Friday, September 13, 2019

One Ticket to Paradise

I pretty much gave up on 'Classic Radio' when I was eleven years old, when I found the storied WLIR on the left side of the dial, and then discovered college radio, in all of its glorious anarchy. That didn't mean that I didn't get an earful of 'Classic Rock'. One of the rock-and-roll 'journeymen' who played the sort of reliable background music for a kegger was Eddie Money, nee Mahoney, who succumbed to esophageal cancer and heart disease at the age of 70. I didn't know that he was a Brooklyn buy, but as Tengrain relates, he kicked off his rock career in the SF Bay Area.

My introduction to Eddie Money's music was Two Tickets to Paradise, a working class kid's plea to a girl that he can't afford to take on an exotic vacation:

“Well, I was going with a girl at the time. She was in college and I was in college and her mother wanted her to meet somebody that was actually making a living,” Money told Rolling Stone of the song’s inspiration in 2018. “She had been dating the mayor’s son and I didn’t have any money to take her to Bermuda or Hawaii or anything else like that. So I wanted to take her on a Greyhound bus ride to the California Redwoods. It would only cost maybe 62 dollars for the both of us. But she dumped me and it never happened, so who knows?”

Like a lot of rock stars, he had his problems with substance abuse, but he survived and recovered, and was upfront about this unfortunate phase of his life. In the mid-80s, his career had stalled, but he pulled himself out of his slump with a simple song about romantic, by which I mean erotic, yearning... in a genius move, his lyrics incorporated a reference to 60s girl group icon Ronnie Spector, who had been hounded out of the music industry by her abusive, powerful husband... and he invited her to accompany him on the song. The story of the collaboration is quite remarkable:

“I could hear clinking and clanking in the background,” he recalled. “I said, ‘Ronnie, what are you doing?’ She said, ‘I’m doing the dishes, and I gotta change the kids’ bedding. … I’m not really in the business anymore, Eddie. Phil Spector and all that, it was a nightmare.”

The resultant song, Take Me Home Tonight served its purpose, hitting number four on the Billboard top 100, thereby reviving Money's career and bringing Ronnie Spector back from exile and putting her back where she always belonged, at the top of the charts:

A simple song about wanting to bone became a transcendent comeback narrative for both artists, and led to a Ronaissance, as Ronnie headlined a Christmas concert series and collaborated with unabashed girl group fan Joey Ramone. Besides his own considerable body of work, I think we all owe a debt of gratitude to Eddie Money for coaxing Ronnie back into the studio.

He also came across as a decent guy, married to the same woman for thirty years, father to five kids. He owned up to his mistakes, overcame them and maintained a good sense of humor about his life and career, with a knack for self-deprecation:

For the record, I think my favorite song by the guy was I Think I'm in Love, the video for which showcases a goofy sense of humor, which is refreshing for a RAWK GAWD:

I think he earned that ticket to paradise.

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