Thursday, March 03, 2011

Between a Heart and a Rock Place

As pretty much everyone knows, I'm a sucker for a celebrity biography, especially a celebrity autobiography. When I was in the 9th grade, I checked Joan Collins' memoir, Past Imperfect, out of the library and that basically started me down that road and there's been no looking back. So last summer when both Belinda Carlisle AND Pat Benatar released memoirs, I figured I must have died and gone to heaven. Two of the 80s leading female singers telling their stories of navigating the music business during the time of my adolescence was too hard to resist. Being a bigger Belinda Carlisle fan than I am a Pat Benatar fan, I read Belinda's book last year. After having read Benatar's memoir, Between a Heart and a Rock Place, I have to say that while I'm a bigger fan of Belinda's music, I have about a thousand percent more respect for Benatar.

Pat Benatar's - which, if you can believe it, is her actual name (Benatar is the last name of her first husband) - hit making career is bookended neatly by the 80s. While she's had output since the dawn of the 90s, none of it has approached the success that she had during the dawning days of MTV. Benatar tells a great story, starting with her days back at Catch a Rising Star in Manhattan to getting signed by Chrysalis Records and spinning out hit after hit for them throughout the 80s. She was truly one of the hardest working people in the music business, and so much of it was not by choice. Her contract with Chrysalis pretty much had her in indentured servitude. Due to a clause in her contract, the record company could demand a new album whenever they wanted and if she didn't comply, they had the right to withhold all payment to her until she did. Because of this, throughout the 80s, she was either in the studio or on tour.

She put out eight albums (and one live album) in nine years and it wasn't until the release of 1988's Wide Awake in Dreamland that her luck started to turn. The crowds weren't showing up and the album was not promoted well, mostly due to the disintegration of the label. Ironically enough, Wide Awake in Dreamland is the only of Benatar's studio albums that I actually own. I don't care what you say, "All Fired Up" is a classic Pat Benatar song.

I said to Heidi that it was kind of amazing that Benatar was able to craft such an engaging book from her life, beings that most celebrity memoirs rest on multiple trips to rehab and partying late into the night. She did none of this. No drugs, no trips to rehab, no affairs or any of that stuff. She has been happily married to her husband, Neil Giraldo, for 31 years now which is such a rarity in the world of celebrity. Now in her late 50s, Benatar seems grounded and well adjusted and happy with life. See, celebrities really are not all that different from us after all.

This book is also notable because it's the first book that I finished on my brand spanking new NOOK Color that Heidi bought for me out of her 1st quarter royalty check. I guess all those years of turning a blind eye to iTunes purchases finally paid off! We were in the market for an e-reader because we are always fighting over the iPad and while the Kindle and NOOK apps for my Droid are nice, I am not crazy about reading on such a small device. What tipped the scales in favor of the NOOK is that our local library checks out e-books that are compatible with NOOKs but not Kindles. This apparently is a huge draw as the Best Buy here in town can't keep NOOKs in stock. Between a Heart and a Rock Place was not only the first book I finished on the NOOK, but also the first e-book I checked out of the library. So YAY for firsts.

(Sidenote: The celebrity memoir I'm really looking forward to is Deborah Harry's. Come on Debbie!)


Dwayne said...

Never really paid too much attention to Pat until I started hanging out with someone who worshiped her. The hits are great and there are a few great album tracks scattered in there. The only albums I ever thought worth purchasing were "Wide Awake" and "Gravity's Rainbow" and of course "Greatest Hits".
Anyone who ignored "Gravity's Rainbow" should give it a chance. There are about 5 great songs on it.
I'm glad she has been happy and stayed grounded.I'm sure that's why we don't hear much about her. No dirt.
Can't wait to hear what you have to say about K.C.

Dan said...

The Karen Carpenter book is the fastest read in the West. I find it so hard to put down because it is just so damn interesting! I will finish it in the next day or so and hopefully blog it sometime next week.