Pat Benatar has been known to push the envelope with her music, gaining a reputation for singing about tough subject matters. But the four-time Grammy winner is also famous for stepping outside the box while creating her rock-star image.
On Melissa’s Basement, Benatar discussed her on-stage persona with Melissa Etheridge.
“Your look was so fresh, and it was look that Freddie Mercury was trying to do, he was the closest that got to it,” Etheridge said. “But you were finally that woman that could stand up in the spandex like no one else.”
Benatar made waves as the first singer to wear skintight leggings, leotards, elaborate eye makeup and other things that were seen as unconventional. It turns out that she came up with the image while dressing up for another special occasion.
“For Halloween in 1978 we went to Cafe Figaro in the Village and we were going back up to Catch a Rising Star when we were done. We all went down, all of us from Catch went down and we were all dressed up for Halloween, and I’m like a sci-fi freak,” Benatar explained. “So one of my absolute crappiest love movies is Cat-Women of the Moon and I loved Sophia Loren and I loved Audrey Hepburn with these eye makeup things. So I just made this crazy costume with all this eye makeup on and a ray gun, little boots and ties and this little thing and I won! So we were all, ‘Let’s go back up to Catch and celebrate,’ then we all decided we’d perform in costume, which was literally one of those ‘aha’ moments.”
Benatar said she knew she stumbled upon something special based on how the audience reacted and how she felt.
“What happened in that costume, to me and the audience, changed everything,” she said. “So the next day I took the ray gun off, I didn’t have that. But I went home and I was like, ‘Hmmm, what was that all about?’ And I just did it again, and again, and again and that was it.”
Benatar’s husband Neil Giraldo, who’s been the lead guitarist on all of Benatar’s albums, also joined Melissa’s Basement. He discussed the work he did arranging and producing Rick Springfield’s Grammy-winning hit Jessie’s Girl.
“I did it because the producer we were working with, I was co-producing a record with him, and he decided to do a couple songs by Rick Springfield,” he said. “He asked me if I would come in there and do it with him, produce it with him, arrange and just do all the stuff I do to make records, so I did it for that. When i heard the song, the demo, I thought it was a great song and I said, ‘Man, this could be a hit.’”
Hear Melissa Etheridge’s full interview with Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo on Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET on SiriusXM VOLUME.
Melissa’s Basement airs monthly on VOLUME (Ch. 106).