Although Pat Benatar was promoted as a solo artist, Benatar had a consistent set of band members, for her career. Guitarist Neil Giraldo (who would become her husband) and drummer Myron Grombacher did time with Rick Derringer’s touring band. Other band members put in decent stints as well throughout the years in original bassist Roger Capps and original rhythm guitarist Scott St Clair Sheets who were involved in writing some of the big songs.
And they all did their time in previous outfits before Benatar, honing their chops and song writing abilities.
In The Heat Of The Night
The debut album released in 1979 and you see, on this album, what A&R reps used to do once upon a time.
Which is to find songs for an artist to record. If that meant taking songs recorded previously and re-doing em, so be it. The only original songs on this album are “My Clone Sleeps Alone”, “So Sincere” and “We Live For Love”.
“Heartbreaker” has a wicked riff and a lead break. Plus one of the best voices in rock music. And it’s a cover. The song appeared originally on the 1978 album “Queen Of Fools” by Jenny Darren, who appeared in the 12th season of Britain’s Got Talent, at the age of 68, singing “Highway To Hell”. Her record label was also a publishing company and they knew they had a song to shop around, and shop it they did.
While John Cougar Mellencamp delivered a 5 minute song, Pat Benatar delivered a concise pop rock song with “I Need A Lover”, which made Mellencamp a lot of money.
Fun fact is that “I Need A Lover” was a hit in Australia first, when it came out in 1978 on John Cougar’s debut album. It was then re-included on his 1979 album with the U.S market in mind. This time the U.S fans took to it and Pat Benatar helped it along with her version.
“In The Heat Of The Night” has this bass and drum groove with palm muted pentatonic lines which got me interested. And Benatar is oozing with sexuality in the vocal delivery. This is a Smokie cover, and they also covered “If You Think You Know How To Love Me” which was a hit for Smokie in the UK, but it did nothing in the U.S, so the label assumed that if it was done by a female vocalist, it would probably cross over in the U.S. But even Benatar’s version of “If You Think You Know How To Love Me”, which was the first single of this album, proved to be unsuccessful in the U.S.
And while the album is produced by Peter Coleman, the Mike Chapman tracks are produced by Mike himself, as he didn’t want anyone else messing with his tracks and the sound of this tracks, hence the title of Dictator Mike.
And both of these Smokie songs are written by Mick Chapman and Nicky Chinn, who had a run of hit singles between the years of 1970 and 1978. And another song that these two dudes wrote for Sweet also appears on the album called “No You Don’t”.
“We Live For Love” has this Blondie New Wave vibe which Neil Giraldo wrote.
“Don’t Let It Show” reminds me of The Beatles and Benatar delivers a soulful lead, while Neil Giraldo delivers a simple and emotive lead break. The song is written by The Alan Parsons Project songwriters in Alan Parsons and Eric Woolfson.
Finally Rated X was a song on a Nick Glider solo album released on Chrysalis. Glider was a glam rocker in a Canadian band called Sweeney Todd. And another fun fact, when Nick Glider left Sweeney Todd to pursue a solo career, he was replaced by an unknown 16 year old called Bryan Adams. And yes, it’s that Bryan Adams.
And with all of this work going on to find songs and what not, it proved successful. The album sold well.
Crimes Of Passion
Released a year later in 1980 and produced by the great Keith Olsen. It also makes the appearance of Myron Grombacher on drums, who would become a mainstay and song writing partner in the Pat Benatar band. Bassist Roger Capps and rhythm guitarist Scott St. Clair Sheets are also there.
“Treat Me Right” is written by a Doug Lubahn (who played bass in The Doors, worked with Billy Squier and Ted Nugent). This song appeared on a “Riff Raff” album, which Lubahn was the bassist and vocalist and it kicks off Benatar’s album, with an arena rock Chorus.
“You Better Run” is a cover of “The Young Rascals”, a song they released in 1966. Benatar and Giraldo gave it a new life in 1980. “Never Wanna Leave You” is a Giraldo and Benatar cut with a reggae feel and a new wave type of vocal. But its sandwiched between four great tracks.
“Hit Me With Your Best Shot” is written by Eddie Schwartz, a Canadian solo artist and song writer who had some hits with Benatar, Paul Carrick and The Doobie Brothers in the 80’s plus he wrote tracks that ended up on Honeymoon Suite, Helix, Meat Loaf and Joe Cocker albums. The riff reminds me of “Since You’ve Been Gone”.
“Hell Is For Children” is a great title to get people thinking. Giraldo, Benatar and bassist Roger Capps went with the heavy theme of child abuse on this song. And it feels weird to write that it is a great song because of the theme. But it is. It’s been covered by a lot of metal and rock acts.
Billy Steinberg is on hand to write “I’m Gonna Follow You”. Steinberg is a few years away from teaming up with Tom Kelly and writing “Like A Virgin”, “True Colors”, “Alone” and “I’ll Stand By You”.
Then there is a Kate Bush cover of “Wuthering Heights”. I didn’t like the original so this one didn’t do anything for me.
“Prisoner Of Love” is written by bassist Scott St. Clair Sheets. It’s got this John Cougar Mellencamp Americana theme .
“Out-A-Touch” is a Giraldo, Benatar and Myron Grombacher cut. The first of many to come.
And like the debut, all the hard work to find songs to cover has paid off, as this album sold better than the debut. 4 million plus U.S sales and one of Benatar’s most streamed songs. Keith Olsen has the Midas touch.
For all of these out of touch and clueless musicians who whinge about releasing music too frequently, here is Pat Benatar releasing an album each year. This one came out in 1981, produced by Keith Olsen and Neil Giraldo.
“Promises in the Dark” is written by Neil Giraldo and Pat Benatar. It kicks off the album and when it starts to rock, how good is Giraldo on the guitar. That dude has gotten a lot of riff based songs onto the mainstream charts.
“Fire and Ice” is written by Tom Kelly (yes, the Tom Kelly that would go on and write with Bill Steinberg who also wrote a song for Benatar on the previous album and on this album called “Precious Time”), Scott St. Clair Sheets and Benatar. It’s like all of these song writers connected over a Pat Benatar album.
The drums kick it off, then the guitars and bass come in. And then then sultry vocal line from Benatar kicks in. And you’re thinking the song can’t get any better, but it does in the Chorus.
“Just Like Me” is a cover of a 60’s song by Paul Revere And The Raiders. Wikipedia tells me that the tune was written by Rick Dey and Rich Brown of the Longview-based band, The Wilde Knights. The Raiders manager Roger Hart then paid them $5,000 for the use of the song and this fee would give Roger Hart a song writing credit. But he didn’t write anything.
“Precious Time” is a Billy Steinberg composition.
The reggae influenced “It’s a Tuff Life” is written by Giraldo. And in the Chorus it moves into a New Wave Rock Chorus.
“Take It Anyway You Want It” is another cut written by Giraldo with the help of a Martin Briley who also wrote songs for Night Ranger, Michael Monroe, Michael Bolton and Jeff Healey, just to name a few. “Evil Genius” is a Giraldo, Benatar cut.
“Hard to Believe” is written by Giraldo and Myron Grombacher. And those major key chord voicings hook me in as it reminds me of songs like “I Need A Lover”.
“Helter Skelter” is written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. I’m a fan of the song, so I enjoy the various cover versions. Motley Crue did a killer version and so did U2. And those blues boogie riffs from Lennon and Harrison, Giraldo and Sheets cover em brilliantly.
Released in 1982. This one is produced by Neil Giraldo and the producer from their first album, Peter Coleman.
Rhythm guitarist Scott St. Clair Sheets left and was replaced by keyboardist Charlie Giordano who ended up playing in “The E Street Band” after the death of original organist Danny Federici in 2008. St Clair left to focus on his own musical projects. One of the projects, a glam metal band called John Scott, finally got a deal in the early 90’s and then lost it when Grunge took over.
Sheets also formed a band in 1990’s called St Clair, and their self-titled debut album had Rudy Sarzo on bass and Jimmy Crespo on guitar with Ron Corbett on vocals.
“Shadows Of The Night” sounds like it influenced a young Jon Bon Jovi or Desmond Child, because god damn, it sounds like “Edge Of A Broken Heart” was born from it. The track is written by a person called D.L. Byron who also brought a case of Copyright Infringement against Rascal Flatts and their song “No Reins” for sounding very similar to “Shadows Of The Night”
Now we start the Giraldo and Billy Steinberg cuts to close of side one.
“Anxiety (Get Nervous)” has this staccato palm muted riff from Giraldo that Jake E Lee would use in songs like “Waiting For Darkness”. “Fight It Out” moves between piano ballad and power rock with Benatar’s voice carrying it. “The Victim” is a rock tour-de-force.
“Little Too Late” is written by Alex Call, who performed it in a band called Clover between the years of 1970 and 1979, which also had members like Huey Lewis and Jeff Porcaro in the band and they did work with a certain Mutt Lange in the 70’s.
Everyone is paying their dues.
“I’ll Do It” is a Giraldo and Benatar cut with a hooky and jangly guitar riff and melody. “I Want Out” has this “Flash” Queen vibe and it’s another cut written by Giraldo and Steinberg.
And I love the little connections and stories to different artists that Benatar and Co, introduced via the songs they selected to include on the album.
I don’t have the “Live From Earth” album (which was released in 1983) but it needs to be mentioned here, because it includes a studio track called “Love Is A Battlefield” which has 62 million plus streams on Spotify.
Released in 1984.
Another change in the band department, with original bassist Roger Capps leaving and Donnie Nossov (who played with Jon Waite) replacing him. And it’s the album which sees Neil Giraldo take the reins of song writing, co-writing 8 out of the 10 tracks.
It wasn’t as loud as the previous efforts, more Madonna”ish and Cyndi Lauper ”ish. It was full of midi samples. And probably the album I don’t go back to even though it had “We Belong”.
Seven The Hard Way
A 1985 release and in seven years, Pat Benatar released an album each year. All in the aim to get her name and music out there. Artists seem to forget this cycle nowadays.
Once upon a time, artists had an album released, year after year. The labels cannibalised their sales of older product with new product. As a by-product, the artists built up careers.
Ronnie James Dio always comes to mind. From the first Rainbow album, to Black Sabbath and to the Dio “Sacred Heart” album, Dio had released album after album, each year. And people wonder why he was playing in arenas. You need to strike while you are hot, because it disappears quickly. More so today than ever before.
According to Benatar, “Seven the Hard Way” cost the most to make and sold the least. It’s also the last Pat Benatar album to feature bassist Donnie Nossov, who along with drummer Myron Grombacher went on to play with Lita Ford on her breakthrough album, Lita (1988) and on the supporting tour. However, Grombacher would return to Benatar’s band for the follow-up album.
And it’s not an album I go back to.
Wide Away In Dreamland
Three years between albums, this one was released in 1988.
“All Fired Up”.
It was huge in Australia.
The music sounded like it came from the Aussie Pubs and it resonated quickly with Australian audiences. And I was curious as to how this Aussie Pub sound made its way to Pat Benatar. Looking at the credits, the song is written by Kerryn Tolhurst. Back then, that meant nothing to me, because I didn’t have an easy way to research things. But fast forward many years, later, and I find out that Kerryn Tolhurst is Australian, who was in an Australian country rock band called “The Dingoes”. When that band broke up, he formed a few others, and “Rattling Sabres” is the band that recorded and released “All Fired Up” in 1987.
And it did nothing in Australia.
A year later, with Benatar and Giraldo taking the reins on it, the song got a new lease of life.
Choice Cuts DVD
A DVD which more or less covers the huge music video career of Benatar.