Not too long ago, I was fortunate to speak with guitarist/writer/producer Neil Giraldo; who, with wife Pat Benatar, comprises one of rock’s greatest and most enduring love stories and collaborations. Enjoy!
ShulmanSays: When you penned the song, “We Live for Love” (1979), had you and Pat already begun dating?
Neil Giraldo: (Laughs) Mmmmm… No, not really. We put the band together, and then we went and started the first record (1979’s In the Heat of the Night). We almost had all of the songs we needed but were short one song. So, I was all “I have this idea that I’ve been kicking around. Lemme show it to you and see what you think.” She came to my house – and we weren’t together, yet – and I showed it to her. And she goes “Yeah. I, uh..” So, I asked, “Do you wanna try something like this?” And she said, “You do.” I said, “Sure.” And that was it.
SS: Guitar Aficionado published a great profile on you and your collection of guitars, and one of the guitars shown was a Fender Stratocaster that you’d customized and named “Vegas”. Did you use “Vegas” when you last performed here, in Las Vegas?
NG: You know, I didn’t have “Vegas” with me. I wish I did. I have “Vegas” and I have one “Reno” – and I should’ve taken “Vegas”. I used “Vegas” on the True Love record, and when we did Johnny Carson’s show. I should’ve brought it. I’m a fool, for that. I should be doing that, because – you know what? – all guitars are women. They all get women’s names, and they’re all women, you know? And if you’re not paying attention to the one as much as you should, she’ll talk back to ya. And that’s not a good thing: It’s not something you wanna get involved in, lemme tell ya.”
SS: Writing, recording/producing, or performing – which do you most enjoy?
NG: I love ‘em all, and I’ll split it up for ya. I love performing because you don’t have to have any thought process going. You don’t have to create something out of nothing, so there’s less stress involved, and you can just play and perform and try things out, and it’s exciting and you get that reaction from people.
Recording is great because you can feel proud of yourself. It’s not narcissistic – but you’ve gotta follow the steps for a second. When you record something, and you play it back, and you think “Wow! It sounds just like it sounded in my head” that’s really gratifying, and you get a real endorphin kind of good, hearty feeling – and there’s no substitute for that. And that’s a really rewarding thing.
And then writing –I love because writing is where you really channel this place where you can’t think and you can’t really be there, and things just start coming. And that is really gratifying because you just go “Wow! That is really great,” or “Wow! That really sucks, and I need to be doing something else for a living.”
SS: Which part of the process do you think Pat enjoys the most?
SS: You didn’t even have to think. Just “Performing.” Like that?
NG: Well, it was easy. She likes performing the most because she loves to sing, and she doesn’t have to pinpoint anything because she’s got such a beautiful God-given voice that, you know, even her worst is better than most people’s best. So, it’s the easy part. In the studio, I’m very hard on her; I’m hard on a lot of people because I expect a lot. I’m like a Vince Lombardi: I want the best outta people, and I’ve learned how to be able to extract great performances from people, by how I treat them in the studio. So, recording for her is a little different, because it’s frustrating, and people get angry – but, in the end, we’re all happy with it.
Come back for Part 2 of my interview with Neil Giraldo!
Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo
Get into it!