Tuesday, January 25, 2011

#249: The Effect You Have On Me

I’ve always been fascinated to discover the exact moment when creative people jump the shark. I’ve often wondered when did Pat Benatar, for example, stop being a vital force in music and start being a nostalgic act and, after careful consideration and listening, I think I’ve found the exact point in time. Don’t get me wrong, I like Pat Benatar. For one she released a series of damned fine pop singles, some of which still hold up today and she can get drunken people singing at parties with ease. For another thing, unlike a lot of her contemporaries, Pat could actually sing. Don’t believe me? Just listen to her rendition of Please Come Home For Christmas, her out-take version of Crying where she leaves Linda Ronstadt and Don McLeon for dead and gives both Roy Orbison and kd lang a serious run for their money or the absolutely beautiful Tell Me Why. In each of those songs she hits notes with an ease that’d make an opera singer smile. And she was cute. Like most people who went to high school in the 1980s we had a Pat Benatar look alike. I can’t remember her name, but I adored her from affair and she had a tendency to wear torn fishnets over blue off the shoulder tops (yes, I can recall fashion in detail – trust me, I know what works and what doesn’t when it comes to clothing) and the usual ‘80s fashions that made me a young me, and indeed me now, swoon. Mah, Ah do believe Ah’ve gaht an attack of tha vahpours!

Back to where I was. Pat started off with a massive bang. Hit Me With Your Best Shot. She took a couple of risky chances by covering Kate Bush – actually she did a bloody good version of Wuthering Heights – you could understand the words for one - but the heavy use of guitars kind of diluted the overall effect. She decided to start her image by adopting the same haircut as Nina Hagen.  So what?  it didn't hurt Nina, blue balls and all.  It didn’t matter that Rachel Sweet turned in a sultrier version of Shadows Of The Night, Pat made it her own by sheer virtue of popularity and aggression. From that moment on it seemed that Pat wasn’t off the airwaves or the telly. We all giggled at her attempts to wave her not-as-impressive-as-the-bird-from-Promises-nay-nays in the video for Love Is A Battlefield, and while you might chuckle at that song now, you should actually hear the recently released demo version; it leaves the released version for dust with some of the most interesting synth and guitar work that she never released (or indeed did release). But for ever decent, nay, let’s be frank here, great, song that Pat Benatar released, from the haunting We Belong, the magnificent Invincible and the mighty All Fired Up, there were dodgy tunes, such as Love Is A Stranger and Hell Is For Children (so dodgy that Paul Stanley would later steal it for I Still Love You). Those dodgy tunes would see her undoing, but the one that always sticks with me as her own personal Fonzie moment would have to be The Ooh Ooh Song.

The Ooh Ooh Song. An utter piece of crap that even Pat Wilson, Pat Travers and Patrick Hernandez would have rejected. Well, maybe not Hernandez. Shit, even Rick Astley, Jason Donovan and Mel & Kim would have said no to it. It starts well enough with some interesting guitar noises, but rapidly veers into the world of pap and crap and remains there. Even Eddie Van Halen couldn’t have saved it with a solo. And it was a single. Beats me what her management were thinking at the time. It doesn’t fit Pat Benatar in the slightest, it sounds like a bad Linda Ronstadt out-take, and if Benatar herself chose to sing it and release it, and still does sing it, then she ruined her own career. Sad really, but The Ooh Ooh Song not only saw Pat jump the proverbial shark, but when she did a Spanish version – La Cancion Ooh Ooh, she turned around and came back for another run, only to fall into the water to be eaten. Eeeyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

It’s a crime really as Pat Benatar looked the part and clearly had the vocal talent. Her choreography could have used a Toni Basil, or at least someone to say, “If you ain’t got ‘em, don’t shake ‘em,” but we can forgive that. She’s still out there though, touring away, singing her songs and good on her for doing that. The irony is that she and Rachel Sweet would have thrived in this day and age of American Idols and other manufactured pop songs. Rachel had the voice, looks and sheer talent, and Pat had all of that plus she looked like she’d beat the living shit out of you if you looked at her twice. Pink, a tough gal? Please! Pat would have stubbed her out like a discarded Winnie Blue. Kelly Clarkson can sing? Yeah, right, on her best day she’ll never hit the notes that Pat can hit when she has a cold and Pat could splatter her onto a wall with the same ease that I used to squash pies onto Mr Cocks* windscreen. You don’t believe me, then check it out for yourself. It’s criminal, but some of Pat Benatar’s best stuff came in the 1990s and beyond, when she stopped being an MTV creation and started to be a pure singer. Somebody’s Baby should have been a worlwide hit, and if it’d been promoted better, well who knows what might have happened? Even the shameless re-write of All Fired Up, titled Everybody Lay Down is a virtual template for all of the wailing wanna be divas of today, only better. Come back Pat, hit the charts again and show those plastic titty girls what a real singer with attitude sounds and looks like. And if that girl from Year 12 wants to send me an email…well….

*Deputy Headmaster at my High School in the 1980s. Big hairy fellow, with a bald head. Really. Cock by name, cock by nature.

Any excuse to use Rachel Sweet photos...

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