18 December 2009

Benny Mardones: Into the Night

For this week’s entry, we’re going to review a song that hit the top 20 twice, in 1980 and then again in 1989. As a result of this, it was actually in the top 20 longer than any other song in the 80s.

Lots of people like to believe that the 80s were the lowest point of all American cultural history. Factoids like the above make me start to believe them. Then i’m reminded that Benny Mardones had no other hits, and i start to think that history is actually self-healing.

Anyway, this is a song that slightly drunk people still like to call in to the radio to dedicate to each other. I am unaware of anyone using this one as a first dance at their wedding, which is really rather fortunate.

Why? you may well ask. Well, let’s go to the song, shall we?

She’s just sixteen years old
Leave her alone, they say

Let’s do some math, shall we?

When this song first hit the charts in 1980, Benny Mardones was (according to his Wikipedia site) thirty-three years old. I can’t find an exact birthdate for Robert Tepper, the guy who co-wrote the song with Mr. Mardones, but he was born in 1965—so let’s say that he was born near the end of the year, making him twenty-four when this song was first released.

Hmmm…A pair of guys, thirty-three years old and twenty-four years old, writing about how people are telling them to stay away from a sixteen-year-old girl. You know, i can guess why they’re telling you to stay away from her. You wanna hear it? Okay, here it is:

     Ick! Ick! Ick! Ick! Ick!

Or, in other words, she’s underage. Give it up already.

Separated by fools
Who don't know what love is yet

You call them fools, i call them the police. Either way, you touch her, they’re gonna throw you in jail. Have fun in the showers!

But i want you to know
If i could fly
I’d pick you up

So Mr. Mardones is saying that he’d pick her up? At first i thought this referred to the fact that he can drive, always an important consideration when you’re courting an underage girl, but she’s sixteen and so probably already has her own license, maybe even her own car.

With the flying thing in there, though, i guess what he’s boasting about his pilot’s license. “Yeah, the guys in your high school have fancy cars and all, but they don’t own an Embraer Phenom 100, do they?”

The proper term for this sort of person is, according to xkcd, a class–hole.

I’d take you into the night
And show you a love
Like you've never seen, ever seen

You know, in Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, the main character Humbert Humbert at least had the (weak) defense that Lolita wasn’t a virgin when their sexual relationship started. Our friend Benny doesn’t even have that defense, according to his description of the situation.

Mr. Mardones, when you’re willing to broadcast that you’re not even able to deliver the vague self-justification that the most hideous character Nabokov could come up with was able to offer, well, you really ought to give up now, you know?

It’s like having a dream
Where nobody has a heart

Did we suddenly end up on the set of the latest Twilight sequel? That’s the only way this makes any sense to me.

It’s like having it all
And watching it fall apart

Apparently he’s expecting to be arrested any day now.

And i would wait till the end
Of time for you
And do it again, it’s true

Yeah, except that if you waited until the end of time she wouldn’t be sixteen any more, and then you wouldn’t care any more, would you? Be honest here.

By the way, my basic rule of thumb on whether an age difference is large enough that it rises to the level of creepiness (though it only really works when the older of the pair is twenty-one or older) is to take the older person’s age, divide it in half, round down if necessary, and add nine. If the younger person is at or above the number that results, you’re good, go for it!

So let’s do the math here. Mr. Mardones’s age when this song was released: 33. Divide in half: 16.5. Round down: 16. Add 9: 25. Is the girl 25 or older? Nope. This isn’t a May-December romance, it’s a February-December romance!

Well, let’s project this forward to the second time this song was a hit. Mr. Mardones’s age: 42. Divide in half: 21. Round down: still 21. Add 9: 30. By now the girl would be 25, so even if Mr. Mardones—or, as the boys in the house like to call him, “Inmate 674832”—were still interested in her as a non-teenager, it’d still be icky.

If you keep going, it stops being creepy when Benny “Little Stuff” Mardones turns fifty-one (and his would-be girlfriend is thirty-four). So apparently the end of time came in 1998. I hadn’t realized.

I can’t measure my love
There’s nothing to compare it to

There’s repetition of the chorus after this, but this is basically the end of the song. There’s nothing left to really say, though, except to point out that there are a myriad of tiny-penis jokes to make in response to this couplet, but i don't have the energy to do so myself. I’ll just leave it the guys at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution come up with their own thoughts about the man they call “Stubby” themselves.

(And if you need some brain bleach after all this, dear reader, might i suggest a Unicorn Chaser?)


  1. I don't remember that song. I've heard references to it, but I can't place the tune. Our bishop is your age. His wife is a couple years younger than me. They pass your litmus test just barely I think. It still kind of icks me out, mainly because he's, you know, my much older brother's age and she's younger than me.