It’s summer and although I should be relaxing, I’m actually ridiculously busy. Either way, that means it’s time for a Mellow Gold repost. Often, I’ll pick a Mellow Gold song at random to cover and, while researching it, find out some too-good-to-be-true tidbits. This was the first entry where it happened: I couldn’t believe what I was reading. It’s one of my favorite Mellow Gold posts. And one final note: a few months after I wrote this entry, the director of the below-mentioned documentary actually sent me the DVD – I believe it’s called "The Syracuse Cut." I haven’t watched it yet – I’m waiting until Jeff and I finally meet in person so we can endure it together – but you can be sure that’ll be covered in a future post. Enjoy!
What’s that? You want some more wussy music? You need some more wussy music? I’m here for you.
This week, we’re only going to cover one song. Why? Because the story’s so good, it deserves its own post.
Benny Mardones – Into The Night (download)
You could call Benny Mardones a one-hit wonder. But technically, you could also call Benny Mardones a two-hit wonder. And he has a pretty interesting background, too, but we’ll get to that in a minute. First, let’s talk about the song itself.
"Into The Night" did well on the charts when it was released in 1980, eventually reaching #11. It deserved to be a hit; it’s a good song. It has deep, heavy drums, dark, minor chords, a subtle piano part, ethereal backing vocals, and Mardones’ strong yet hoarse lead vocal. It features fantastic use of dynamics, and suitably builds throughout. I like some of the lyrics, as well:
It’s like having a dream
Where nobody has a heart
It’s like having it all
And watching it fall apart
And I would wait till the end of time for you
And do it again, it’s true
I can’t measure my love
There’s nothing to compare it to
I think that’s quite pretty. Of course, there’s just one problem: the opening line.
She’s just sixteen years old
leave her alone, they say
(bangs head on desk)
(goes to call the cops)
(thinks better of it, hangs up)
Great. This romantic song has been ruined for me because he’s singing it to a sixteen year-old. Listen, I’m not saying that Benny Mardones likes little girls. I’m saying this song is not helping any if he’s trying to prove that he doesn’t.
Apparently, though, nobody gives a shit, and nobody gave a shit back then – because, again, the song reached #11 in 1980. And that’s not all.
In 1989, a station in Phoenix drummed up some interest in the song during a "Where Are They Now?" segment. Somehow, word got to Scott Shannon, Program Director at Pirate Radio in Los Angeles. Scott’s been running some of the biggest stations in the biggest markets for the past zillion years. Anyway, in 1989, he added "Into The Night" back onto the station’s playlist, and soon enough, stations around the country were spinning a nine year-old song. Nine years later, "Into The Night" was back on the charts, and peaked at #20.
Benny Mardones may have been a drug addict by then, but he was no fool. If you were a
one-hit two-hit one hit wonder, what would you do?
You’d get your ass back into the studio and try to capitalize on the success, that’s what you’d do.
And so Benny went back into the studio, now signed with Curb Records (’cause the folks at Curb Records weren’t fools either), and re-recorded "Into The Night." The re-release appeared on his self-titled 1989 album ("known as ‘The Blue Album’ to his fans," his website says!).
I thought about offering "Into The Night ’89" up here for download. But there really wasn’t any point. For starters, you don’t need two versions of "Into The Night." In fact, you might wind up hating me for it. And there’s really not much of a difference between the two versions. His voice has a little more wear and tear. The instrumentation is a little different – there’s suddenly an acoustic guitar and the bass has a terrible effect on it. We didn’t really need an "Into The Night ’89," but by golly, we got it.
UPDATE 10 AM: So I go to my mailbox this morning and what’s waiting for me? A pristine, still-in-shrinkwrap copy of Benny Mardones’ self-titled 1989 release on Curb Records. Thank you to you-know-who for sending me this…(struggles to think of the right word)…CD. (Note 8/15/07: since this post, you-know-who has sent me just about every Mardones CD available. They’re sitting here at work. I see them every day. Yet I can’t bring myself to play any of them. It’s like listening to one of Meat Loaf’s albums that’s not Bat Out Of Hell.)
So since I have it right here anyway, go ahead, torture yourself. If you dare.
Benny Mardones – Into The Night ’89 (download)
Things went downhill yet again after that for Benny Mardones, but not before he re-recorded the song another two frickin’ times: there’s "Into The Night (acoustic)" and "Into The Night (2002 Version)." The former features some lame ad-libs, and the latter has a voice that can no longer belt the other high notes. It brings absolutely nothing to the table. In fact, it takes things away from the table. Nobody bought it.
Except, that is, for the constituents of the fine city of Syracuse, NY.
Yes, you read that right.
According to the Benny Mardones bio:
Benny disappeared everywhere – everywhere, that is, but Syracuse, NY. With the help of fans like Tommy Nast, then program director at local station 94 Rock, Benny’s music was constantly on the air in Syracuse. In 1983, he played a legendary concert at Longbranch Park with more than 10,000 people in attendance. BennyMania took hold in upstate New York. In 1985, Benny played four sold-out shows at the 3,500-seat Landmark Theater. At his peak in Syracuse, Benny would draw 24,000 fans to a show at Weedsport Speedway.
With all his records out of print, local promoters released two "Syracuse Only" records. These included "Unauthorized" and "American Dreams," each of which sold over 18,000 copies in Syracuse. Benny’s sales topped even new releases by performers like Bruce Springsteen.
You know, when I was 17 and on the search for colleges to attend, I was wavering between a few schools. Syracuse University was one of them. They did a lot to sell me on their school. They said nothing about Benny. Had I known that living in Syracuse would have put me square in the middle of BennyMania…well, shit. Fuck the $35,000+ per year tuition. The chance to get Unauthorized and maybe even get it signed? Worth it all, my friends.
So what’s Benny been up to lately? Well, recentlly – just today, actually – he won two awards! Yes, he won the JasonHare.com Award For Worst Album Title AND Worst Album Cover:
Well, he just beat out this guy for my Favorite Awful Title With The Word "Love" In The Cover. I’m not even going to dignify the bandana with a comment. Maybe my wife said it best when she asked, "Is that a woman?"
I know you’re either thinking this story can’t get any better or when will he fucking shut up about Benny Mardones? Either way, here’s the ending. I’ve saved the best for last.
Benny has a new documentary, entitled (are you ready for this?) Into The Night: The Benny Mardones Story. And according to the cast page, it features such "characters" as Benny himself! Benny’s Mom! Roy Orbison! Wayne Newton! Richie Havens! And this guy!
I am not making this up. I didn’t even put that text on the picture. I swear.
I can’t possibly think of anything else to add – but I’m sure you might, so please feel free to contribute in the comments! And with that, I bid you a very – very – wussy goodbye. See you Friday for CHART ATTACK! and next week for more Mellow Gold!