One of the first things I learned about WMPG community radio in Portland, Maine when I started my little 80s radio program, STUCK IN THE 80s, there in 1996 was the Begathon. WMPG gets approximately 1/3 of its funding from the University of Southern Maine, approximately 1/3 from underwriting, and approximately 1/3 from listener donations. A large chunk of the latter comes from the Begathon. What started out as a 2-week pledge drive in which volunteer radio hosts would “beg” to raise money for the station is now split up into two 1-week pledge drives, one in the Spring and one in the Fall. It’s come a long way since my first Begathon in the Fall of 1996. My very last Begathon for WMPG will be on Sunday, 9.25.2016.
An artist I love to play any time of the year, Cyndi Lauper, is responsible for a song I love to play any time of the year – especially during Begathon – her 1985 hit, “Money Changes Everything” (from her amazing 1983 debut album, SHE’S SO UNUSUAL).
“Money Changes Everything” was actually a cover of a song first recorded in 1978 by the Atlanta, GA Rock band, The Brains, written by vocalist and keyboardist Tom Gray. Their version led them to a contract with Mercury Records, and they re-recorded “Money Changes Everything” for their 1980 self-titled debut album, produced by the legendary Steve Lillywhite, who also produced albums that year for The Psychedelic Furs (their self-titled debut) and Peter Gabriel (his third self-titled album, also known as MELT, and featuring “Games Without Frontiers” and “Biko.”
SHE’S SO UNUSUAL contained a near-even mix of originals, like “Time After Time” and “She Bop,” and cover songs, including “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” (originally by Robert Hazard), “All Through The Night” (Jules Shear), “When You Were Mine” (a fantastic cover of the Prince original), and “Money Changes Everything.”
Released in late 1984 as the fifth single from SHE’S SO UNUSUAL, “Money Changes Everything” debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 three days before Xmas 1984, the same week Cyndi’s fourth Top 5 single from SHE’S SO UNUSUAL, “All Through The Night” dropped out of the Top 10 (Cyndi was the first female recording artist to have four Top 5 singles from one album, and a debut album at that).
“Money Changes Everything,” which features a solo from friend and “Time After Time” co-writer, Rob Hyman of The Hooters on the Hohner Melodica (otherwise known as a “hooter”), reached the Top 40 of the Hot 100 in just four weeks, but stalled for a week at No. 27 in February 1985, and though it didn’t reach the Top 10, “Money Changes Everything” did help keep Cyndi in the Top 40 every week for 13 consecutive months, ever since “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” debuted in the Top 40 in late January 1984.
Around the globe, “Money Changes Everything” reached No. 14 in New Zealand, No. 19 in Australia and No. 40 in Canada. It was a big hit in South America, reaching No. 3 in Colombia and No. 10 in Chile.
The official video for “Money Changes Everything” (a link to the video is below) was a live performance piece, where she sported a haircut not many folks could pull off (but she did), she was getting love much love from the audience, and when she wasn’t dancing all over the stage, she was kicking and beating the shit out of this metal garbage can. She eventually she climbed into another garbage can on the stage, and she (and the garbage can) were elevated over the audience. When I saw Cyndi perform in Boston in May 2016 with my dear and talented friend, Hope, it was also nice to see Cyndi still showing love for the song (and the audience too), and it was the last song she performed before her first encore.
“Money Changes Everything” is actually about money and how it interferes with personal relationships. While that’s certainly true in real life, I’ve never looked at the song that way, especially at Begathon time. For a small community radio station like WMPG that, for one week twice a year, asks listeners for help to keep the station running 24/7/365, money from listeners DOES change everything…