How the Levittown legend found success with his eponymous debut
Edward Joseph Mahoney, famously known by his stage name Eddie Money, had one of rock’s more interesting early trajectories.
Born into an Irish Catholic family and raised in the Long Island suburb of Levittown, NY, rock ‘n’ roll wasn’t his immediate calling. Ironically, he initially wanted to follow in the footsteps of other family members by pursuing a career with the New York Police Department. Not surprisingly, even after signing on as a departmental clerk and typist, he decided to quit, saying at the time he objected to the fact that the police force had rules against him having long hair.
He found his true calling after moving to Berkeley, California, hiring a vocal coach and subsequently removing a couple of letters from last his name and shortening it to “Money.” While playing out in the local clubs of San Francisco, he caught the attention of promoter and entrepreneur Bill Graham, who, in turn, used his pulling power to get him a contract with Columbia Records. It also brought him a credible backing band, one that included veteran guitarist Jimmy Lyon, renowned saxophonist Tom Scott, and the two members of the Steve Miller Band — bassist Lonnie Turner and drummer Gary Mallaber — who could anchor the rhythm.
Money’s self-titled debut for the label, released in December 1977, allowed him to make his mark, thanks in large part to a pair of super-successful singles, “Baby Hold On” and “Two Tickets to Paradise.” They were infectious enough to scale the charts while also allowing Money to cash in on his Everyman image through his sandpapery vocals and streetwise sensibility.
A cover of one of Smokey Robinson’s signature songs, “You Really Got a Hold On Me,” was also released as a single, and though it didn’t fare nearly as well, it too found a fit within Money’s gritty and gregarious style. His themes became consistent with his role as a genuine romantic, a guy who pines for his girl in hopes she’ll respond accordingly.
Other offerings — the pleading ballad “Save a Little Room in Your Heart for Me” and the celebratory stance taken through “So Good To Be In Love Again” — echoed the same sentiments, with the singer freely professing his romantic intents through his diehard devotion.
On the other hand, the unrepentant rocker “Got To Get Another Girl” ingrains desire with desperation, once Money decides he’s paid his dues and needs to move on.
Money on his own — and often in collaboration with Lyon — wrote the majority of the album’s ten tracks, although multi-instrumentalist Chris Solberg is given a co-writing credit for “Wanna Be a Rock ‘N’ Roll Star,” a basic boogie-type number that seems to sum up Money’s aspirations in autobiographical detail:
“Yeah ever since I was young I sing in my home
Those crazy songs I heard on the radio
Rock ‘n’ roll melodies drove me frantically
Soon I would be tappin’ on the table
My mother would jump and shout
She’d say what’s that noise about
Finally turn that dial back to her station
But I knew right then I’d turn that dial back again And I knew right then I would make it
‘Cause I wanna be a rocker…”
Eddie Money proved the point, imbuing Money with an iconic image as a working-class rocker who could occasionally shadow Springsteen, Seger or Mellencamp when it came to referencing his roots. It would eventually go on to become the most successful album of its namesake’s career, attaining double platinum status courtesy of sales of two million copies and a chart ascendence that reached just north of Billboard’s Top Ten. Its hit singles gave Money a reliable reputation with radio as well, ensuring his credibility in the Top 40 and a steady presence on the FM airwaves as well.
Like many other rock heroes, Money was taken unexpectedly and seemingly too soon, passing away on September 13, 2019. Happily then, Eddie Money serves to emblazon his name forever.