Thursday, September 24, 2009

An Aspiring Cop Chooses To Walk A Different Beat

When a singer or rock band achieves superstardom, it’s often a assumed that they’ve always ‘made music’ for a living, but that’s a popular misconception. Whilst it’s true that some ‘pop stars’ leave school/college and rarely stray from the road to fame (save for the odd casual job to pay the rent), others have forsaken a completely different career to pursue their rock ‘n’ roll dream. Rockin’ Rod Stewart once aspired to be a pro-footballer, but opted to kick a goal on the charts instead; Australia’s ‘Voice’ John Farnham gave up his plumber’s plunger in favour of singing about ‘Sadie’ the cleaning lady; Shaggy did his share of touring with the U.S. Marines before touring the top of the charts; Sheryl Crow left her job as a school teacher when she decided all she wanted to do was have some fun singing for a living; and singer Eddie Money realised the life of a New York City police officer wasn’t for him, choosing to march to a different beat.

Brooklyn born Edward Joseph Mahoney wanted to be a policeman when he grew up - after all his father was a New York City police officer, so you could say that young Eddie was a ‘NYPD blue blood’ - well alright then I know I’ve overstepped the limits for lame puns with that one, but what are limits for if not to be broken now and again. After leaving school, young Edward gained a place at the New York Police Academy, with a view to graduating as Officer Mahoney (not of the Steve Guttenberg variety). But Mahoney had developed a passion for rock music, and began regularly moonlighting in a rock and roll band, the Grapes of Wrath, at local New York City night clubs, singing under the moniker of Eddie Money. Soon, the singer Eddie Money realised that pursuing a career in music just made more cents, not to mention potentially earning him more dollars. Thus Officer Mahoney handed in his badge, and singer Eddie Money (with trusty saxophone in hand) shifted to California in search of a rock star’s life.

It was the mid 70s, and the West Coast music scene was thriving. Money began singing at various bars and venues around the Bay Area, and soon came to the notice of promoter Bill Graham, who signed Money to a management contract. Graham arranged for some demos to be made, and in 1977 helped secure Eddie Money a recording deal with the Columbia label. Money’s rough and ready voice was tailor made for an era when album oriented rock dominated the airwaves - his vocals echoed the same raw and raspy quality of the likes of Rod Stewart, Bob Seger, Steve Perry, and Huey Lewis, yet like those artists, Money also had a controlled, polished quality to his singing. Most of all, Money served his music up with an unmistakable passion. That passion sprang to life on his eponymous debut album, released late in ‘77. Ex-Doors’ producer Bruce Botnick helmed proceedings, and Money was supported by an impressive roster of players, including saxophonist Tom Scott, ex-Steve Miller bassist Lonnie Turner, and guitarist (and right hand man) Joe Lyon.

Money and Lyon co-wrote the album’s first single, ‘Baby Hold On’. The mid-tempo rock ballad boasted an infectious, almost hypnotic guitar riff. ‘Baby Hold On’ possessed the kind of radio friendly hook to propel it into the U.S. Hot 100 in February of ‘78. The track held on to a peak of #11 Stateside, and also introduced Australian audiences to the sound of Money (#19). The follow up single, ‘Two Tickets To Paradise’, an energizing blitz of guitar-driven rock, featured an “excellent guitar riff”, to coin a phrase later uttered by Homer Simpson. Written by Money about his then girlfriend, ‘Two Tickets To Paradise’ was catchy, blue-collar rock at its best, and was soon saturating rock airwaves across the U.S. (#22/OZ#86), eventually working its way into popular culture via use in television and films. The popularity of both singles pushed sales of the ‘Eddie Money’ album to an eventual double-platinum status (US#37/OZ#31), and the album itself received a heavy work out on DJs turntables at rock format stations (aiding in crossover top 40 success). The third single, ‘You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me’ (US#72), was an impressive rendition of the 1962 top ten hit for Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, and the album track ‘Wanna Be A Rock ‘N’ Roll Star’, a spirited blast of boogie rock, proved one of the popular ‘radio’ hits of 1978.

Money boosted his accounts further with the release of his 1979 sophomore album ‘Life For The Taking’, once more helmed by producer Bruce Botnick. As with just about every other respectable rock and roll figure at that time, Money succumbed to a degree from the tidal wave of disco/pop drowning the U.S. charts, but the album retained enough rock and roll soul to pass muster with true rock aficionados. The lead out single, ‘Maybe I’m A Fool’ (US#22/OZ#51), was a fine slice of blue-eyed soul that would have sat comfortably within the Hall & Oates songbook. The follow up, ‘Can’t Keep A Good Man Down’ (US#63), incited a liberal upping of volume levels, and reminded everyone that at heart, Eddie Money was a rock ‘n’ roller. Despite reaching a higher peak position Stateside, the album ‘Life For The Taking’ (US#17/OZ#64) didn’t match the double platinum achievement of its predecessor. Money rounded out the 70s with the single ‘Get A Move On’ (US#46), featured on the soundtrack to the futuristic satire ‘Americathon’.

Money’s first offering of the new decade, via the single ‘Running Back’, didn’t exactly see him running back to the top forty (US#78). The song had a distinct reggae-rhythm feel to it, and reminds me of something Eric Clapton might have recorded a few years previous. Maybe it was just too big a departure not to have alienated the rock radio scene, and the follow up single, ‘Let’s Be Lovers Again’ (with Valeria Carter - backup singer with James Taylor), also went largely unnoticed (US#65) late in 1980. Both tracks were lifted from Money’s third album, ‘Playing For Keeps’ (US#35), produced by Ron Nevins, and also featuring the very alluring song ‘Trinidad’ (reminds me of something Bad Company or maybe even Joe Walsh would have recorded).

Money bounced back to form during 1982, aided in no small part by his savvy engagement of the promotional video format. MTV had been up and running since the previous August, and it was apparent that the music video network had the potential to engage a whole new audience, beyond the demographics of rock radio. Eddie Money was among the first wave of artists to take full advantage of the visual medium to augment his music. The single ‘Think I’m In Love’ returned Eddie Money to the black, well to the U.S. top twenty (#16/OZ#54). It was backed by a very cinematic styled promo video, shot in black and white (b&w was all the rage in the 80s). Money engaged the medium to the maximum, embracing the narrative potential of film, and imbuing everything with tongue in cheek humour - an approach adopted by many soft-metal rockers throughout the 80s. Most importantly, the song ‘Think I’m In Love’ was a sleek slice of catchy pop-rock, tailor made for the top 40. Doubtless the return to form had Eddie Money laughing all the way to the blood bank. ‘Think I’m In Love’ was lifted from Money’s fourth studio album, ‘No Control’ (US#20). Veteran producer Tom Dowd (Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart) came on board, whilst long time guitarist Jim Lyon left the scene, following a major falling out with Money over musical direction. It was apparent from the hook laden album that Money had elected to adopt a more melodic, pop-accessible slant to his music, eager to regain some lost commercial ground. The shift was further illustrated by follow up single, the sultry, blues edged ‘Shakin’ (US#63). The song’s playfully sexy lyrics were matched by a cheeky promo video, which quickly became a staple on MTV’s regular rotation lists.

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