Rock singer Eddie Money is a wild man in the midst of being tamed. The taming process is working, too--sort of.
He's trying to be good these days. No drugs, no alcohol, no excesses. But being Mr. Clean doesn't thrill one of rock's foremost hell-raisers. "It's boring," he griped. "I feel like Peter Pan."
It's very important for his career that Money be in good shape now. His first album in nearly three years, "Can't Hold Back," is a hit. His single, "Take Me Home Tonight," is in the Top 10. He's landed the prestigious opening act slot on the Cyndi Lauper tour. It's his biggest career surge since he surfaced in 1977 with his hits, "Baby Hold On" and "Two Tickets to Paradise," from his million-selling debut album, "Eddie Money."
"It's a nutty business--up and down, up and down," Money lamented. "I've been up and down so much, I feel seasick half the time."
Money is sort of a low-grade Rodney Dangerfield, constantly slinging one-liners, scoring more hits than misses. In that thick New York accent, he delivers his lines at machine-gun speed, mercilessly spraying a variety of targets. With Money, his lewd, lively, off-the-record chatter is usually more interesting than what's printable.
Money's speciality is New York street--corner humor, sprinkled with a colorful array of four-letter words. The street corners of lower-class urban areas are cluttered with guys like Money--sassy, shrewd, funny and tough-talking.
"I'm from the streets," Money boasted. "I'm one of the guys. I'm real--no jive. I don't go for this Hollywood crap. I can sample it but I don't fall into it. I don't go to Rod Stewart parties. I don't come down to L.A. (he lives in Lafayette, a small town near Berkeley) for the Grammys. I'm not into fancy cars. I drive a 1974 Mercedes that I bought from my lawyer. It's a piece of junk. I'm trying to sell it to my Iranian dentist."
He showed up at a tony restaurant that afternoon in shorts, smoking cherry-flavored cigarellos. Going to a fancy French restaurant in shorts--and getting away with it--seemed perfectly normal to him.
'What are they gonna do, throw me out?" he asked. "What am I, a bum? . . . Don't answer that! If they do throw me out, we'll just go to Burger King."
Money has spent much of the last three years recuperating from his disastrous 1983 album, "Where's the Party."
"I was so disappointed, I almost quit the business," he admitted. "I wasn't going to be Eddie Money any more. I was going back to being Eddie Mahoney (his real name)."
Assessing what went wrong with the album, Money said: "I didn't have enough time to write the songs. They weren't as good as they should have been. I was fighting with the producer, Tom Dowd, too. I wanted to finish the album with my friends and he didn't want that. I was wrecking things and having fun. He wanted to finish the album and get the hell out of there.
"We were just tired of each other. He's an old New York Irishman and I'm a crazy young Irishman from New York. We just kept clashing. I regret that we didn't finish the album together. If I had done it his way, it would have been a more successful record."
Money hired Richie Zito, best known for his work with the Motels, to co-produce the new album. Though it's a hit, Zito is probably sorry he got involved.
"I was still getting loaded and he was so mad at me all the time," Money recalled. "I thought he was going to wind up in the hospital. I thought he was going to be the first record session casualty. He deserved a combat medal for what he went through."
The coup of the album was hiring R&B legend Ronnie Spector to sing the line, "Be my little baby," on the hit single, "Take Me Home Tonight." Martha Davis, of the Motels, sang it first but Money thought it would be a great idea to get Spector, whose signature song with the Ronettes was "Be My Baby."
"But I thought she'd be too busy to do it," Money said. "I called her up and asked her, 'What are you doing?' She said: 'The dishes.' I guess she wasn't busy."
Money is in the middle of a reformation, kicking the drug-and-booze habit. He was drinking a Shirley Temple that afternoon. "I get embarrassed ordering this crap," he said, sneering at his drink, which is made without alcohol. "It's sissy stuff."
Money is paying the price for overindulgence. "I'm biting the bullet and doing what's right," he said. "I had to quit getting loaded. My tolerance for everything got incredibly high. I was wasting so much money.
"Things are changing. People I used to get loaded with are also in programs taking the cure. It's difficult, but in the long run I'll get used to it."