By Chris Shapiro
January 2019

There’s nothing pleasant about January in Pennsylvania.   The last thing you want is to spend any amount of time outdoors especially when you are about to go home after an eleven hour day trying to sell cars.  Yet, outdoors, with the collar of my jacket pulled up over my ears, was where I was when I heard the song.

I pulled the short straw that evening and it became my job to check the pre-owned car lot.  It’s a solitary job of pulling on ice covered door handles and searching for open windows.  I was about a third of the way done when I heard a familiar song’s chorus echo across the night air.  It came from the outdoor speakers of our neighboring car lot.  Something about the song made me stop, stand there in the freezing cold and listen.  There, blaring out into the dark hours of a winter night, was Eddie Money and his song, “Baby, Hold On” playing on the radio.

It was a moment where I realized that this song is going to be played and remembered for as long as there are means to play it.  Music is a living entity and has the ability to transcend barriers of language, race and time.  “Baby, Hold On” is proof of music’s power to endure with a life of its own.

As I drove home that night, I began thinking of Money’s music and what made it special.  What was it that breathed life into his work and made it so timeless that forty years later his debuted single is still being played?

What makes an artist great is debatable on many fronts.  There’s the song writing, arrangement and compositions, recording innovations, instrumental feats, timeliness and even the artwork on the cover are all debatable aspects.  Yet, not as often debated is the examination of an artist’s discography as a single piece of work.  To view an artist’s albums as a stream of consciousness rather than individual pieces is where true greatness lies.  This is where I pinpointed a trend that emerged in the genius of Money’s work.

In the case for Money, each of his albums were recorded with a theme which reflected the current stage of his life.  His personal world served as his influence and his albums attempted to define life as seen through his eyes.   When the albums are strung together, they end up telling a collective story.  It’s the story of a man, an artist, as he journeys over several decades of his career and personal life.  It’s a story we’re all familiar with because we all share similar stages.

Start with his debut album Eddie Money.  It’s one of the most youthful, romantic approaches to life ever recorded for an album.  It’s filled with optimism, energy and a lust to live.  This album marks the youthful and innocent Money.  Even the back jacket photo of Money with his eyes closed could be an interpretation of a youthful dreamer.

We all start off life this way.  The world is full of young people who are idealistic dreamers, as it should be.  Each generation needs time for innocence in order for the dreams to cultivate.  This period of time sets the stage for the rest of our lives.  Money captured it beautifully with his ten track album.

It starts with the idealistic “Two Tickets to Paradise” where paradise can be attained simply by running away with the one you love.  It’s ignorant of the facts or realities of the world and that’s what makes it beautiful, its simplicity.  It reminds us of how we use to be as a youth and what we believed in.  It represents the inner hope to break free of the reality surrounding our society and allows us to cling to our hope for paradise and those dreams from our long forgotten youth.

Then, there is the epitome of hope, his signature song, “Baby, Hold On.”  Imagine releasing that as your debuted song.  It is a brilliant achievement and it captures the spirit of the album.  A song that states that we are bound only by the limits we define for ourselves.  It’s the essence of dreams and breathes optimism.  We can achieve the life we envision for ourselves because the future is built by our actions.

Similar optimism is found in “Jealousy’s” where the youthful quest for peace is found.  It describes humanity as belonging together in the universe where our existence is shared.   It’s a type of peace where, as Money sings, “angry arms can embrace.”  Hope of finding the love desired in “Two Tickets to Paradise” is found again in the songs such as “Save a Little Room in Your Heart for Me,” and “So Good to Be in Love Again.”   While other songs on the album describe a youthful, carefree approach toward life such as “Don’t Worry,” “Wanna be a Rock ’N’ Roll Star” and “Gamblin’ Man” which finishes off the album.

Now, move onto Money’s second album, Life for the Taking.  Here the innocence of youthfulness shatters with the first track.  Like a rockslide, the footing for our dreamer’s world crumbles out from underneath us and we are left grasping for any solid surface to cling to.  The picture book story of life fades into a black or white reality.

On this album, Money sings of our ideals from youth clashing with the reality of the world around us.  This is a theme everyone can relate to.  There’s always a bill.  Someone has to collect and someone has to pay.  Love wasn’t as easy as just running away together.  We had two tickets but the plane for paradise was grounded.  Our dream job requires years of previous experience which is hard to come by when no one will hire you with none.  At this stage in life, the dreamers are outnumbered on the streets by the cheats, liars and thieves.  We wonder if we ever dare to dream again.

Money knows this and here he describes the struggle that the innocent dreamers come face to face with.  It’s about the challenge to retain our identity and the preservation of our ideals.  His songs, all of which contain his songwriting credit, are of both internal battles and those against the world.  This is when men and women can either shrug, thus giving up the fight and join the ranks of the cheats and liars around them, or gird themselves, shed their youthful innocence and choose to fight.

The ones who fight are Atlases of the world with their story being told in the song, “Can’t Keep a Good Man Down.”  They stand up against the forces attacking them and, regardless of the offensive mounted, defend their position.

Those who surrender become the characters of the classic rocker, “Gimme Me Some Water.”  A good man can turn bad simply by circumstances and how he chooses to react to them.  Life is cheap amongst the cheats and liars.  That’s why so many fall and join them.  Even if a man gets good with a gun, his future will be cut short by the devil’s hand.

“Nightmare” showcases the internal fight against personal demons.  The battles are unknown to the rest of the world and only exist in our minds.  Our ability to cope with them becomes evident to the world and, whether right or wrong, we are judged for our handling of them.

The album’s finale is one of Money’s best compositions, “Call on Me.”  It’s about the unity of two souls who have somehow found each other even though paradise was closed when they arrived.  Every soul needs another to bleed on and that’s what this is about.  When love fails to find its way into our lives we fill it by seeking out a companion we can endure it with.   Love may grow as a result of being together but the immediately desire is to fill the void of being alone.   After all, life’s burdens are easier when shared with another fighting a similar battle.  It’s dark, moody and artistically superb.

Once the innocence of youth is gone and the struggle to survive out on the street has been fought, the next life lesson is control.  Enter Money’s No Control album from 1982.

We’re constantly trying to control aspects of life.  Others are trying to control us as we are trying to control them.  Control over material things can either empower or weaken us depending on the degree rendered to each.  Mastery of control results in a more mature self.

Emotions seek to control such as when love takes someone by surprise.  Money sings about it in “Think I’m in Love.”  The feeling is over powering and controls his actions and decisions.  It’s not necessarily a negative thing but surrendering to any type power does have its consequences.  These consequences are described in, “Driving Me Crazy,” “It Could Happen to You” and even “Keep My Motor Runnin’.”   In these songs, others take control of us only to abandon us thus leaving us in a state of shock and despair.

A song like “Hard Life” shows a man’s determination to take control over his life.  It’s about independence.  There’s the idea of taking over the reins of personal destiny.  Decisions are owned.  The companion to “Hard Life” would be “Runnin’ Away” which describes the act of leaving the safety of a controlled environment for the life of personal choosing.

Finally, allowing someone or something to master us grants that person or thing total control over our life.  This is illustrated in “No Control” and “Passing by the Graveyard.”  In both cases, it was a thing that mastered the person to the point, as in the later, where life was taken.  These serve as reminders to keep people and things in check and not to allow any one thing to gain too much control over our life to where it interferes with our ability to live.

Trying to control life is a weary battle especially after innocence is spent and the struggle of life is deemed continual.  Sometimes we just want to leave it all behind and find the damn party.  Break out the champagne and crank up the speakers for Money’s fifth album, Where’s the Party?

Yet, there’s two vibes on this album.  Of course, songs such as the title track, “Bad Girls” and “Back on the Road” are straight forward rockers and play on the obvious vibe.

There’s also an underbelly to Where’s the Party.  It’s first described in the lyrics of “Maybe Tomorrow.” Money sings that, “Lately it seems that I run out of dreams, I know that I’ve been acting strange, now machines with no faces are taking everyone’s places, it’s no way to treat a human being.”  Where’s the party… better yet what’s left of the party?

The party’s not always what it’s cracked up to be.  It’s not all glitz and glamour.  Sometimes you get to the party only to find out the champagne they’re serving has gone flat.  You drink it anyway, after all, it is a party. But there’s a sense that something haunts you from your past and nothing can fully be enjoyed as a result of it.  This albums handles the side effects of the party.

Listen to the effects of partying and over indulgence in “The Big Crash.”  Money is trying to save a girl from her destructive ways.  She’s oblivious to the fact that her habits are taking her on a one way trip.  Money is suffering in this song as much as the girl because he sees her inflicting self-harm and he can’t break her away.

“Club Michelle” is a haunting song set to a dance tempo.  The music video tells us they are two lovers who are separated in the chaos of a night club party.  The party is a metaphor for their life styles.  They lose touch with one other and with themselves just like the girl in “The Big Crash.” Their lifestyle choices eventually drives them apart.  Money comes to realize this and goes in search to rectify the relationship only to find out that all hope is lost.

That leads us to the best track on the album and possibly the best musical composition for Money, “Backtrack.”  It’s a bitter tale of falling down the rabbit’s hole of the indulgence.    You can backtrack all you want but it will never change the fact that you’ve committed the sins.  These are the most chilling lyrics Money ever penned and they fuse flawlessly with the icy piano score.   Money describes the horror and regret of that ugly side of indulgence, “It’s in the room, I know it’s in the room, something I can’t really see, but somehow it’s calling me and calling me and calling me, and late at night you better look twice, he’ll be standing on your shoulder, telling you and me, to backtrack this old road, to look back at the things that I been told.”

Where’s the Party is an over looked Money album.   When you listen through the dance tempos and pay attention to the lyrics, these songs contain a strong warning.  The life of the party can quickly become the death of the party if boundaries are crossed and the lessons of control are not adhered to.

In 1986, Money released Can’t Hold Back.  With hits such as “Take Me Home Tonight,” “I Wanna Go Back” and “Endless Nights” the album quickly became a commercial smash giving Money some of his highest charting singles to date.

It’s a pinnacle album in the sense that Money was on top of his musical career with this release.  Being on top gives you a chance to be reflective and view both failures and achievements.  It also means that you’re the best at what you’re doing.  Not everyone makes it to the top.  We often lose people as we make the climb toward the summit.  Can’t Hold Back is a reflective album that describes the loneliness of success.

The opening track, “Take Me Home Tonight,” which is Money’s highest charting single on the Billboard Pop charts and also topped the Mainstream Rock chart, is about a man who is dealing with the challenges of such loneliness.  Money sings, “I get frightened in all the darkness, I get nightmares I hate to sleep alone.”

Money has become a “solitary man” at this point in his life as described in his song, “Stranger in a Strange Land.” He sings about not fitting in with the rest of the world or those people surrounding him.  That’s what success does.  It isolates you from the average.  You have a passion and a drive that others can’t understand thus making you unrelatable to them. “Living here on lonely street, a stranger in this town, feel it in the cold concrete, when I walk around.”

Listen to the lyrics in “Bring on the Rain” as Money further embodies this reflective spirit.  “I’ve got the chance, had confidence when I was a young man, now I didn’t cry. Those sunny days never pass you by, California and the good, good life I loved it so.”  Later in the song he sings, “The streets are empty everywhere, no one knows and no one cares, now you’re all alone.”

“I Wanna Go Back” describes his longing to return to a world void of loneliness.  He sings about a man who, “thought I would never stand alone.”  You can’t move forward in life without losing the things you are attached to.  If you want to climb to the top, you have to be willing to let go of the ground below and all that’s associated with it.  Finding success isn’t the joyride imagined in youth.  It’s a road often filled with heartbreak, loss, hard work and loneliness.  Once you start the climb, you can’t stop, otherwise all you left behind has been done so in vain.

Now, every time I’m outside my dealership and I hear the radio across the street, I’m reminded of that night I heard “Baby, Hold On.” Music makes memories live within you and that was one such moment.  It’s not because it was the first time I heard the song but because it made me realize how great of a song writer one of my favorite musicians truly is.

When you lay Money’s albums side by side, you can easily see that he masterfully takes us from the youthful dreamer, down the ugly streets of reality through battles over control and self-destructive indulgence to arrive at the top of his world.  He matures both as a man and as a musician.  Very few artists can boast a similar narrative through their albums.  He doesn’t have one great album but rather one great story which he tells.

Money is an independent artist.  Others assisted him in his creations but at the end of the day the sound you hear is one man.  Behind the voice and lyrics there’s a biography told in chapters recorded on 33 and 1/3 vinyl records.  Listen to the albums in order from start to finish and you’ll hear his story.  It’s the story of Money.

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