January 12, 2013

BenatarTo your left, you will note Pat Benatar as she appeared in the video for Promises In The Dark, a Top 40 single for her in the autumn of 1981 from the album Precious Time.

I was a thirteen-year old boy that summer when Precious Time was released.

You don’t have to work for NASA to calculate the appeal.

Of course, I dug the music, too.

Everybody dug Pat Benatar.

Even though I was listening to little radio, I was well familiar with Heartbreaker, Hit Me With Your Best Shot and Hell Is For Children.

Pat Benatar was often blaring from the the jukebox at the bowling alley where we kids gathered on winter weekend afternoons.

And it was common to see the high school kids wearing t-shirts commemorating earlier tours for In The Heat Of The Night and Crimes Of Passion.

She’d show up on Solid Gold or in a video on America’s Top Ten, clad in some skin-tight catsuit thingy as she prowled the screen, leaving hormones akimbo as I’d sit slack-jawed in front of the screen.

Precious Time‘s follow-up, Get Nervous, was released at Thanksgiving of 1982. It was my first semester of high school and it had been over the previous six months or so that I had begun to assemble a music collection.

I’d receive a cassette of Get Nervous for Christmas a month later.

Tropico, Benatar’s next studio album arrived two years later and, though I was becoming interested in more alternative fare like U2, R.E.M., and Talking Heads, I remained devoted and purchased a copy.

Though her music would become less and less a part of my personal soundtrack as we both got older, hearing a Pat Benatar song would remain a sonic burst of audio adrenaline and a wormhole straight to the ’80s.

So, in honor of Ms. Benatar’s 60th birthday this past week, here are four songs from the powerful-voiced, spandex-clad singer who inspired several of the girls at Ridgemont High to adopt her look and attitude…

Pat Benatar – Precious Time
from Precious Time (1981)

As MTV – or any other outlet to see music videos – was a couple years from being available to us, seeing the clip for Precious Time on America’s Top Ten was likely one of the first times I was exposed to the medium.

Though it wasn’t a hit, I’ve always dug the title track to Benatar’s best-selling album. The skittering, stutter-step melody makes a fitting companion for the song’s lyric of a relationship careening out of control.

Pat Benatar – Shadows Of The Night
from Get Nervous (1982)

If I was making a crude mix tape from the radio during the winter of ’82/’83, it’s likely that Shadow Of The Night was on it. The dramatic lead single from Get Nervous might not have been Benatar’s biggest radio hit, but the song was a stellar showcase for the singer’s pipes and netted her a Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance.

Pat Benatar – We Belong
from Tropico (1984)

The stop-gap live collection Live From Earth had given Benatar her highest-charting single – as well as producing one of the more memorable videos of the time – with Love Is A Battlefield the previous year.

Tropico failed to be the commercial juggernaut that her previous albums had been, but it did contain another mammoth hit with the crunchy, metallic-tinged power ballad We Belong.

Pat Benatar – All Fired Up
from Wide Awake In Dreamland (1988)

Wide Awake In Dreamland arrived three full years after Benatar’s last album, 1985’s Seven The Hard Way, which, at the time, was an eternity. The latter was released as my senior year of high school was concluding and, despite spawning hits with Invincible and Sex As A Weapon, it failed to garner my interest.

Wide Awake In Dreamland was issued at the mid-point of my college years when the music of Pat Benatar seemed to be a remnant from another life. I was working in a record store where it was more likely that we’d be playing stuff that would be favored on MTV’s 120 Minutes or even Headbanger’s Ball.

However, it was a surprisingly solid album and the staff embraced it, giving it play alongside Jane’s Addiction, Siouxsie & The Banshees, and Guns N’ Roses. All Fired Up provided Benatar with one last hit and one that lives up to its title.