Eddie Money may have erred more toward commercial and popular success during his singles career than he ever did toward critical regard, but his solid, blue-collar arena rock boasts a number of perfectly fine moments. Some have argued that Money reached his artistic peak right out of the gate, but he continued to release accessible music throughout the '80s that drew and continues to attract a significant audience. Here's a chronological look at the highest-quality Eddie Money songs of the '80s, culled relatively equally from five studio albums and a vibrant touring schedule throughout the decade.
This highly underrated tune is surprisingly effective in numerous ways, particularly as a slow-building, melodic lead-off track to 1980's Playing for Keeps. The album features three singles that enjoyed modest pop chart performances ("Running Back," "Get a Move On" and "Let's Be Lovers Again"), but none of those come close to the passion and guitar majesty that dominate this exotically named deep album cut. Longtime Money guitarist Jimmy Lyon is part of the reason for that, as his input tends to distinguish this artist's work even on lesser efforts. Still, for some reason, this song packs a punch the listener doesn't see coming, especially considering the declining fortunes of Money's previous two albums following his strong 1977 debut.
This song was another missed opportunity at a deserving hit, and its dismissal has been so severe over the years that the only version of it I could even find was a rerecording from Money's 1999 studio release, Ready Eddie. Of course, that also means a new generation of Money fans got to experience the song, but I choose to look at this in a less optimistic way. Money has always been an exceedingly expressive singer, but including this track on a list like this one helps shine the focus on the general depth of Money's songwriting talents, especially at this still-early stage of his career. After all, he had a hand in writing all but two of the nine songs included on Playing for Keeps, and the best ones didn't even get released as singles.
I'm not sure I can completely justify leaving "Shakin'" off this list (especially to ardent Money fans), but I guess I've always found myself less than impressed with that tune because "Think I'm in Love" is such a stellar rock single. In terms of melody, riffing and practically every other facet I can think of, this is Eddie Money at his finest. For that reason foremost, I'm comfortable with including on this list only a single track from Money's initial comeback album, 1982's No Control. This is one of the first and most permanent classic rock songs I encountered when I first discovered rock radio as a teen, and it's still a complete delight to hear. No world problems get solved, to be sure, but mainstream rock is rarely this good.
On the heels of No Control's encouraging success, Money quickly recorded a follow-up, 1983's Where's the Party?, with which he hoped to sustain his '80s momentum. That did not happen in a commercial or critical sense, but the record did contain some of the singer's expected anthemic qualities, all carried out with fine, earthy vocals. Unfortunately, the album's relative lack of success sounded the death knell for Money as an exclusive co-composer of his own material, as he would never again come close to matching the 100% songwriting contribution rate he enjoyed on Where's the Party?. That's too bad, because the driving rock appeal of this tune is significant, filling the Money arena rock niche as well as any of his numerous contemporaries.
For his 1986 comeback album Can't Hold Back, which also became his fourth and final studio LP to go platinum, Money recaptured some of the popularity that had been waning as the '80s wore on. Unfortunately, he did so at a considerable price, as he lent his songwriting talents to only five of the 10 tracks. In short, he had become the victim of the professional songwriting machine that had already bitten other '70s veterans like Heart, losing his unique songwriting voice in the name of commerce. Even so, this song stands proudly as an '80s rock classic, fitting nicely into Money's wheelhouse as a singer and spirited mainstream rock performer. Even the Ronettes tie-in worked, and suddenly Money had his first and highest-charting pop hit.
This song is actually a cover, something I never realized during all these years of hearing it and knowing it quite well. A very modest 1984 hit for short-lived California band Billy Satellite, "I Wanna Go Back" actually feels far better suited to the middle-age-approaching Money than the 20-something guys who actually composed it. That's probably part of why Money's version works so well, but the truth is that the languid mid-tempo comforts offered by the instantly memorable melody pluck the strings of nostalgia with great skill. In spite of some very cheesy saxophone soloing, this track manages to maintain a powerful, even visceral sense of universality regarding something that affects us all: the relentless passage of time.
The 1988 music video for this song remains memorable for those of us who watched too much MTV during that period, for one reason because of the stunning, Glamazon model who stars in it. But even more than that, I always wondered exactly what Money could have done, in even merely a fictional narrative sense, to cause her to explode with such rage. Anyway, as for the song itself, the bad news is that this is the third straight tune on this list to feature absolutely none of Money's considerable songwriting touches. Former Sammy Hagar guitarist Jesse Harms composed an utterly solid mainstream rock song, and once again Money makes the most of it. Still, it wasn't mere coincidence that Money as a chart threat was on the wane from this point on.