Money Changes Everything

Album: She's So Unusual (1983)
Charted: 27

Songfacts®:

  • A track from Cyndi Lauper's debut album She's So Unusual, "Money Changes Everything" was written by Tom Gray, who first recorded it with his Atlanta Rock band The Brains. The song got a great audience reaction when The Brains performed it at live shows in 1979, and when they earned some cash opening shows for The B-52s, they recorded the song and pressed 1,000 copies on their own label. Progressive FM stations in Boston, San Francisco and a few places in between started playing the song, which earned the band a record deal with Mercury Records.

    But then money changed everything: Mercury cleaned house and the executives that were behind the band were replaced with folks who knew nothing about them. The song was released on The Brains 1980 self-titled debut album, but without record company support, it got little attention despite being produced by Steve Lillywhite, who would later have enormous success working with U2.

    Soon after, Tom Gray got a publishing deal with ATV, which pitched "Money Changes Everything" to the producer Rick Chertoff, hoping he would record it with a teenage singer he worked with named Rachel Sweet. Chertoff declined, but a few months later he included the song on a demo reel for a new artist he was working with: a brash young singer named Cyndi Lauper. Cyndi loved the song and recorded it for her album, turning it into a hit and improving Gray's financial fortunes considerably.
  • The song is about a girl who leaves her man for someone with a more robust bank account. Many songs have been written about how money can't buy love, but this one takes the opposite tack, explaining that sometimes money trumps love.

    Lauper didn't change the gender of the song - the original version sung by a man places him in the lead role, but with Lauper singing, she is recounting a story.
  • Tom Gray wasn't going for social commentary when he wrote this song; he got the idea after having a conversation with his landlady. In our interview with Gray, he explained:

    "We were just sort of gossiping about this couple we knew, and she said, 'She's going to leave him as soon as she finds somebody with money.' And I said, 'Wait a minute, excuse me.' The idea of the song just appeared in my head right there. The keyboard part was something I'd been banging on the piano for a week or so. But I wrote the chorus very quickly and then the verses followed. The song was finished within a day or two."
  • A lot happened between this song's conception and its appearance on the chart. Written in 1979 and first recorded by The Brains in 1980, Lauper put it on her She's So Unusual album, which came out in October 1983. The first single was "Girls Just Want To Have Fun," which peaked in March 1984. The album was a runaway hit, and three more singles were issued before "Money Changes Everything" finally got its turn, peaking at #27 in February 1985.
  • The song provided a welcome infusion of cash to its writer Tom Gray. It didn't change everything, but he did go from hand-to-mouth, mowing lawns for extra funds, to buying a house and enjoying a higher status in the songwriter community, which led to a collaboration with Carlene Carter. He also became friends with Lauper, who met him when she came to Atlanta on her first tour. They wrote a song together for her next album called "The Faraway Nearby." They collaborated again on Lauper's song "A Part Hate," which appeared on her 1993 album Hat Full of Stars.
  • Most Cyndi Lauper fans owned the album by the time this song was released as a single, so it was issued with a different version, labeled "recorded live" as the A-side, and the album version on the B-side. The "live" version was recorded live, but in a studio. Most radio stations played the album version.
  • Lauper released an acoustic version of this song with Adam Lazzara of Taking Back Sunday on her 2005 album The Body Acoustic. This was a moment of serendipity for the song's writer Tom Gray, who had formed a band called Delta Moon and was working on a similar arrangement. Gray told us: "I'd always wanted to do it with a fiddle, so I played Appalachian dulcimer on it. And then after we already had it in the can, Cyndi came out with her all-acoustic CD - and what instrument did she play on it but Appalachian dulcimer! We hadn't talked or communicated about this at all. But she came out doing it with a fiddle and an Appalachian dulcimer and I was just like, 'Whoa.'"

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