Music Interviews

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Eddie Money

interview by Joy Williams
published in Artist Magazine (U.S.)

Eddie Money

cover photo of Eddie Money

© Randee St Nicholas


“There are a lot of opportunities out there, and if you stay semi-straight and aware of the fact that you can control a lot of things, a lot of artists wouldn't have such hang-ups in their lives. When the red alert's on, we're in our helmets ready to rock.”

"Can you go on over to Eddie's rehearsal studio right away?" It was Bonnie Simmons, BGP Management, on the phone with, at last, the time to meet Eddie for the interview we'd been attempting to set up for weeks.

"Sure," I said, "I'll be there in half an hour."

When I arrived, the band was hard at work on their last rehearsal before their two-days-hence departure for the beginning of a four-month tour to promote the new album, Where's the Party?

There they all were on the stage in the rehearsal room: Randy Nichols on keyboards; early Money associate John Nelson on lead guitar, who had rejoined just in time for the No Control tour; bassist Ralph Carter; and brand new fill-in drummer, Jeff Campitelli from local Bay Area band, The Squares (Joe Satriani's band);and Eddie, hunched over in a chair playing sax into the lowered microphone.

I watched and listened for a while, and the the band took a break so that Eddie and I could talk. Perched atop equipment cases in the hallway, he seemed rather shy, with his head down, sort of an "aww, gee" feeling, but now and then glancing up, with a smile in his blue eyes.

Q: How long have you been out here in San Francisco from your native Brooklyn?

EDDIE: I came out to California in 1968 when I left the police department. I went to college and I was going to be an English teacher, but that didn't work out. I got thrown out and ended up going to Santa Rita [Jail]—that was horrible! Then I joined the Rockets and in 1974 or '75 I started Eddie Money. Then I got signed in 1976 by Bill Graham, and this is my fifth album.

Q: You've pretty much been around the world now, haven't you?

EDDIE: Yeah, basically. I cover the States a lot. We're not too big in Europe or Australia, but there are so many bands in there that are trying to make it in the States—at least I'm big in my own back yard. I don't sell too many records in Europe; I don't think they like Irish Catholic kids in London, you know. But basically, yeah, we tour around the world. We might do a world tour on this album. We didn't do a world tour on the last one, but we could've.

Q: Well, your last album was almost a comeback because you had that big layoff.

EDDIE. Yeah, I put a lot of energy and effort into No Control. It was kinda like the "You Can't Keep a Good Man Down" syndrome. It's almost like Richard Gere in An Officer and a Gentleman; he couldn't get thrown out 'cause he had nowhere else to go. I mean, that's how I was. I had to come back because that's what I did for a living. It was a very sincere and strong album because it was very much from the heart. I think Where's the Party? is a better record than that because No Control was a little down, it was a little pessimistic, but with Where's the Party?, I'm up. The band feels good, I feel really great about my career, and I wanted more of a party atmosphere.

Q: On the last album there were comments about hard times...

EDDIE: Yeah, well, even being rich and famous and a rock'n'roll star... I'm from Oakland basically, so to speak [a working-class city], and I moved out to this rich, uppity class suburbia where I live now. I've got a nice house and a pool and stuff, but I'm never home. And when I write, I feel like I'm back in Oakland because since I bought the new house, I've only been in it for about six months in the last four years. So when I come home, I usually wind up back in the old neighborhood, hanging out. It's better that way. I mean, I don't want to turn into Journey. When I'm down in L.A., I usually just rent a cheap little pad and stay close to the band. It works better that way. You've gotta communicate with the guys. You can't put yourself on a different level—like Rod Stewart. You gotta be one of the boys. When the band introduces me, they introduce me as their lead singer.

Q: So, they're not just your backup band?

EDDIE: This is the band. These are the guys. Without them, I wouldn't be here. I had a couple of guys in the band, Gary Ferguson and Steven Ferris, who were L.A. guys. All they used the Eddie Money band for was as a stepping stone. Whereas these guys here have played the clubs in Sacramento, San Jose, Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco—they're old club dogs, like myself. We get along good. We've known each other a long time. It works better that way, A band should really be friends, not just a professional entity that gets together three times a week. I mean, I know who's broken up with whom, who's broke, who's fighting with whom, who's dog shit on the rug—I know everything about these guys. We all have pretty steady girlfriends and we all protect each other on the road from the ladies. You've got to stick together. You've got to stick together like a gang—no girls allowed.

Q: No girls in the band?

EDDIE: It's not really a Pat Benatar-type of group, you know. I'd rather look at the ladies than have them on stage with me. Then again, if there's a chick that's a good singer, I'm ready for that, too.

Q: A good singer?

EDDIE: Yeah. My sister's a good singer, but she doesn't want to be a rock'n'roll star. She's got a better voice than me. I've been trying to talk her into singing for years, but she's not into it. Everybody in my family, except me, lives in Long Island. My brother's a car dealer, and of course, my mother; my three sisters live very close to my mother, who's like a queen bee. I escaped and I just go back there to write checks.

Q: Sounds like a traditional Irish family.

EDDIE: Oh, very much so. I was always the lead singer because I never had any money for equipment. My parents were pretty much anti-rock'n'roll.

Q: Well, then, how did you become the black sheep and escape?

EDDIE I used to be the good kid until I started growing my hair long. I was always working in high school. Instead of shoveling snow or working in a grocery store, I was always singing in a band; always dating the cheerleaders without being on the football team. So I always took the easy way out. My father was a cop and I was into Jimi Hendrix and the Grateful Dead. And everybody was getting stoned, and I just turned into a horror show back there. So, I had to come out here. Call collect so I can't get strangled.

Q: Have they forgiven you yet?

Eddie Money c Randy Bachman/Artist Publications

photo © Randy Bachman/Artist Publications

EDDIE: When my father saw me work at the Bottom Line and he saw me sweat... he's very much into the work ethic, and if your son sweats, he's working. So, he's accepted the fact that it's not all fun and games now, that it's hard work. Now that he looks at me as working, I guess it's cool.

Q: When you're on tour for weeks or months at a time...

EDDIE: Years. I've been on the road for seven years but it's what I want to do. It's like being in the service, in a way. It's a lot more glamorous than being in the service, but you are gone a lot. You have to accept the fact that it's hard to raise a dog or get your house redecorated or get married because you just really don't have the time.

Q: It's what you want to do, but...

EDDIE: Well, you want to be the best at what you do. I love The Police, I like Duran Duran and a lot of other bands but to me it's all competition. I say, 'Buy American records.' I've got a good band, play good rock'n'roll that's close to the street, and I'm looking for the #1 spot. And that's really most of the fun about it. It's like playing in Little League and getting your team in the playoffs. It's exciting, the race for the top. You never get it, but if you never get it, you can always look for it—you have something. I think it would scare the hell out of me if I finally become #1 because then I wouldn't have anything to look forward to.

Q: We have a mutual aquaintance, Kevin Burns...

EDDIE: I know Kevin really well. I stole his drummer from The Squares. He's gonna kill me. Jeff's a good drummer, he's from a 3-piece, so he's got a lot of energy and he knows how to play the traps. I need somebody who can overplay and then I can control it.

Q: Jeff's only come in on this very recently.

EDDIE: Yeah, we had him play his first gig in Anchorage. It scared the shit out of him. He wasn't quite ready but it was only Anchorage. He did a pretty good job.

Q: What's it like playing in Alaska?

EDDIE: Oh, Anchorage is kinda like Fresno with snow. But the kids have a good time. Everybody's got a lot of money up there. It was a nice place to party.

Q: Where's your favorite place?

EDDIE: I like the Bay Area. I like playing Sacramento, Oakland, San Jose, San Francisco. L.A.'s fun, New Orleans is fun, Cleveland's fun, Texas is fun, Chicago is fun, Boston's fun.

Q: Where's bad?

EDDIE: There are some bad towns out there. I'm not crazy about Minnesota; I'm not crazy about Portland, Oregon. Nobody likes you in Washington or Oregon because you're from California. It's just like nobody likes me in New Jersey because I'm from New York. You gotta put up with these little cliques. Jersey's not a bad state but it's not New York.

Q: You still miss New York still?

EDDIE: I'm back in New York enough that I don't miss it. CBS is in New York and I'm back there taking care of business all the time. And I just shot my video back there, and I just sold out Lincoln Center—we're playing there this month. They like us back there in New York. Of course, they like Billy Joel more, but they like me because I last, "Oh, that s.o.b. lasts!"

Q: You do well at Marriott's...

EDDIE: The only reason I play amusement parks is because it's fun. You get people from all ages and they're basically there to have a good time, to ride the rides. And rock'n'roll and scary rides go together, and I get on all those rides for free. How could you not play?

Q: You've been in this business for a long time. now.

EDDIE: It beat working for a living. Last job I had was at J.C. Penney's. I was a receiving clerk. That was in 1970. I would have made a hell of a receiving clerk but I quit to join a band that went to Fresno and I got fired in a week.

Q: So what happened when you found yourself stranded in Fresno?

EDDIE: It's a crazy story. I met a group of girls from Detroit who'd just lost a job because they were underage. We wound up taking them home with us to Oakland to start another band, which was very chaotic. Then I bought a 1957 metal flake Oldsmobile from a guy at the same motel I was in and it had oatmeal in the transmission. I got it as far as the driveway and it never ran again. Never buy a car from a guy who just got out of Folsom Prison! I've done a lot of things, and now I'm semi-successful. I love playing live, that's what it's all about. Plus, the band is good; they come up with their own ideas. They don't really need me to be good, which is great. I'd rather have a band that doesn't need me to be good than one that does.

Q: I noticed that going on in rehearsal, with everybody making suggestions and trying different things. Ralph is really into the new rhythm machine and the songs he's programmed it for so far sound really great.

EDDIE: They could do their own show if they wanted to. 'Course, I don't think they're ready to fire me yet.

Q: What if you weren't doing this? What if you didn't have a voice?

EDDIE I'd probably work in a store where there was music. I have to be around music all the time because I like to listen to the stuff. It's a bad habit I picked up when I was a kid. If I had to work a regular job, I'd have to work around music—but I don't know what I'd do. Maybe I'd marry a rich girl and lay around in bed all day.

Q: You could do that now.

EDDIE: No, I'm too busy. So, you want to hear about the new record?

Q: Sure.

EDDIE: "Big Crash" is the single I put out. I don't know how far it's gonna go but it's the most artistic tune on the album. I could've put out "Club Michelle" or "Where's the Party?" which is actually more commercial but I wanted the first single to be something with a message in it. "Big Crash" is a little bit like a version of "No Control." And when I did the video in New York I even consented to be a cop again, which I never was. Everybody thinks I was like a Starsky and Hutch for the police department but all I did was type phone calls. I never fired a .38 in my life. So being a cop in "Big Crash" was fun; it was like playing a role, which is what's great about rock'n'roll. You can create a character and play it. I think "Big Crash" is a good video because it's like a 3-1/2 minute movie. It's like watching a 3-1/2 hour picture condensed into 3-1/2 minutes.

[Someone from the infamous Eddie Money Graveyard wanders through...]

I never fire anybody, sometimes it just doesn't work. Working for Bill Graham is not the easiest job in the world. It's very demanding. You've got a keep up with the boss, you know. Bill Graham can fly from New York to Sacramento and the next day hit a show in Florida. If he can do that, he expects Eddie Money or Santana to do that. You've gotta be strong, stay on your toes. There are a lot of opportunities out there, and if you stay semi-straight and aware of the fact that you can control a lot of things, a lot of artists wouldn't have such hang-ups in their lives. When the red alert's on, we're in our helmets ready to rock.

Q: You went through some bad times along the way, though.

EDDIE: Oh, yeah. Completely overworked, drink, battle fatigue. I went out and bought a case and got real drunk and snorted some fentanyl, which is like a heroin substitute, which I thought was coke [cocaine]—which I don't advocate anymore. Almost killed myself. Made No Control. And this album cost me $450,000 to make. I don't make cheap albums, like Billy Idol. I put a lot of time and energy into making all the songs good. You buy a lot of new wave albums and one or two cuts are good and the rest is garbage. You should put ten great songs on a record and not have any fillers. There was a lot of heartache and frustration on this album, but there was also a lot of fun. It was a challenge, probably the biggest challenge of my life.

Q: Well, you had to do something after the last album, which had a lot of emotional impact behind it.

EDDIE: I had to top No Control. But I think this album is better. It's more mainstream, it's more like a dance-dance-dance album, and I'm into dance tunes.

Q: You have an extended dance mix?

EDDIE: We have an extended dance mix for the show, actually. It's for people who don't wear dungarees to clubs. Just because a guy dresses up and doesn't wear boots, doesn't mean he doesn't like rock'n'roll.

Q: That's true, but what you see is rock'n'roll all split up into little fragments with everyone dressing and talking differently and sneering at everyone else's taste in music.

EDDIE: I don't pay any attention to that. Let's go for it!


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