ROCKWiRED REWiND: PAT BENATAR - GET NERVOUS (1982)
y 1982 PAT BENATAR, rock n roll's premiere coloratura, had become a force to be reckoned with in the world of music. The proof of this was in three platinum selling albums that boasted the woman's flare for the dramatic when it came to matters of the heart and sexual politics. Even if critics of the day weren't on board with what the diminutive siren had to offer, two consecutive GRAMMY wins in the category of BEST FEMALE ROCK VOCAL PERFORMANCE ( In 1981 for her album CRIMES OF PASSION and in 1982 for the single FIRE AND ICE) provided both vindication and validation. Fuck ROLLING STONE! While gramophone-shaped trophies and favorable chart placings on the BILLBOARD 200 gave the ex-bank teller-turned lounge singer-turned rocker some enviable notoriety, it was MTV that made BENATAR a superstar.
Yes, a fledgling cable network dedicated to playing visual interpretations of the days top rock songs turned music into something that was all about looks and BENATAR made for an alluring package on the small screen. Lest one forget it was her video for YOU BETTER RUN that was the second music video ever played on the network making BENATAR the first female artist on MTV and her husband, collaborator and guitarist NEIL GIRALDO the first guitar player on the network. With stiletto heeled boots, tight black leather pants, a candy striped top, serious eye makeup and her trademark snarl, BENATAR shook her hips to the authoritative tune, pointed aggressively at the camera and gave an asshole boyfriend his walking papers. In the music video for the non-single I'M GONNA FOLLOW YOU, BENATAR is a woman on a mission, stalking the streets of New York City in black leather leggings and a black jacket. Up to this point we've only seen her as a singer in a band. Here, she was an actress in song playing the role of a stalker and selling the strutting number a whole calendar year after the release of the song's mother album CRIMES OF PASSION. The videos for FIRE AND ICE and PROMISES IN THE DARK were performance videos where BENATAR did what she does best – front a band. She also sported an interesting one piece suit that looked as it needed to laced on. Even as a kid I wondered how she got into it. Both videos offered nothing spectacular visually and the performance before a studio audience is totally canned but it drove home the fact that woman with the four-octave range was quite simply the singer in a band. BENATAR returned to a more conceptualized video with PRECIOUS TIME which had our heroine sulking around while driving a Rolls Royce (owned by TERRY ELLIS the head of CHRYSALIS RECORDS) and pacing the halls and grounds of a rather palatial estate with cutaways to NEIL GIRALDO as a shirtless genie shredding on the guitar against a Tatooine-like backdrop. In MTV's first couple of years, music videos were repeated quite often so the exposure proved invaluable to BENATAR and company. Like I said, the woman became a star.
And then there was the US FESTIVAL, the long forgotten music festival organized by STEVE WOZNIAK and BILL GRAHAM that has since been eclipsed by the more famous LIVE AID in 1985. Sharing the stage in San Bernardino, California with such MTV brethren as TALKING HEADS, THE POLIE, THE CARS, TOM PETTY AND THE HEARTBREAKERS and FLEETWOOD MAC, BENATAR stormed the stage in a black mini-dress, a CHRISSIE HYNDE styled flip and a change in her band's lineup. Gone was rhythm guitarist SCOTT ST. CLAIR SHEETS and replacing him was a bespectacled, beret-wearing keyboard player named CHARLES GIORDANO (currently the keyboardist for SPRINGSTEEN's E. STREET BAND). The three day music festival was attended by four hundred thousand people and was telecast on MTV. BENATAR's set combined the standards from her previous three albums but also featured a taste of songs from their upcoming album GET NERVOUS. With three albums behind her it had already been established that the public could expect a new BENATAR release in the space of a year and every year a kid like me wondered what the woman was going to do next.
It was the hype for BENATAR's forthcoming album that got me excited about starting my second grade year in the fall of 1982. My mother bought me some folders to go into my Trapper Keeper (remember those, Gen-Xers?) for school and one of those folders was adorned with the cover of BENATAR's upcoming album GET NERVOUS. Previous album covers had the woman posing seductively by the window of her apartment, on a dance bar sporting a black leotard and perched on a set of railed steps leading to an eerily illuminated passageway. The sleeve for GET NERVOUS went well beyond what could be expected from the sultry rocker. This time BENATAR is sporting a straitjacket in a rubber room with an illuminated floor. Instead of portraying seduction, the singer is evidently in distress given the manic expression on her face and the hair is raised thanks to what looks hours of spraying and mousing. The manic image is softened only by the eye makeup, lip gloss and high heels. This school folder was used as my main folder and it certainly got my fellow classmates talking. The buzz was such that my teacher ordered me to take the folder home and never bring it to school again. My PAT BENATAR folder was deemed a distraction in a sea full of folders bearing E.T.'s image.
When the first single SHADOWS OF THE NIGHT hit the airwaves PAT BENATAR, the vocalist, got the star's entrance. On previous singles it was guitarist NEIL GIRALDO who got things going with his signature riffing and sometimes it was MYRON GROMBACHER's drumming that got the party started. On SHADOWS, things kick off with BENATAR's multi-tracked pyrotechnic vocals joyfully and joyously telling her lover that it is them against world with the song's bombastic chorus. With the clap of GROMBACHER's drums, GIORDANO's keys add grandeur to the mid-tempo rocker that promises to take us for a wild ride in the tradition of BOSTON's MORE THAN A FEELING. GIRALDO's riff are the there but seem relegated to the background. SHADOWS OF THE NIGHT is indeed a bigger better deal. No longer is her band a gritty rock band but a polished rock outfit with a massive sound. The first single off of GET NERVOUS comes to a glorious fade out where GIRALDO's guitar chops finally take center stage.
And how about that music video?
CHECK OUT THE MUSiC ViDEO FOR SHADOWS OF THE NIGHT!!!
We can credit RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK from a year earlier for making it fashionable to fight Nazis again. SHADOWS OF THE NIGHT plays like the type of rebellious, runaway lover anthem that BENATAR was expert at turning into a rock radio hit, but the epic video gives the song a curious interpretation. In it, BENATAR is a ROSIE THE RIVETER-type character who daydreams of jumping into the cockpit of a fighter plane on a covert mission to deliver a TNT payload onto a Nazi fortress. The swashbuckling video is at odds with the vampish image that we've come to know the woman for, but it's a hell of a lot of fun. Look out for appearances from the late-BILL PAXTON and JUDGE REINHOLD.
Oh! Did I forget to mention that BENATAR and GIRALDO were married by this point?
Rock n roll is not about settling down. It's about partying, loud music, notoriety and celebrity. Well, that was the case back in the eighties. After spending the better part of a year away from each other , PAT and NEIL rekindled their romance and flew to Hawaii and got married on the beach before a couple of random witnesses. This wasn't exactly the spectacle that MADONNA and SEAN PENN's wedding generated three years later. These were the days when rock n roll and respectability didn't go together thanks to the goings on of bands like FLEETWOOD MAC. Not sure what the odds were on this couple back then, but this year, the couple celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary. This is the kind of romance you read about in romance novels or see on a Broadway stage or the big screen. No wonder there is talk about making the story of these two into a musical.
he single SHADOWS OF THE NIGHT put the public on notice of the bigger sound that was coming their way with GET NERVOUS. Keyboardist CHARLIE GIORDANO replaced rhythm guitarist SCOTT ST. CLAIR SHEETS and as a result, a new wave varnish dominates the songs here as evidenced by the other singles LOOKING FOR A STRANGER and the stomping LITTLE TOO LATE. Despite the slight shake up in the sound, the metal chick with a fighting spirit can still be heard on tracks like THE VICTIM, FIGHT IT OUT, I WANT OUT and I'LL DO IT. These were the songs that should've been the singles.
begrudgingly kept my promise to my second grade teacher that I would never bring my PAT BENATAR - GET NERVOUS-themed school folder to school ever again, even though my fellow students had PAC MAN and E.T. adorning much of their folders and notebooks. However, I didn't stew over it long. The album was out within a month and there was a new BENATAR album to get immersed in. The music video for SHADOWS OF THE NIGHT received steady rotation and quickly became an MTV classic for its grandeur and scope. GET NERVOUS would become BENATAR's fourth album to go platinum while SHADOWS OF THE NIGHT earned the singer her third consecutive GRAMMY for BEST FEMALE ROCK VOCAL PERFORMANCE in 1983. IF critics weren't onboard with BENATAR before, their collective tune seemed to have changed. ROLLING STONE, BENATAR's chief critical nemesis, gave GET NERVOUS its coveted four-star review. This is what MITCHELL SCHNEIDER of ROLLING STONE had to say in said review:
Produced by Neil Geraldo and Peter Coleman, Get Nervous is immediately distinguished from Benatar's previous albums by its bigger sound. Geraldo's screaming guitar passages and rhythmic jabs are now matched by the bright keyboard and synthesizer work of new band member Charles Giordano, and the result is high-rent hard rock. Pushed by her powerful backing band, Benatar rises up against the men who've abused her, demanding to be treated right and vowing to break out on her own. "I need more than your bedside manner I need someone to love," she sings in "I'll Do It." Although she's nowhere as lethal as, say, the Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde, Benatar projects plenty of strength here and sounds more comfortable with her woman-of-steel persona than on previous records. In the end, it might be argued that the music on this LP takes no real risks; "The Victim," for instance, dredges up every heavy-metal cliché imaginable. But on its own terms, Get Nervous is a step forward for Pat Benatar.
GET NERVOUS secured BENATAR's standing in the world of rock n roll and its single SHADOWS OF THE NIGHT was another jewel in the woman's crown. The song has been given a tribute in the celebrated jukebox musical ROCK OF AGES on both its stage run and film adaptation. Pop culture has looked back fondly on BENATAR for her radio hits and little is ever mentions of her output as an album artist and that is unfortunate. For the better part of a decade, BENATAR and company were highly adept at releasing albums with their fair share of the requisite "hits", but they filled the running time with songs that challenged the singer vocally, gave the guitarist a run for his money and gave all involved an exciting musical landscape to work with - a landscape that cannot be appreciated by today's music listener who downloads this song and that song and simply moves on.
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