Music News

For Mold Times' Sake

Page 2 of 3

Mardones, who for the first time in three years is living in his own house, was by no means the first pop singer to strike gold with one killer single, then quickly vanish from the public eye. The rock 'n' roll landscape is littered with Mungo Jerrys and Billy Pauls and Nick Gilders who each endeared themselves to the public's hearts for three minutes and fifteen seconds, then quietly dropped from sight. But in Mardones' case, the disappearing act was actually quite deliberate.

"I just got really beat up by the big time when `Into the Night' was a hit," he says. "It all came real fast for me. A lot of money and a lot of success. And I did some stupid things, like people sometimes do when they get a lot of money and they're in the fast lane, you know?"

Drugs were one of those "stupid things" Mardones admits to--as was instantly firing his manager and "turning over a few desks" at Polydor, his former label. (Mardones threw his furniture tantrum when he decided the record company was poorly promoting his second album, prophetically titled Too Much to Lose.)

"I was like an unguided missile. I was getting a really bad reputation for being a lunatic," Mardones confesses. "So I finally flew out to California and just sort of disappeared for four or five months. And when I say I disappeared, I mean it literally. No one--not my family, not my friends--knew where I was. I just went out to Santa Monica, got a hotel room, and just about stayed in bed for half a year, trying to get a handle on things and figure out what the hell I was gonna do. I felt that when I got my head on straight and was ready to get back in the ring, everyone would welcome me back with open arms."

Surprise. Ignoring the fast-paced bustle of the music business, Mardones neglected to check the expiration date on his overnight celebrity. By the time he was ready to rejoin the rock 'n' roll rat race, the record-buying public had long moved on to other new sensations--as had Mardones' record label, jilted manager and most of his music biz contacts.

The failure hit the normally lucky singer pretty hard. "When `Into the Night' became a hit and I did my first big show in Washington, D.C., which was the closest city I played to my hometown, 811 out of the 1200 people who lived in Savage came to see me," he recalls. "Practically my entire town came to my show. I was like the hometown hero. So when everything started falling apart, I felt like I was letting down more than myself. I was letting down my whole town."

If Mardones' success story was your typical hometown-boy-made-good cliche, his fall from riches to rags was a storybook tale of equally epic proportions. Losing his house to the I.R.S. and his wife to another man, the downtrodden Vietnam vet slummed through the entire Reagan era, toting his guitar and a few meager possessions from one friend's crash pad to another. He never stopped writing songs or performing, with an unusually loyal band, a couple of times a year around Syracuse, where "believe it or not, I've still got some fans." But the record companies were no longer biting, and Mardones--who, in his brief heyday, claims he shared poolside drinks with Bruce Springsteen and an apartment with Roy Orbison--began sinking deeper and deeper into depression. "I was really living just as bad as a person could live," he says. "I had gone from having everything in the world to having nothing. And it was a hard thing, man, for me to wake up to." His first taste of renewed good luck came when friend Richard Fusco agreed to co-manage the fallen shooting star with Ric Aliberte, a New York manager who represents mostly hot rock producers. One of Aliberte's clients, Whitesnake/Journey/Asia boardman Mike Stone, agreed to produce some new tracks for Mardones. The light was just beginning to blink at the end of the tunnel when "all this stuff with `Into the Night' happened." Now, Mardones says, "labels that weren't interested in me before are suddenly calling up my manager, saying, `Let me hear the new stuff.' It's like the gods of rock 'n' roll brought me back, and . . . shoot, my life is great again! I feel like myself again!" He's not a particularly religious man, but Mardones' voice and demeanor take on a zealous, almost evangelical tone the more he talks about why he's been given a second chance to follow up his one hit. Words like "blessed" and "reborn" pepper his postulations, and he even allows that Barry Mraz, the underrated producer of "Into the Night" who died of a heart attack earlier this year, may be "helping me from up in heaven or somethin'."

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jimmy Magahern
Contact: Jimmy Magahern