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

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


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Though Eddie had a solid bar band backing him at the time, Botnick decided to record him with other players, calling up drummer Gary Mallaber and bassist Lonnie Turner from Steve Miller’s red-hot group, along with keyboard ace Alan Pasqua (“from my Tony Williams jazz fusion days,” Botnick says) and another fine bassist, Robert “Pops” Popswell of The Crusaders. In the lead guitar slot, however, Botnick stuck with Eddie’s main foil, Jimmy Lyon: “He was half of Eddie,” Botnick says, “a phenomenal guitarist and a very interesting and intelligent guy. I really think he was one of the best of that era, with great sounds and great ideas. He was very modest, very focused, and also a really good arranger.”

The repertoire for the album was the cream of the originals Eddie and his band had been playing in Bay Area clubs night after night (including a couple that dated back to his first major band, the Rockets), plus a soulful version of Smokey Robinson’s “You Really Got a Hold on Me.” Once the core band was assembled in L.A., “we went in for two or three days of rehearsal to work out the charts, and then went right into the Record Plant and recorded almost everything live,” Botnick says. “Everybody set up together in one room, with Eddie in a little iso booth we made, singing and directing the band.”

In those days the Record Plant was still in its original location at 3rd and La Cienega in L.A. and was owned by Chris Stone and Gary Kellgren. The Eddie Money sessions took place in Studio C, the biggest room in the complex, which had a 20-foot ceiling “and was great for rock ’n’ roll, with a black tile floor and brick wall,” recalls assistant engineer Mike Clink, who would go on to become a major engineer and producer himself. “We had Gary’s drums set up about three-quarters of the way out to the back end of the room. We gobo’d off the bass in the room, and Lonnie sat in a folding chair being Lonnie, pretty close to Gary.” The board in Studio C was a classic 24-input API, and the album was recorded to a 3M-79 24-track.

Both Botnick and Clink marvel at the simplicity of Andy Johns’ sonic approach, which used relatively few well-placed microphones. Botnick notes, “On the drums, I remember he took two [Neumann] U87s and placed them about ten feet behind the drums, and we used a compressor on it that really sucked it, and then you carried that on two of the tracks and mixed that into the drums, so you get the drums to have power and space to them.” Besides the 87s behind the drums, Johns also used a pair of 87s for drum overheads.

“He was a little intimidating because he was 6-foot-4 or so,” Clink says, “very English, polished but gruff at the same time; very loud. And he had these American flag clogs that he wore on that particular session, and when he would run out to the studio from the control room, he would leave his clogs off at the door and he would run and he would slide across the floor in his socks, right to the overheads, move them a couple of inches, and then run back into the control room.”

Another essential element in the Johns approach was “he used lots of limiters on the instruments,” Botnick says. “He had lots of 1176s, some Pultec EQs and, of course, what was in the API board. It was so straight-ahead it was ridiculous! There wasn’t a thing that wasn’t limited.” Clink also remembers, “We used a [British-made] Pye limiter that had been sitting on a shelf at the Record Plant for years until Andy came in and used it.”

Another memory from Clink about those album sessions: “Jimmy [Lyon] had something wrong with his hand. His hand was swollen to twice its regular size—I guess he had some kind of infection. Still, he made it through those rhythm tracks, and by the time we got to the solos, the swelling had gone down from the antibiotics or whatever.”

All of Eddie’s keeper vocals and most of Lyon’s guitar solos—including the blistering coda to “Two Tickets to Paradise”—were recorded after the live tracking dates. (Eddie sang into a Neumann U47; Lyon had a single Shure 57 on his amp, plus a compressor.) “Most of what’s on the album are full takes, with a few overdubs,” Clink says. “There was some editing on the 24-track, but not much.”

The album was mixed on the larger API console in Record Plant Studio D. There wasn’t too much post processing added; mostly reverb from EMT 140 plates and “and old [EMT 250] digital reverb that looked like R2-D2,” Botnick laughs. “Andy started the mix and got maybe 20 percent through it before he had to leave. Rod Stewart called [for Johns to work on the Blondes Have More Fun album], and there was nothing I could do to stop him. So I used some of the very good rough mixes that Andy had done and tweaked them up a bit and it came out really well.” Botnick also worked on the single version of “Two Tickets to Paradise,” editing more than a minute out of it and also adding some harmony guitars and new vocals “to give it a little more radio,” as he puts it. “In hindsight, I’m not sure I did the right thing.”

The anthemic “Two Tickets,” released in the early summer of ’78, was actually the second single from the best-selling Eddie Money album—the first, “Baby Hold On,” had made it all the way to Number 11 in the winter, while “Two Tickets” stalled at Number 22. But it’s the better song, and it quickly became his signature tune—indeed, he has even written a musical with that title based on his life story.

And though Eddie hasn’t had any big hits since “Take Me Home Tonight” and “I Wanna Go Back” in 1986, he still tours incessantly, bringing down the house at every stop. “I wouldn’t be at all surprised if someday, somehow he came up with another big hit,” Botnick says. “He’s really a Top 40 guy.”

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