Gravelly voiced singer Eddie Money was a bit of a late bloomer. He started performing in the late '60s but didn't sign a record deal until 1977. His self-titled debut became a huge hit and yielded singles like "Two Tickets to Paradise" and "Baby Hold On." Money continued to deliver hits throughout the '80s until struggles with addiction nearly derailed his career. Just over ten years ago, he joined a 12-step program, embraced sobriety and commenced regularly touring and recording again. His new single, "One More Soldier Coming Home," benefits the Fallen Heroes Fund. Money recently spoke via phone from his L.A. home about his extensive career and offered his take on why he won't ever be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
You originally thought you'd follow in your father's footsteps and become a police officer. Was there one particular moment when you realized that wasn't to be?
The guys in my rock band decided go out to California and I was their lead singer and they wanted me to come out to California. I wrote a letter telling them about everything I was doing and all the weed I was smoking. My lieutenant read it through the carbon paper and next thing I knew, I was in all kinds of hot water. I picked up my Bob Dylan records and moved to California. I think I should have gone into the Marines or Navy because I could have gotten my four years in and got it over with. I thought about having to wear the uniform for the next 20 years and I couldn't do it. And I thought about my father and what a grump he was. Like the Beatles put it, "So I quit the police department and got myself a steady job."
After you moved to Berkley in the '60s, did you identify with all the hippies who lived there at that time?
Are you kidding me? They used to call me "the Berkley fox." I had hair down to my ass and I used to wear big boots and the leather vest and I had the leather wristbands. That was after the People's Park's riots. I went to UC-Berkley and I was in [Students for a Democratic Society]. I was good friends with [activist] Abbie Hoffman. I knew [activist] Jerry Rubin. I knew [activist and educator] Angela Davis. I was a yippie. I was there for all that. I was out of my mind.
How did you and promoter Bill Graham first meet?
I used to go to all his shows. I saw Led Zeppelin live. I was everyone that just amazing at the [San Francisco's] Carousel Ballroom back in 1968 and '69. I used to go to the Carousel Ballroom, which was Winterland West. I would be so loaded, I'd get out of the car at the toll booth and everyone would have to yell at me to get back in the car because we weren't home yet but I didn't realize it. I was actually signed by Clive Davis and [CBS Records'] Walter Yetnikoff back in 1976. I was on Saturday Night Live and then became friends with John Belushi and I turned him onto that [L.A.] bungalow the Chateau Marmont. I used to hang out with him and shit like that.
Can't Hold Back was a comeback album of sorts. What was the key to making it a success?
That was a good record. It had a lot of great songs on it. "I Can't Hold Back" is a great song. The single was "Take Me Home Tonight." You had to have a fuckin' single. You needed a "Walk on Water" or a "Take Me Home Tonight" or a "Baby Hold On" or "I Wanna Go Back." You needed something to break radio and that's the formula I always had. When I made a record, I wanted people to hear these great songs like "Don't Worry" and "I Put My Life in Your Hands." But I knew I needed a hit single. And then when I put out my greatest hits album, everyone started buying the old albums. A lot of my records are out of print now. It really sucks.
Can you get them back into print?
I don't know. I have a lot on my plate right now. I'm trying to put together a Broadway show called The Eddie Money Story. I wrote a bunch of great songs and I know the guys behind Jersey Boys. I'm trying to help my kids out with their career. Then, I have to go through my wife because she manages the kids. What a nightmare that is. I produce myself and I'm producing my kids. I'm staying busy and staying sober. Everyone is happy but me. They should say, "Live from Betty Ford. It's the Eddie Money show."
You always featured an attractive woman in your music videos. Which video had the most attractive woman in it?
Look at "Heaven in the Backseat." My wife Laurie is in it and she looks pretty hot. My ex-wife is in "Wanna Go Back" and she's in [Robert Palmer's] "Addicted to Love," where she plays a vampire, but you won't see those videos around my house. But life is good. My voice is holding up and I'm not fat as a house. I just dyed my hair. I started looking at the Pink Floyd special and Roger Waters and the other guy David Gilmour. You don't wanna look that old. Your fans don't want to see you with gray hair.
You went through some tough times in the '90s. What got you back on track?
I couldn't walk for nine months. I killed a sciatic nerve in my leg. I was drinking a lot of vodka and I thought I was snorting blow when I did this Benetol and it knocked me out and blew out my kidneys and and it put me in a catatonic state for 9 hours. Next thing I knew, I woke up in the hospital. I was like, "What the fuck is going on here?" I used to use a walker to get to the music room where I wrote the No Control album, which was a great album. A lot of the songs on that record are all about addiction. When I was a hippie in the '60s, no one thought about sticking a needle in their arm or doing heroin or cocaine. It was more about eating mushrooms and taking acid and smoking a bunch of really shitty pot, but that was about it.
What's your best memory of playing in Cleveland?
Oh man, I've done so many great shows. The Agora Ballroom was amazing. I went back and did some shows for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and said to myself, "They're never going to let me in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame because I would get drunk and have a hangover and see a shitty review in the paper and lose it." The fans always loved me. but I fucked a lot of critics around because I was coming down. There's nothing worse than an Irish drunk with a hangover, especially if he was snorting South American countries the night before he woke up. I never hit it off with the critics and I had fights with the Rolling Stones. But I've gotten a few nice shout outs from them in the past few months. Maybe they're just being nice to me because I'm getting old.