Book Review: Pat Benatar, “Between A Heart And A Rock Place”

Written by Book Reviews, Books

Think back to that one time that your friends had tickets to a show that you didn’t know about, that was already sold out. Sure, there have been several shows like that for me, but the one that really stung, was missing Pat Benatar at Peabody’s Down Under in 1993. Pat was playing a ridiculously small “small hall” gig in support of her latest album Gravity’s Rainbow, and with guitarist/husband Neil Giraldo being a Cleveland native, the tickets for this show went very quickly. Being both a huge fan of Benatar and the Gravity’s Rainbow release, I really had regret for missing the show, but luckily, because I had so many friends going, I got to hear from them afterward, how awesome it was. Sarcasm.

Sometimes you see the cover art for a forthcoming release, and you just know that it’s going to be kick ass. Just take a look at the cover of the book above, and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

Between a Heart and a Rock Place charts the 30+ year career of Pat Benatar, a story that Benatar herself admits is void of the usual scandals and trips to rehab that you expect to find in a book like this. Instead, the book details Benatar’s impressive story of building a career in the boy’s club of the music business her way. You forget (or at least I did) that Benatar’s album Seven The Hard Way had that title for a reason – Benatar had been locked in a grueling cycle, writing, recording and touring behind seven albums in seven years. During that period of time, Benatar was dealing with a number of issues – mainly, battling to get the fair end of the stick from her label (Chrysalis Records), and struggling to maintain a relationship with Giraldo, her chief collaborator from the very beginning, and eventually, her husband. Reading this portion of the book alone, you can understand why Benatar and Giraldo tour only during the summer these days – they’ve certainly earned the vacation.

While there will be many women who grew up with “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” that will love this book, if you’re a music fan that loves reading about the writing and recording process, you’ll really love this book. Benatar’s book puts you inside the studio for every single album in her catalog, and although she may claim to be boring, her time in the studio was another story. Producer Keith Olsen (Fleetwood Mac, Ozzy Osbourne, Rick Springfield) might have had his name on some of Benatar’s most famous albums, but according to Benatar, he was barely a part of the process, with Giraldo doing the lion’s share of the work (initially without credit due to record company politics involving creative language in Olsen’s contract). Between a Rock and a Heart Place isn’t all about slinging mud, but there’s definitely some good dirt within the pages.

At times, I’ve been annoyed with Giraldo getting equal billing next to Benatar’s name on the concert ticket, but after reading Between a Rock and a Heart Place, there’s no question that he definitely earned his spot on the marquee. Would Pat Benatar’s career have been as big without the songwriting and producer input from Giraldo? I’d argue that she probably would have been just fine, but certainly, they’ve been a nice pair both personally and professionally.  Additionally, listening back to Benatar’s material from over the years, she still has one of the most unique voices to emerge during the era – smooth in tone during the early moments, with the ability to instantly switch to a gravelly snarl to hammer home a lyrical point. (“Hell is For Children” comes to mind as one prominent example, with air raid siren vocals that rival Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson.)  Benatar was a female singer with both balls and huge amounts of power behind her vocals – and her live performance was clarification that there was no special tricks going on in the studio.

After I finished Between a Rock and a Heart Place, I went straight to the CD racks to pull out my Benatar albums, and after reading this, chances are good that you will do the same thing – the book breathes new life into her body of work, and if you’re even half a fan, it’s a no-brainer that you’ll want a copy of this one.

Click here to check out a sample chapter from the book.