Eddie Money enjoyed a string of Hot 100 hits that spanned three decades — but instead of letting the success of “Take Me Home Tonight,” “Shakin’” or “Two Tickets to Paradise” go to his head, he leaned right into being rock radio’s most relatable everyman.
In a 2018 interview with Rolling Stone, the self-described “Grandpa Money” rambled less about music than about SportsCenter and The Osbournes, rattled off some off-color jokes — and laid out why he was grateful to be alive.
“I missed the boat when it came to the big money,” he said, perhaps referring to AOR giants in his field like Bruce Springsteen or John Mellencamp, who reached a commercial level or two above what he quite managed. But his attitude remained positive. “The kids aren’t in jail, they’re not in rehab, nobody’s wrecked the car this week and there’s still milk in the refrigerator,” he said. “I’m having a good month.”
Today, we mourn the loss of the proudly meat-and-potatoes, bar-rocking legend, who chose to keep both feet planted in the humble and suburban, even as he came within spitting distance of No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. He died on Friday (Sept. 13) at 70 after a short battle with esophageal cancer.
In honor of the late Money and his string of sturdy, timeless rock hits, here are his 10 greatest songs, ranked.
10. “Heaven in the Back Seat” (Right Here, 1991)
A lovably sleazy locker-room anthem written for U.K. band Romeo’s Daughter on the 1988 soundtrack to Nightmare on Elm Street V, Money covered “Heaven in the Back Seat” for his 1991 comeback album Right Here. The lyrics are knuckle-dragging (“She’s got what I want/ I got what she needs/ Me and my baby and the mirror makes three”), the sound is frozen in early-1990s amber and it stalled out at No. 58 on the Hot 100, but it hardly matters: “Heaven” remains goofy, high-energy fun.
9. “Walk on Water” (Nothing to Lose, 1988)
Money stayed the course with an increasingly commercial sound via this 1988 hit, written by Sammy Hagar’s one-time keyboardist Jesse Harms. Everything about “Walk on Water” is soaked in era signifiers: Money’s chest-beating vocal, canned harmonies and skyscraping hook all add up to a sound that remains unabashedly 1988. Peaking at No. 9, “Walk on Water” helped keep Money’s career momentum up for another few years, but he had trepidation about performing it live. “I hate singing ‘Na na na na na na na na na,’” he told Rolling Stone. “It was supposed to be a horn part, but the horn player never showed up, so I had to do it with my mouth.”
8. “I Wanna Go Back” (Can’t Hold Back, 1986)
Like “Heaven in the Back Seat” a few years later, “I Wanna Go Back” also came from a little-known source: It was written by the Oakland rock band Billy Satellite, who recorded one self-titled album for Capitol Records in 1984 before fading away. “I Wanna Go Back” was a modest hit for them at No. 78, but the song grew in the public eye when it got two remakes by major artists — the first by Santana’s Gregg Rolie in 1985, the second by Money. Despite the slightly dated synths, this mid-tempo ballad had some serious legs, with Money’s spirited version peaking at No. 14.
7. “Shakin’” (No Control, 1982)
Despite a number of outside writers in his body of work, Money was no mere vessel for other peoples’ material; he’s credited as co-writer on “Shakin’.” The infectious, Tom Petty-sounding anthem is perhaps most notable today for its video featuring Prince’s protégée and Purple Rain co-star Apollonia Kotero — she does the “shakin’” in question. “She had a boyfriend who was super jealous and a karate expert,” he told Rolling Stone. “Every time I turned around he was threatening to break my arms off.” Luckily, “Shakin’” didn’t devolve into jealous violence, but a No. 63 hit.
6. “Trinidad” (Playing for Keeps, 1980)
By the island theme alone, “Trinidad” may seem like an attempt to land another “Two Tickets to Paradise”-style hit, but thankfully, it doesn’t chew the scenery in the process; it’s merely grounded, driving rock. If you need a dose of 1980s rock that doesn’t go off the deep end with synths and gated drums, reach immediately for “Trinidad.” If nothing else, Money got more mystical and David Crosby-like than he ever did before or since: “There once was a story/ From a thousand yesterdays/ I read it in this ancient book/ When the old man passed away.”
5. “Take Me Home Tonight” (Can’t Hold Back, 1986)
A Phil Spector-indebted duet with Ronnie Spector, “Take Me Home Tonight” was even themed after the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby”; she even cleverly sings the “Be my little baby!” tag. The result was Money ascending to No. 4, and Spector appearing on MTV for the first time ever. The song isn’t much more than a colossal hook and a plea for a woman to take Money home, but it kept Money’s streak of 1980s hits red-hot and introduced a 1960s girl group innovator to a new generation.
4. “Gimme Some Water” (Life for the Taking, 1978)
If you’re curious about Money but prefer hard rock over yacht rock, you’re well-advised to stick near the beginning of his discography — Eddie Money, Life For the Taking and Playing For Keeps featured a rawer edge that he wore well. The bluesy, slide-fueled “Gimme Some Water” wasn’t destined to be a hit, but it could have fit snugly on Badfinger’s Straight Up, Todd Rundgren’s Something/Anything? or Fleetwood Mac’s Then Play On. Today, it sounds like refreshing blast of roots-rock from an artist far more known for synth-heavy barroom anthems.
3. “Baby Hold On” (Eddie Money, 1977)
Or, the one that goes “Baby, hold on to me/ Whatever will be will be/ The future is ours to see.” This chest-beater about hanging on during difficult times peaked at No. 11 in its day and remains an oldies juggernaut. To today’s ears, the song’s lovely, droning two-note guitar theme actually lands at hypnotic — a rare quality for an Eddie Money song.
2. “Think I’m in Love” (No Control, 1982)
A radiant, Byrds-style intro and we’re off to the races: the closer Money hewed to jangle pop, the more he came across as a truly vital artist. “Think I’m in Love” was written with Randy Oda, more known at the time for collaborating with Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Tom Fogerty. Whether it was Money or Oda’s touch, “Think I’m in Love” has a buzzy, hooky energy that puts it in line with new wavers like The Cars, The Romantics or Nick Lowe. Money tried on a few styles in his career; this was the best one.
1. “Two Tickets to Paradise” (Eddie Money, 1977)
Money’s best-remembered song is also his actual best; despite its “vacation” theme and appearances in everything from Hawaii Five-O to the King of Queens, it sounds tough and driving, today, not like another “Kokomo.” Mercifully, Money left the tropical details scant, letting the shifting-sands rhythm section (Steve Miller Band’s Gary Mallaber and Lonnie Turner), Jimmy Lyons’ blazing guitar solo and the indelible hook do all the talking. First track, first album: Money nailed it, and performed this song until the last summer of his life.