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Music notes: Benatar's music creates yearning for life on edge

'In the Heat of the Night' is urban with back-alley style

Published: Friday, May 26 2006 12:00 a.m. MDT

The other day I was shuffling through the CD racks at Borders. I came across the reissues of Pat Benatar's first album "In the Heat of the Night" and her second, "Crimes of Passion."

I snatched them up and took them to the checkout.

I love Pat Benatar. In fact, the first album of hers I bought was "In the Heat of the Night." I found the cassette at, of all places, a pawn shop in Aspen, Colo., during the summer of 1979. I paid 75 cents. And it was the best three quarters I had ever spent.

I bought it because of the song "We Live for Love." I knew the song "Heartbreaker," but I liked "We Live for Love" more. The reason was totally sentimental. I first heard the song at my friend's house a couple of months earlier. I was spending the night and we had the radio on. The song came on and my friend turned to me and said, "Listen to her voice. I bet she's a babe."

To put things into perspective, we were both 12 at the time.

And while Benatar did sound cute, there was something more that caught my attention. I liked the arrangements. I liked the lyrics. I liked the melody. And I can proudly say that I have never bought an album because the singer or musicians were cute. (I can prove that with all my Rush albums.)

Benatar's music grabbed me from the start. And right then and there, I became a fan.

Benatar was born Patricia Andrzejewski and was married for a time to her high school sweetheart Dennis Benatar. She trained in classical music — opera. She attended Juilliard and found off-Broadway work. She was discovered at a cabaret show, and she recruited guitarist Neil Giraldo to front her band a couple of years before the release of "In the Heat of the Night."

After a divorce, Benatar kept her married name (even after she married Giraldo in 1982; they've been together ever since).

The aura of "In the Heat of the Night" was restlessly urban. Not urban in a hip-hop feel, but urban in a lonely, back-alley style. Songs such as the title track, "If You Think You Know How to Love Me," "We Live for Love," "Heartbreaker," "So Sincere," a remake of Alan Parsons' "Don't Let It Show," Nick Gilder's "Rated X" and John Cougar Mellencamp's "I Need a Lover" move between fury, tenderness, sexual politics and humanism of the inner city's collection of lost souls.

Benatar's rock/new wave/punk sensibility was forged with "In the Heat of the Night." That style proved to work well, as she watched her next to albums — "Crimes of Passion" and "Precious Time" — reach No. 2 and No. 1, respectively, on Billboard's Top 200 Album Charts.

While I loved those albums, I will always turn to "In the Heat of the Night" for my Benatar fix. When I hear it, I'm 12 again, yearning for the dangerous life outside of my cozy home in the cookie-cutter suburbs.

That's a fantasy, of course, but I will be keeping an eye on my 12-year-old . . . and I'll be steering her away from pawn shops.


E-mail: scott@desnews.com

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