RIP Benny Mardones: His Michigan Connection
Perhaps one of the greatest one hit wonder songs of all time is Benny Mardones' 'Into The Night', mainly because it had two runs up the chart, nine years apart.
Benny Mardones, a song writer going all the way back to the late '60s passed away Monday due to complications from Parkinson's Disease. He was 73 years old.
He's probably best known for his weird anomaly on the US pop charts, having a Top 20 hit called 'Into The Night' 40 years ago in 1980, peaking at #11.
Nine years later, the song hit the Top 20 again, thanks to 'Where Are They Now' segment on an Arizona radio station, this time going to #20.
Mardones had a Michigan influence on his career, going back to his days as a house song writer for Joel Diamond Entertainment.
During those days, Mardones penned hits for the likes of Roy Orbison, Brenda Lee and Chubby Checker, and he struck up a relationship with Tommy James of Shondells fame, who grew up in St. Joseph.
Mardones admitted to me in an interview in 1998 that he had a rough patch after 'Into The Night' shot up the charts in 1980. Drugs and alcohol has almost ruined his life, and the resurrection the song had in 1989 gave him a second chance, he had felt. However, he was never quite able to reach the heights he had once, despite several album releases.
If I remember one thing about Benny from that interview, it was this: he seemed sad. He felt his amazing voice had never really gotten the recognition it deserved.
I'm inclined to agree with him. But pop music can be a cruel world sometimes.
While the audio of my interview with Benny is lost to the ether, here is a wonderful interview with him from Songfacts.com, in which he expresses some of those regrets.
Well, we cut the second album, Never Run, Never Hide, and by this point me and the guys in the band were falling victim to drugs and alcohol. We never had that kind of money in our lives, and we didn't really use our heads on what we should and shouldn't do. Before we knew it, we were addicted to cocaine and drinking a bottle of whiskey a night. I fell victim to the excesses of success in rock and roll at a young age. During (1981 album) Too Much To Lose, I had split up with the girl that I had been with for seven years. We went to Miami to do preproduction and before long I was freebasing cocaine. Came back, finished the album in Manhattan, and when it was time to go on tour I was nowhere to be found. I holed up in a warehouse down in Miami for about seven months. They were looking for me at all the hotels and stuff trying to find me, because I just blew it. I mean, I blew my own career at that point.
Freddy Hine, who was the Chairman of Polydor and also the president of the label, said, "We didn't live up to our responsibility for an artist of that stature. We made mistakes with Benny Mardones. He should have been way up there, but we just didn't live up to our responsibility." So they sort of learned what not to do, and unfortunately, I was the artist they learned on. Right after that, they signed John Cougar before he was John Cougar Mellencamp, and they did everything right.
So I had a huge hit record and the follow-up was almost non-existent. Yet, if you ask aficionados about my album, they'll say that Never Run, Never Hide and Too Much to Lose are two of the best albums I ever cut. They, coupled with the blue album from 1990 on Curb Records, are probably my three greatest albums as far as material. I kept writing, but struggled until I got myself straight, which was in 1985 when my son Michael was born. He came home from the hospital, he was home for about a week, and I was sitting him in a car seat on the couch in my living room. I broke out a rock and started to chop it up and he looked at it with his eyes - he had huge, blue eyes - and he looked up at me and he looked back down there and he looked up at me, and when he looked up the third time, I felt like a diamond-tipped bullet hit me right between the eyes. I picked up the mirror, the cocaine, the torch, the pipe, everything, and I threw it out my window from the penthouse suite I was living in. Which was now completely empty from drugs and bills and stuff like that. And I literally went into the bathroom and looked in the mirror and said, "Look what you've become. You had it all, and now look what you've become."