There was no reason to believe that Eddie Money would be, or even could be, a big star. Born Edward Mahoney as the son, grandson and brother of New York City policemen, his future seemed to be preordained. At one point, Money even began training for a career in law enforcement.
But music beckoned, and one of the more unlikely journeys toward fame began. At least for a while. After scoring a string of radio and video successes between 1978-82, Money faltered - the victim of the same stardom that he'd once coveted. But after kicking drugs, Money made an impressive late-'80s comeback, one that showcased everything he'd learned in a career that by then encompassed album-oriented rock, everyman balladry, moments of surprising introspection and a few endlessly approachable pop moments.
In keeping with that varied output, our list of Top 10 Eddie Money Songs touches on some of his biggest classic-rock hits but also a few representative deep cuts.
'Maybe I'm a Fool' From: 'Life For The Taking' (1979)
Dig past the period-piece production values (oh, the strings!) and it's easy to see why "Maybe I'm a Fool" just missed the Top 20 in early 1979: Money, with a quiet and confidential delivery of these "hey-baby" lyrics, illustrates just how much depth he's always had as a singer. Unfortunately, this overcooked take is begging for a stripped-down redo, but there's still magic in the vocal, so we've placed it here on our list of the Top 10 Eddie Money Songs.
'Wanna Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star' From: 'Eddie Money' (1977)
Here's a chugging rocker that spells out this former NYPD trainee's initial ambitions, even if Money's career occasionally took him far afield of these simple wishes. Jimmy Lyon's surging guitar solo sends his frontman into a leering whisper that then slowly builds into this eruptive plea for the kind of fame Money wouldn't ultimately achieve until he hooked up with Ronnie Spector in the late-'80s for a throwaway pop song.
'Get a Move On' From: 'Playing for Keeps' (1980)
A low-charting single from one of the final sessions with Lyon, "Get a Move On" (which actually features replacement John Nelson on guitar) finds Money dabbling with a sun-streaked brand of power pop. It made for a dollop of compulsively enjoyable sing-along fun, but also one of the few highlights on perhaps the weakest early album by a still-experimenting Money.
'I Wanna Go Back' From: 'Can't Hold Back' (1986)
Drive-by fans will remember this album for its early-'60s throwback hit "Take Me Home Tonight," but the presence of the iconic Spector ensures that it's hardly representative. A better example of Money's lifetime-in-the-making recipe for hitmaking success on Can't Hold Back (itself a perfect mix of working-stiff sentiment and AOR crunch) can be found here as Money rides a propulsive, sax-driven groove toward a hard-won realization about high school.
'Save a Little Room in Your Heart' From: 'Eddie Money' (1977)
Money's two-times platinum debut is (quite rightly) forever associated with its breakout hits "Two Tickets to Paradise" and "Baby Hold On." On this track, however, Money offered one of the first glimpses of the depth that would ultimately drive home hits like "I Wanna Go Back," and its raw, nervy presentation sends "Save a Little Room" higher up our list of the Top 10 Eddie Money Songs. This is as heartbreakingly bereft, as brutally honest, as anything he'd ever put to tape. By its end, Money has shown himself to be much more than the son of cop who simply liked to rock a little.
'Think I'm in Love' From: 'No Control' (1982)
At first, "Think I'm in Love" sounds like what it no doubt is: An early-'80s pop confection that would become this album's highest-charting single at No. 16. That is, until drummer Gary Mallaber hits this little stutter-step fill, and suddenly the rest of Money's whip-sharp band comes into focus. From Ralph Carter's coiled bass to Marty Walsh's locomotive guitar, "Think I'm in Love" is ultimately revealed to have a surprising complexity, as well.
'One Chance' From: 'Can't Hold Back' (1986)
The final ballad on our list is perhaps Money's best interpretive moment, bolstered by a lean (for its time, at least) music bed courtesy of co-producers Richie Zito and David Kershenbaum. Zito also adds this consistently dark undertow on guitar, particularly after Money quiets the band to more forcefully handle Stan Meissner's lyric. The result is an emotional centerpoint on Money's biggest '80s-era album.
'Two Tickets to Paradise' From: 'Eddie Money' (1977)
Mallaber's galloping cadence sets the stage for a relentless career- and album-opening cut, only to be upstaged by Lyon's searching rumination on the guitar. So where does Money fit into all of this? He's only himself, a regular guy who has bigger dreams than he can probably afford - and but one chance, it seems, to make them all come true. It seems everything worked out in the end: Money later cashed in with this song via a popular national commercial for Geico insurance.
'Shakin'' From: 'No Control' (1982)
Money was one of earliest '70s-era rockers to take full advantage of the icon-making power of MTV, with this collaboration with Carter - featuring a wild child portrayed by Apollonia Kotero - as the best-remembered example. From his sideways mouthing of Lyon's early cluck of a riff, to his cockeyed wonder as Kotero's character involves him in a drag race, to his unbridled salaciousness after she wins it all, Money served as a full cast of characters in his own video production.
'Baby Hold On' From: 'Eddie Money' (1977)
Money's essential worries about how he'll shape up - in the song, he's talking about a relationship; but you can easily apply it to a just-beginning career away from the family business - still give this song its sentimental power and its place atop our list of the Top 10 Eddie Money Songs. The late singer Jo Baker, of the Elvin Bishop band, does the rest. Doubling Money's vocal, save for a prototypical mid-song breakdown, she underscores this song's latent hopefulness in the face of crushing adversity. And that, in the end, may be Money's greatest gift of all: The idea that anyone can do anything, if they dream big and then stick with it.