Pat Benatar Does It the Hard Way
-Rex Rutkoski
Scene (Cleveland), February 20-26, 1986
Scene February 1986

For an artist who has a reputation of not being especially fond of interviews, Pat Benatar certainly seems comfortable.

Radiating a warmth that belied an early perhaps incorrect image suggesting she could be one tough person with which to deal, the four-time Grammy winning rock singer puts you at ease, calling you by your first name and responding without hesitation to any question you direct to her.

It isn’t a social call, but you think to yourself that this just as easily could be two people who are into music simply getting together to talk about records and record makers.

A focal point of the conversation is Benatar’s new role as not just a figurative, but a real live rock’n’roll mama, and the changes that beautiful reality has rendered to her as a person and an artist.

You break the ice by talking about how the arrival of your own daughters into your life broadened your horizons as a man and as a writer.

"Yes, it influences every aspect of your life, especially the creative end," Benatar says, talking about her first child, daughter Haley, who is now one year old. "It’s only an enhancement to things we do. She’s beautiful and an angel."

Haley, born to Benatar and her husband and guitarist/producer Neil Geraldo in February of 1985, along with Benatar’s own desire to mature, are major catalysts for Benatar’s move to try to change her image from spandex rocker to that of a more multi-dimensional artist. Her vocal range can handle anything between opera and gutsy rock and roll.

As to whether her transition is being accepted, Benatar says, "It’s a little early. Individually, at each show, the acceptance seems to be just fine."

Benatar and her band, and baby, are on their first major tour in three years and Benatar says, "It’s great to be back out. I forgot how much I enjoyed it. I think the whole thing has turned around. It’s a lot different for us, the last few records were different for us. The show has a nice pace, instead of crashing and burning for two hours. It has highs and lows."

Pat and Neil made the decision to take Haley on tour with them so that they could remain a family on the road.

Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders, herself a rock’n’roll mamma, advised Benatar that with a nanny, taking a baby on tour was not difficult.

Benatar sys she is finding that sound advice. The tour, in support of the new Seven the Hard Way album, seems to be scheduled with an easier pace to accommodate traveling with Haley.

"It’s just like anything else, you adapt," she says. "The only thing is trekking all this baby paraphernalia around (she laughs). Home is where you make it."

While she says her tour contract rider does not stipulate a baby crib in the dressing room ("We don’t take her to shows," Benatar says), "Our plane does have baby food and stuff."

To fans who have not seen Benatar for a while, she says, "It’s a lot different than before. If they’re expecting to see maybe the pre-Madonna, that’s not pri Madonna, she insists, sex pot, they won’t be seeing that. The show rocks like crazy, but this time it is a little more focused on what we are doing instead of silly stuff."

scene 2/86Her philosophy of live entertainment, she says, is "do it every night like it’s the last time you would do it. Kids save their allowances and wash cars for ticket money. You should go out every night and make it good for them."

These days, Benatar, who has sold 25 million records, talks frequently about the necessity of artists not remaining stagnant, to take chances in allowing themselves to grow.

"I used to not be able to do it," the Brooklyn native admits. "I used to bend and go the way the record company wanted it. I don’t do that anymore. It’s very simple when you realize that you have control of your life and you also have to take responsibility for the consequences."

For example, she says she made her last two albums the way she wanted to, though she realized "they probably wouldn’t be huge selling."

"When I mad Get Nervous in 1982, that was the last time I worried about what the record company thought," she says. "That record was so much a product of the record company. They made me reshoot the record cover because it was not sexy enough. I decided I would leave, stop making records if I ever had to do that again."

To her fans, she says, "I would like everybody to be understanding and go with me when I make changes. Obviously I wouldn’t do it unless it was really important for me to do it."

One area of importance, Benatar believes, is to channel her music "into something besides just entertaining people. We’ve got a very powerful medium on our hands and we’ve got to use it to help people."

To this end, she donated the proceeds from her "We Belong" hit single to USA For Africa project and she is involved with the artists United Against Apartheid, including participation in the "Sun City" record.

"Having number one records is a gratifying thing and it’s great to win awards, but it’s not important to me anymore," Benatar explains. "I want to make records I feel comfortable with and not be embarrassed about."