Monday, July 16, 2012

Benny Mardones: 'Into The Night,' Out Of Nowhere?

If anyone knows that lightning can strike twice, it’s Benny Mardones. The singer/songwriter has the rare distinction of being one of 10 acts in history to score a top 20 single with the same song. His “Into the Night” hit No. 11 in 1980, and in 1989, the same version reached No. 20 on the Hot 100.

Now, almost 25 years later, Mardones is hoping for a third bolt of success. And despite the challenges facing both veteran artists and anybody trying to break a song at AC radio, he does have the support of two major-market PDs.

Last month, Mardones released the simple, sweet love ballad “I’ve Got You,” which has gotten spins—and enthusiastic listener reaction—on Smooth AC KTWV (The Wave) Los Angeles and AC KMXZ (Mix 94.9) Tucson. The song was written by Grammy-winning country songwriter & producer Larry Butler.

“I would love to have another hit record, more than anything in the world,” Mardones admits. “I always thought I was going to have a bigger career, but the excesses of rock and roll ruined my life for many years. Will I die any differently if it doesn’t happen? No, man. But it would be great to have that one last time in the ring, under the spotlight—and to not go out as a one-hit wonder.”

For the past 11 years, Mardones, now 65, has suffered from Parkinson’s disease. He says, “I’m facing a clock on the wall, trying to live each day and be a good man, a proud American and just do my music. When I heard this song, I thought, God, please bring me into the light of success one more time.”

Add to that the bittersweet circumstances surrounding the composition of “I’ve Got You.” Butler, known for his work with Kenny Rogers, woke up at 3 a.m. in January 2012 with an idea in his head. That day he finished the lyric and music and cut a rough demo with session musicians. He told his wife, “I may have come up with the best song I’ve ever written—and I wrote it for you,” according to Mardones.

The next night, Jan. 20, 2012, Butler died in his sleep. Nashville veteran Joel Diamond then approached Mardones and told him, “I’ve got a song that was written just for you. You’re not going to be a one-hit wonder anymore.”

Mardones says, “I listened to the song and broke down. It moved me in such a way because it was Larry’s last song. And the lyric was such a perfect fit for me because, as it says, ‘My life gone has gone round and round/and I have been knocked down a time or two’—but each time ‘I’m so glad I’ve got you.’” He recorded the track with producers Joel Diamond and Ted Perlman.

Just as Butler wrote the song for his wife, Mardones was blessed to find his life partner, Jane, in 2011, following the sudden departure of his fiancé six years earlier: “My doctor invited me to a dinner party and his wife introduced me to her best friend from Denmark. She was the tallest woman in the room and looked like royalty.” The pair married in October 2011 and lives Playa del Rey, Calif.

Just as Butler wrote the song for his wife, Mardones was blessed to find his life partner, Jane, in 2011, following the sudden death of his fiancé six years earlier: “My doctor invited me to a dinner party and his wife introduced me to her best friend from Denmark. She was the tallest woman in the room and looked like royalty.” The pair married in October 2011 and lives Playa del Rey, Calif.

It’s perhaps this combination of factors that makes “I’ve Got You” such an affecting performance. And it has found a fan in Bobby Rich, PD/morning man at AC KMXZ Tucson. He met Mardones a decade ago during a charity concert. “I kind of fell in love with this genuine sweet man,” Rich says. “Whenever he records something new, he sends me an MP3 and asks what I think.”

When Rich got hold of “I’ve Got You,” he says it knocked him out. “Like most programmers, I’m only going to put a song on if it’s right for the station. This is just a fantastic piece of music that I felt our audience would connect with. I say it’s a hit—and not just AC; it has some youth strength, too.”

Rich played the track on his regular morning show feature “What’s on my iPod,” where he shares a song that’s not on the station’s playlist. And… boom! “It was like the old days, where people started calling, we got emails and Facebook postings. People wanted to know more,” Rich says. “It’s one of the few times where I’ve played a song twice, back to back.”

He continues to spin “I’ve Got You” during The Morning Mix and reaction continues. A posting from David: “Bobby introduced a beautiful love song. Whose vocal it is and is it available on CD?” Debbie: “The new song is fabulous. Please let me know the release date. I so look forward to getting it.” Ronnette: “You played the most beautiful song but I didn’t catch the name of the entertainer. I think you said Benny. Could you send me details?”

Rich adds, “Listeners are asking me to play it more and saying how beautiful and moving it is.” He has also added the track to the Mix website’s New Music Monday feature, where listeners weigh in on potential playlist adds.

In addition, AC KTWV (94.7 The Wave) Los Angeles has given “I’ve Got You” night spins for the past six weeks. Rich says PD Jhani Kaye told him the song has garnered top 5 phones.

Mind you, even if “I’ve Got You” doesn’t strip Mardones of his one-hit wonder status, "Into The Night" remains a massive library hit at AC, along with a sprinkling of oldies and adult hits outlets. This week, it logged 432 spins nationwide, according to BDS. The risqué anthem remains as renowned for its opening lyric: “She’s just 16 years old/leave her alone/they say.” It reached No. 11 in 1980 on the Billboard Hot 100, when Mardones was 33 years old. For the next nine years, he faded into chart obscurity.

Then, in 1989, CHR KZZP Phoenix played the song as part of a “Where are they now?” segment, which prompted Scott Shannon, then PD at "Rock 40" KQLZ (Pirate Radio) Los Angeles to add the song in regular rotation. “Into the Night” again spread across the nation, becoming a solid hit a second time. It reached No. 20 on the Hot 100 and at AC, and No. 23 at Mainstream Rock.

Mardones—who began his career as a songwriter for such acts as Brenda Lee and Chubby Checker—says he has reached the point of brushing off the "one-hit wonder" moniker. “I once said to my sister Louise that I’ve screwed my life up and wasted so much time with a gift I was given,” he says. “I would write all these beautiful songs and nothing happened. She told me, ‘You’ve left your footprint in the sand, and it will outlive us all.’ That took the stress off my shoulders.”

And now, with the potential of “I’ve Got You,” Mardones says he feels a sense of rebirth. “When I heard that Bobby Rich played the song, man, I was jumping up and down like a 16 year old. I may wake up with pain, take tons of pills in the morning, and it’s getting harder to climb a hill, but I tell you, I can still sing, I can still perform ‘Into the Night.’ And now I have ‘I’ve Got You.’”

This story originally appeared on Radio-Info.com.