1988 Countdown #78: Pat Benatar, “All Fired Up”


Back from the commercial break, we find Kevin Seal standing on top of a ladder, with the top half of his body out of the frame. “The top one hundred of 1988!” he shouts. He jumps off the ladder and then lies down on the floor. Standing up and dusting himself off, Seal says, “It’s a concrete floor. I didn’t allow for that.”

Seal introduces the next video by Pat Benatar, noting that she recently took three years off to raise a family. He doesn’t specify that her husband is guitarist Neil Giraldo, or that they had a daughter named Haley Egeana in February 1985. (Lacking precognition, he also doesn’t mention that Haley went on to star amongst other celebrity offspring in the E! reality show Filthy Rich: Cattle Drive.) “In only three years’ time, you can have yourself a family too,” Seal says in a huckster pitchman voice.


The video: We pan across an empty theater in sepia tones, and then cut to Benatar, sitting on an upturned milk crate, wearing a leather jacket and a hat, looking totally adorable. She may not have realized it, but her career was winding down (this turned out to be her last top-40 single) at the ripe old age of 35. There’s a guitar lick playing; we see Giraldo in a white tanktop, sporting a fine, fine mullet. The other members of the Benatar band all seem to have big metal hair. Roadies toil away, doing important technical work like plugging in cords and tightening up the braces on the drum kit.


The song has a long instrumental intro; unfortunately, it’s not particularly memorable. Nevertheless, the guitar lick builds up a head of steam, with the whole band joining in. We see Benatar backstage, holding a Styrofoam coffee cup and blowing bubble gum. Two other people look through snapshots (including one of a motorcycle–whatever reminds you of home when you’re on the road, I guess).

Finally, Benatar sings. The song, it turns out, is pretty blah. It’s got a forgettable sing-song melody, and Benatar never really gets to cut loose the way we know she can. Most of the greatest moments in Benatar’s career come when she goes completely over the top (e.g., the “Hell is for hell!” outro in “Hell Is For Children” or the children’s choir in “We Belong”). “We live and learn from our mistakes / The deepest cuts are healed by faith,” she chants, quite a few times. She also drops a reference to “the kick inside,” presumably a shoutout to her favorite Kate Bush album and the source of “Wuthering Heights,” which she covered eight years earlier.)

Lots of quick cuts and rotating stage lights in the empty theater. The footage alternates from black-and-white to sepia-toned to full color. Onstage, Benatar has taken off her hat. We see Giraldo getting a haircut. Benatar bows in front of hundreds of empty seats. The band goofs around awkwardly for the camera backstage.


Suddenly, we have a full house of fans, with overdubbed cheering. This transition is a fairly blatant swipe of the “Livin’ on a Prayer” gambit from the previous year, but the Bon Jovi video did it with a lot more panache, including switching from black and white to color when the fans arrive. For some reason, the Benatar video now focuses on the stage lighting, with multiple shots of the overhead lighting array. It looks like the setup for an arena show, crammed into a smaller venue. (It’s possible it’s actually a totally different location than the empty theater–the stage seems to have a new configuration.)


Closeup on Benatar, whose hair is looking a little frizzy: backlighting can be unkind. She gently twists her hips and snaps her fingers. The lights go berserk. The drummer keeps throwing his head back like he’s trying to stop a nosebleed. The fans cheer.

In many ways, the end of Benatar’s career dovetails with the end of the commercial dominance of AOR radio, where for many years she was one of the token women vocalists. Two years after this video, another female singer from Long Island with operatic training would hit the charts for the first time: her name was Mariah Carey. At the time, I don’t think anybody realized that a torch was being passed.

“All Fired Up” hit #16 on the American pop charts, the last of Benatar’s fifteen top-40 singles. You can watch the video here.

posted 9 October 2008 in 1988 and tagged , , . 2 comments

2 Comments on 1988 Countdown #78: Pat Benatar, “All Fired Up”

  1. Chris M. Says:

    I have long held that the ’80s, like most music decades, can be divided in halves–to oversimplify, the new-wave half and the metal/diva half–and part of what’s interesting about this ’88 countdown is seeing the occasional act from the first half scoring a last-gasp hit in the second. I’m thinking of that Glenn Frey video earlier, or of the video-less Hall & Oates, who scored their last Top Five hit (“Everything Your Heart Desires”) in ’88.

    You might say, Yeah, but Pat Benatar? Isn’t she a diva? Sure, and I guess that would mean she belongs spiritually to the second half, according to your Benatar-begets-Carey geneology (I prefer Clive Davis births Houston, so Tommy Mottola responds by birthing Carey, but I tend to think in industry terms).

    But to me, Benatar is a total early-’80s act, not just because that’s when she had her biggest hits but mainly because of the way she was marketed. Like Tom Petty, Benatar was a fundamentally AOR act dressed in new-wave drag (Petty still laughs in interviews about the skinny ties his label made him wear in ’79 around Damn the Torpedoes). She was the second act played on MTV in 1981, five minutes after the Buggles (“You Better Run”), and in 1982’s Fast Times at Ridgmont High her look is enshrined as the model for new-wave-listening teenage sluts-in-training at high schools nationwide.

    (To digress: the ’50s can be divided into pre-Rock and post-Rock, with 1955 as the pivot point; the ’60s into pre- and post-Beatles, with 1964 as the pivot; the ’70s into the mellow half and the disco half, with the pivot anywhere from 1974 to 1976; and the ’90s into the alt-half and the pop half, with 1996 as the pivot. There are tons of exceptions to all these dividing lines, but it does work as a general organizing principle.)

  2. Gavin Says:

    I think we’re both right about Benatar’s various packagings: if combined for a Unified Benatar Theory, that would mean that she was a diva fronting an AOR-style rock band who was marketed as new wave. Which sounds about right.

    Have you thought about the pivot point for the 00’s?

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