it. Anyway, we did two videos for $88,000. That’s amazing. You couldn’t even do a chorus for that kind of money today. And it was, like, me and Huey Lewis. There wasn’t a lot of people on MTV in those days, you know? Flock of Seagulls came out, Thomas Dolby. Those were the good old days.

JM: Another of your songs is “Take Me Home Tonight”, with Ronnie Spector. How did that come together?

EM: Well, you know what happened? “Take Me Home Tonight” was written by a couple of guys in England. The second chorus was “be my little baby”. In the 60’s, [“Be My Baby” by The Ronettes] was one of the biggest songs on New York City radio, ever. Ronnie and the Ronettes. I said, “This is a great song, because it actually has two choruses.” “Take me home tonight, I don’t want to let you go ’til you see the light”, and then the second chorus, “Be my little baby”. How could you not have a fucking hit song with two fantastic choruses in it?

Martha Davis, the lead singer for The Motels, she was a friend of mine because she was actually the ex-girlfriend of a guy named Dan Alexander, who was one of the lead guitar players for the John Lee Hooker band. We put a band together called The Rockets. I was going to use Martha Davis on that, but I thought we’ve got to try to get Ronnie Spector. So somehow or other I got Ronnie’s number, and I called her up, and I heard the faucet running in the kitchen and the clinking and clanking. I said, “I’m Eddie Money”, and she said, “Oh, I know who you are. You did ‘Two Tickets to Paradise'”. By the way, when Ronnie got into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, what a sweetheart, the first thing she did was thank me. Which was amazing. I said, “What are you doing?” She said, “I’m doing the dishes.” She had dropped out of the business. She had so much trouble with Phil Spector driving her absolutely out of her mind. She married a guy that was studying law school, my good friend Jonathan [Greenfield], who’s a good buddy of mine today. She was doing the dishes, and I said, “Do you want to come out and do this video?” So she came out and sang “be my little baby”. You give her a little cheap weed and a cheap bottle of red wine and that shit just comes to life. She just fucking came to life. A little B minus pot and a fucking bottle of wine and that chick started wailin’, man! She’s from fucking Brooklyn, for Christ’s sakes! I love the girl.

She grew up with Frankie Lymon, [who did] “Why Do Fools Fall in Love”. Actually, when The Beatles came to America… they did a show with Ronnie and the Ronettes in England, and then they came over to the Plaza Hotel in New York. They couldn’t go anywhere, they couldn’t do anything. And Ronnie, who was from Brooklyn, went over and snuck them out of The Plaza and took them to Brooklyn for three or four days, to let them relax and let their hair down.

JM: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

EM: You know, this sounds kind of boring, but I would say one of the bits of advice I would give to them is learn your scales. Learn your pentatonic scales, learn your chromatic scales. All this shit that I never fucking did that I’m kicking myself in the ass for. I play great saxophone when I’m playing it, but if the song was in another key I couldn’t play the damn thing, because I can only play in certain keys.

I would say learn your scales, and do not get too fucked up. Because if you go out there… I would end up with people buying me a bunch of drinks before I got famous, and then you get drunk and then you have to snort fucking cocaine to drive home. You’re not going to stop people from getting high. It’s a fact. I’m not into this oxycontin and vicodin and all this shit that these kids are stealing out of their mother’s and father’s medicine cabinets. Thank God we don’t have that in our house. I’ve been in a spiritual program for the last five years. You know, kids these days, they want to have medical marijuana cards, they’re not going to want to finish fucking college. I mean, my kids drive me out of my fucking mind. You’re so lucky that your kids are young right now. Keep them in church, and let them listen to your wife, because an educated mother is an educated family. Don’t forget that.

Now my kids, I love my kids… But, you know, they have the cellphones and the cars. I had them on a salary, but then they’d have kids coming over to the house and playing with them, and the other kids might go home with one of the guitars, and the kids’ fathers are not really good people. Next thing you know they’re running off with two guitars, worth like 15 or 20 thousand dollars, and the father moves out of state with the kid and doesn’t leave an address. There are a lot of bad people in the world. Just because the kid’s a good kid doesn’t mean his father’s not a fucking junkie that’ll rip off your computer. You know as well as I do, right? There’s some bad people out there. I lost a Hofner bass, the same year that Paul McCartney played. I lost a pre-CBS Jazz Bass that my sons being like 12 or 13 years old lent to one of their friends, then the father with a gleam in his eye… There are a lot of bad things that can happen to you. When I lose any kind of equipment, it always pisses me off.

JM: What are your plans, musical or otherwise, for the near future? Obviously you’re touring with the kids right now, but are you thinking about a new album at some point?

EM: You know, you want to stick by your greatest hits. “Take Me Home Tonight”, “Baby Hold On”, “Two Tickets to Paradise”, “Walk on Water”, “Shakin'”. Once they can buy that on one fucking record, you’re not really going to sell a new Eddie Money record.

But I’ve got a record that I’m getting ready to put out with a song called “One More Soldier Coming Home”, and a lot of the proceeds go to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, which is a non-profit, non-political organization. They have two facilities – one in San Antonio, with about 120 beds, and they just built another facility in Maryland. They’re for these veterans coming back with head trauma injuries, from Afghanistan, from Iraq. We’ve still got people dying – it’s a “police action”, but it doesn’t make any difference. And you hear about these veterans coming back from over there that are contemplating suicide. I do everything that I can for people that are serving our country. My brother was in Vietnam, my father served in World War II.

I went on the police department, but I couldn’t stay on the police department. I couldn’t see myself in a uniform working around the clock for 25 years like my old man, who was always in a fucking horrible mood because I was waking him up playing rock ‘n’ roll. If I stayed on the police department I wouldn’t have become Eddie Money. And I wanted to grow my hair long. I wanted my hair looking really good in the back. When I was in high school my old man wouldn’t let me have long hair. I looked like a surfer playing in a rock band, you know? [laughs]

But I would say kids have got to practice. It’s all about practicing. Like I really wish I was a better horn player, and a better keyboard player. But I learned what I had to learn, and I stole what I had to steal, and I did what I had to do. You do what you can.


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