Baby Hold On: Why Eddie Money Was the Patron Saint of Rock Uncool

With a string of immortal hits, the late singer ignored trends and hit FM paydirt time and time again

By DAVID BROWNE


CIRCA 1985: Eddie Money poses for a portrait circa 1985. (Photo by Richard McCaffrey/Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images)

We pay tribute to the trend-oblivious hitmaking prowess of the late, great Eddie Money.

In any other world, Eddie Money shouldn’t have been a rock star. His stage moves were always a little gawky and spasmodic, his borderline hoarse voice in need of a lozenge or two. Emerging during the punk era though never part of it, he preferred the stadium-friendly shout-along choruses of mainstream rock and adopted the suit-and-tie New Wave look while keeping his hair unfashionably long. He was even an NYPD cop — a career move that, while utterly honorable, didn’t jibe with the traditional, anti-establishment rock & roll handbook.

For decades, we’ve been taught that pop stars, especially rock stars, are supposed to embody a certain type of cool. But the accidental genius of Money, who died Friday of heart valve complications at 70, was that he almost never was. Throughout pretty much his entire career, he was rock’s endearing every-palooka, a clumsy, somewhat overwrought guy who was one of rock’s most relatable acts and, during a 45-year career, stumbled onto some of the most enduring radio hits of his era.

From the start, Money seemed out of step. His first album arrived in 1977, the same year that gave us the debuts of the Clash and Elvis Costello, yet Money preferred his rock & roll almost proudly, unabashedly generic. This was the dawn of what came to be known as corporate rock, and so many of Money’s early hits, like “Baby Hold On,” “Gimme Some Water” (“cause I shot a man on the Mexican border”?), and especially “Two Tickets to Paradise,” conformed to many of that genre’s trademarks: big, brawny guitars, a certain vacuum-sealed sound, the music-school guitar solo.

But riding over all of it was that husky, immediately recognizable voice. Money threw himself into songs the way he threw himself into stage shows: with a sloppy passion. Rock lyrics don’t get any more generic than those in the frisky “Think I’m in Love” or his first hit “Baby Hold On” — “the future is ours to see/when you hold on to me” — but Money sang them, and other songs, as if he believed fully in every single word and that his life depended on conveying them with as much intensity as he could.
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