Classic Tracks: Eddie Money, "Two Tickets to Paradise"

Oct 1, 2012 9:00 AM, Mix, By Blair Jackson


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Eddie Money album cover.

Eddie Money burst onto the scene at an interesting time. The new wave was in full flower, with countless bands drawing on ’50s rock ’n’ roll, the British Invasion and various strains of R&B, mixing them with punk energy. At the same time—late 1977, early ’78—commercial juggernauts such as Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles were sometimes combining bright melodies with slashing guitars more identified with hard rock. A third popular strain was the blue-collar rock of Bruce Springsteen, John Cougar Mellencamp and Bob Seger. Eddie Money drew from all those worlds.

The Brooklyn-born son of a New York City policeman, Eddie Mahoney was on the road to becoming a cop himself when his love of music and his embrace of the countercultural lifestyle prevalent in the late ’60s, led him to leave the East Coast and relocate in Berkeley in 1968. It wasn’t long before he’d become “Eddie Money” and was fronting a succession of groups who plied their trade at long-gone nightclubs such as the Longbranch Saloon and the Keystone Berkeley. Eddie was a natural—confident and charismatic, with a classic, slightly raspy voice perfect for rock and soul tunes, but which he could also smooth out to sound vulnerable for ballads. He grew up digging the Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Motown, Otis Redding, James Brown and the blue-eyed soul of the Young Rascals, and he brought traces of each of them to the stage as he developed his sound.

He was “discovered,” if that’s the word, at one of Bill Graham’s Tuesday night Sounds of the City local band showcase concerts at Winterland in San Francisco in the fall of 1976. He signed with Graham’s newly formed management company, Wolfgang Productions, which also handled Santana, then signed a deal with Columbia Records, and in the summer of 1977 was shipped down to Los Angeles’ Record Plant to cut his first album.

“I waited a year—we had a lot of trouble with it,” Eddie told BAM magazine in the fall of ’77. “Bill Graham said it was like the Hundred Years War getting a record out of me, but I wasn’t ready to go with whoever they felt like putting me with. I think it was just fate from God that I got [producer] Bruce Botnick.”

Or the intervention of Columbia’s A&R department working in conjunction with Wolfgang Management’s Mick Brigden. Botnick already had amassed stellar credentials during many years working at Sunset Sound and other L.A. studios—he was an engineer on the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, all The Doors’ albums (he also produced L.A. Woman), and acts as varied as Dave Mason, Weather Report, John Sebastian and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. In 1977, he was working as a staff engineer for Columbia in L.A.

“Right next to my office at Columbia was Ellen Bernstein [A&R], and Eddie was her artist,” Botnick remembers. “One day she said, ‘I’ve got this great new artist—why don’t you listen to it and see if you’re interested.’ I immediately heard ‘Two Tickets to Paradise’ ‘Baby Hold On’ and ‘I Wanna Be a Rock and Roll Star,’ and I thought it was really good. I went up to San Francisco and met with him and we talked about style and the music he liked and the sounds he related to. With that in mind, I said, ‘How about Andy Johns [to engineer]? He’s been recording Led Zeppelin and he’s living in L.A. and he’s a wild and crazy guy.’”

What a score for an up-and-coming artist! Besides engineering several Led Zeppelin albums (yes, he recorded “Stairway to Heaven”), the transplanted Englishman’s incredible credit list also included Blind Faith, Free’s early records, Ten Years After’s best albums, Jethro Tull’s Stand Up and Living in the Past, Traffic’s John Barleycorn Must Die, the Stones’ Exile on Main St. and even Television’s extraordinary 1977 debut, Marquee Moon. Asked if he had any trouble deferring to Johns on engineering matters on the album, Botnick laughs and notes, ‘He’s Andy Johns! I wanted Andy to be Andy. That’s why you hire someone like that.

“The only thing I had a problem with is Andy likes to listen incredibly loud, and I had to have him constantly turn it down, which irked him—he thought I was cramping his style. He was used to blasting it. Those Hidley Record Plant monitors could handle quite a bit, but even so, I think we blew up a few.”

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