Rolling Stone, Jan 16, 1986
PULSE Feb. 1986
ad for Unicef appearing in Rolling Stone, 10/87
In throwing "Seven the Hard Way," Pat Benatar plays to win this crap game called love. Luck has little to do with her position as the apotheosis of Eighties American womanhood--she got there through experience. Using her fiery multi-octave range to project just the right mixture of man-chewing no-nonsense and tough-girl vulnerability, the divine denim-clad gamine howls indomitably through love's terror-filled jungles using the best weapons in her arsenal: faith, grit and vocal chops that hit every impossibly cathartic high note.
Behind the scenes, producer-guitarist-songwriter-husband NEIL!!! Geraldo uses the studio like a machete to help Pat slice through the thorny entanglements of relationships. Pat and NEIL!!! seem to be a match made in AOR heaven. Their approach combines the sonic bombast of yarbling metal with the intelligence and compassion of feminist consciousness. Railing against the constraints of male-dominated power rock, Pat Benatar sings her lungs out with the kind of sentiments that the rock boize might address if they only had the balls. When Pat demands, "Stop using sex as a weapon," she threatens her lover without emasculating him.
The album is a tour through an emotional combat zone, with Pat Benatar as both steely drill sergeant and aide-de-camp offering advice to the shell-shocked. In "The Art of Letting Go," she advocates a technique for recovery she candidly admits she never learned how to practice. In "7 Rooms of Gloom," Pat murmurs her way through an old Holland-Dozier-Holland he's-gone-and-all-that's-left-is-emptinest chestnut filled with personal bitterness and nary a whiff of Motown nostalgia. In "Red Vision," a vicious duel of slashing guitars and synth-drum throb, she lets her lover have it right in the pineal gland. On "Walking In the Underground" and "Le Bel Age," Pat and NEIL!!! re-create those ineffable, necessarily transient moments when love is perfect.
Pat's willing to go down in flames for passion, and in rolling "Seven the Hard Way," she's saying you just can't win if you don't throw the dice. And that it's better to crap out than never to have loved at all. -Tim Holmes
It's back to business as usual for Pat Benatar, which means back to her anxious, compulsive self. Around this time last year, and pregnant with her first child Haley Egeana, Benatar was calm and serene. Those days are gone.
"Everyone wants me to be pregnant all the time," Benatar laughs. "When we made Tropico, everything was kind of smoothed out and the record reflected that. This time, with Seven the Hard Way, everybody was kind of antsy; and we knew we were going on tour. My personality drastically changed back to its old ogrey self. No more Miss Nice Girl."
"It was really low key. But when I went in to do it, I knew it was not going to be a teenage record. It was a much more mature record. I wasn't in the mood to make that other kind of record. I wanted to do this and it was important to me to make it. Everyone, Chrysalis included, knew that it wasn't going to be a bombastic thing. I thought it would do better than it did, even so. But that's okay. It goes up, it goes down. You can't always expect to be flying at the top. I'll never be sorry I did that album. It's absolutely my favorite record I ever made.
"The whole point is you're not there to only entertain and give the public what it wants. You have to help educate too, and express what you want. It's your album and your songs and they're supposed to be about what's pertinent in your life. It's not really meant to be a reflection of what is expected of you. But you have to compromise. It's like being in love with someone. You know what this person wants from you. Maybe it's not exactly what you want to give them, but you love them, so you find a way to give them a little bit of what they need and do what you need, too. That's what I did on this record. I gave all that rock 'n' roll stuff that I do that they really like, but there's a little more depth and intelligence to those songs. It's not just head-banging stuff for the groin."
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"It was a lot more difficult this time. It's a whole other ballgame when you have a baby and you refuse to let anyone take care of it except you," said Benatar, who packed up a porta-crib every day and shared a Winnebago with her daughter at the recording studio. "Everything was a little tense the whole time because there was never enough hours in the day to finish everything we had to do. I think that was good, though, because there's a good tension in the record.
"I'm not one of the easiest people to work with," Benatar admits. "I'm real picky and demanding. I demand excellence from everyone and everything. I just want everybody to do the absolute best they can. Sometimes that gets on people's nerves, I'm sure. I just don't want to hear any sissy-shit. I want everybody working as many hours as they can, because I think that's what it takes. I'm not really a hard-ass or anything like that. I'm just a real stickler and I don't like to hear any complaining musicians or singers, myself included. I don't like that star shit happening either and it usually doesn't.
"I really try to push everybody to their limits without causing major wars in the studio. We're all like that; everyone has such a strong personality that if and when we fight, that's why we do. I'm glad we have Donny Nossov, who is so calm that he's the buffer. It's me, Neil (Geraldo) and Myron (Grombacher) who are always the maniacs."
What complicated things further this time around, is that Geraldo, Benatar's husband, was the sole producer of the album.
"We've been together for a long time in these kinds of situations and we've had to work them out. Yeah, it's a little strange. I don't have the other guy to say, 'I don't want to sing this part...' to. Now I have to do it to Neil and he treats me differently than someone who is a friend. He's my husband too and he says, 'Will you stop!'
"Neil's producing by himself had a lot to do with why it took a long time, too. We all had to feel each other out, and he was experimenting and trying different things. We took the luxury of time to work it out on this record so next time we can just go in and bang, do it."
Next time should be considerably easier since they've recently built their own studio. So after their brief ten-week tour, it's onto the next.
"With the studio in the back, I'll never see Neil. I'll slip food under the door," Benatar jokes. "It will be like the he-man woman haters club. I'll never get in there. You know the place, Jimi Hendrix posters on the wall and cigarette smoke. But at least I'll know where he is. Having the studio will really make it easier on the family, though. The only thing is I told the guys I'm not cooking food for everybody. Pioneer Chicken is on the corner."
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