A friend of mine the other day brought up Pat Benatar as a potential Lost in the ’80s “When New Wave Happens to Old Artists” post, since she flirted with synths and drum machines on later singles such as “We Belong” and “Sex As A Weapon.” But I had to remind him that Benatar had New Wave influences right from the start of her career, with no small thanks to producer Mike Chapman (him again?).
While Benatar’s debut, In the Heat of the Night, cemented her image as a tough female rocker, thanks to the hits “Heartbreaker” and her remake of John Cougar’s “I Need a Lover,” songs like “We Live for Love” showed that synths were equal to guitars in her world. Not only were Pat and future husband Neil Geraldo unafraid of New Wave, they practically embraced it with futuristic tomes like my favorite, “My Clone Sleeps Alone,” (download) one of many ’80s tunes that touched on that trendy subject:
No VD, no cancer
On TV’s the answer
No father, no mother, she’s just like the other
And you know and I know, my clone sleeps alone
Here’s Pat & Neil performing the song live in 2000:
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Benatar’s New Wave leanings continued on her second album, Crimes of Passion, where she covered, of all things, Kate Bush’s debut single, “Wuthering Heights.” (download) Pat’s version is beefier, with a more assured, less histrionic vocal — would it be heresy to admit I actually prefer it to Bush’s original? An aside — friends and I would joke about Kate’s high-pitched, squealing version by changing the lyric, “Heathcliff, it’s me, I’m Kathy” to:
Heathcliff, it’s me on caffeine
Heh. Cuz she sounds hyper, y’see.
Benatar continued to embrace synths on her fourth LP, Get Nervous, with its massive hit, “Shadows of the Night,” a song originally recorded by New Wave nymph Rachel Sweet. Pat and Neil pushed the guitars back and keyboards took center stage for most of the set, with great tunes like “Little Too Late” and “Anxiety (Get Nervous),” (download) a tension-filled song that wouldn’t be out of place on a Lene Lovich album. “Anxiety” was never a single proper, but they filmed a video for it that MTV loved:
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As Benatar barreled through the ’80s, keyboards and drum machines threatened to swallow her sound whole, until she took a step back, way back, and kicked off the ’90s by recording a blues album. But I’ll always be a sucker for New Wave Pat.
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