NOVEMBER 22, 2020

ROCKWiRED REWiND: PAT BENATAR - GET NERVOUS (1982) 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?


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.

*** 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.

LOOKING FOR A STRANGER may have been the second single from GET NERVOUS but the song was an uncharacteristic move from BENATAR due to its keyboard heavy new wave bop. Audiences were used to hearing BENATAR's feminine fury and with FIGHT IT OUT, a forbidding arena rock slow burn, they get that. Opening with a gentle piano led verse BENATAR goes all introspective and finds herself not wanting to put up with an ugly situation much longer. It ends up being a mystery what that situation is but it is something that has to be confronted and faced. It isn't something that she can run away from. The song would be stronger if the subject matter was a little more explicit but PAT's dramatic vocals, GROMBACHER's haunting keys and GIRALDO's metal licks make FIGHT IT OUT a moment to remember.

On the melancholy heels of FIGHT IT OUT, THE VICTIM cranks up the volume and picks up the pace. GIRALDO's guitar gets the heavy metal bash and thrash going as BENATAR issues the most lethal sounding come to Jesus moment in which she tells a friend to take some responsibility and to break the pattern of victimhood. If anyone knows about not being a shrinking violet, it's BENATAR.

I may have been a little too hard in my assessment of LOOKING FOR A STRANGER especially since I'm friends with the songwriter FRANNE GOLDE. There is certainly nothing wrong with BENATAR taking the poppier route. Hell, it worked with HIT ME WITH YOUR BEST SHOT. GET NERVOUS was BENATAR's shot at wider appeal given her band's de-emphasis on guitar licks and exploration of keyboard sounds. As a pop single and the third release from GET NERVOUS, LITTLE TOO LATE does a better job of showcasing what PAT and company can do with a bright pop number. GROMBACHER's thunderous drums get the ball rolling on this punchy number filled all of the moxie and sass that we've come to expect from BENATAR. Once again, our hard rock heroine has had it up to here with her lover's fun and games. Sure she's hurt be she ain't shedding a tear over this loser. The music video was also a return to the performance video format where BENATAR and band always excelled at. Instead of video, it's all caught on film as the band mimes through the motions and BENATAR stalks the stage in a pink sweater, leather jacket, mini skirt and a fine pair of legs. Oh the eighties was such a simple time!

The A-side of GET NERVOUS was all about pushing BENATAR's sound beyond its sonic reach with the grand opera of SHADOWS OF THE NIGHT and FIGHT IT OUT and the new wave stylings of LOOKING FOR A STRANGER and ANXIETY (GET NERVOUS). Side B is marks the return to the subject matter of betrayal and romantic disillusionment. Things got warmer with LITTLE TOO LATE but I'LL DO IT is a rocker filled with the very bitter pill sentiments that have always generated hits for the little lady. There is nothing groundbreaking here but it does boast the best lyric BENATAR has ever sung, “I need more than your bedside manner / I need someone to love!”

Historically, BENATAR has always been the one to send the boyfriend packing, but here she's the one who wants out of a bad situation that just so happens to feel good at the same time. I could've envisioned a music video and a modestly charting single but I WANT OUT was better served on BENATAR's forthcoming live album. More on that later.

As I stated earlier, side A of the GET NERVOUS was all about extending the reach of BENATARS sound into the realm of keyboard led state-of-the-art new wave and grandeur while side B was all about serving up the goods we've come to expect. The final track SILENT PARTNER is the only time where the two musical approaches come together and the results are electric. The track opens with a haunting pulsing keyboard progression that bounces from left to right in stereo before BENATAR's multi-tracked and multi-layered vocals come into the picture with lyrics indicating that she can't get through to someone. The sci-fi opening is indeed effective and fits the motif that has been established by the album's cover and sonic reach. GIRALDO's trusty telecaster kicks off the down tempo verse where BENATAR sings of a distant and unresponsive lover. In a musical move we have seen demonstrated by BENATAR and band for three albums now, the second verse picks up the pace dramatically leading to one of her famed rock out choruses. With SILENT PARTNER, GET NERVOUS is brought to a close with a familiar ring. The song itself brings to mind something one would hear off of NO DOUBT's RETURN OF SATURN album eighteen years later – further proof that the woman some have dubbed the “queen of rock n roll” has never quite gotten her due.

*** 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.  

FOR MORE iNFORMATiON GO TO: Lush is a music industry professional and entrepreneur. In 2005 he launched the online music site to help promote new music artists in conjunction with the weekly radio show Rockwired Live which aired on KTSTFM.COM from 2005 - 2009. In 2010 He launched the daily podcast series Rockwired Radio Profiles which features exclusive interviews and music. He has also developed and produced the online radio shows Jazzed and Blue - Profiles in Blues and Jazz, Aboriginal Sounds - A Celebration of American Indian and First Nations Music, The Rockwired Rock N Roll Mixtape Show and The Rockwired Artist of the Month Showcase. In 2012, Brian Lush and his company Rockwired Media LLC launched the monthly digital online publication Rockwired Magazine. The magazine attracts over 75,000 readers a month and shows no signs of stopping. Rockwired Magazine also bares the distinction of being the first American Indian-owned rock magazine. Brian Lush is an enrolled member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe. Brian Lush's background in music journalism, radio and podcast hosting, podcast production, web design, publicity, advertising sales, social media and online marketing, strategic editorial planning and branding have all made Rockwired a name that is trusted and respected throughout the independent music industry.

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