Crimes of Passion – Pat Benatar (1980)

Crimes of Passion album cover
Crimes of Passion album cover

Before Madonna came along and forced girls that really rocked to go underground, would be vixens (and more than a few guys) had few female rock icons to look up to. Sure there was Tina Turner or the Wilson sisters of Heart, but they had limited appeal or were a bit past peak when it came to influencing the styles and attitudes of teenagers. Other female rockers like Terry Bozzio of Missing Persons were not quite in the mainstream, although her style is now commonplace in the form of Lady Gaga.

In the first half of the 80’s there were only two women in rock that really seemed to matter to girls in my high school: Stevie Nicks and Pat Benatar. Nicks had her following, often new impressionable converts who liked her blend of hippie activist and the image of  a friendly witch that she projected. Pat Benatar on the other hand was a less seasoned artist who was just starting to craft persona. Few mainstream lady rockers in 1980 could belt out the notes like Pat Benatar.

By the time her second album Crimes of Passion was released, she had not yet become a household name, but was a rising star. Produced by Keith Olsen of Fleetwood Mac and Ozzy Osbourne fame, the sophomore release by Benatar would be one of her fan’s favorites. By eschewing the obvious electronic sounds of the day for a more traditional drums, bass and guitar sound, Pat along with her husband guitarist Neil Gerado crafted a classic rock sound. Guys were attracted to her hard sound and girls just wanted to look like her – short cropped hair and all. It was no wonder that one of the villains (Ursa) from the 1980 film Superman II resembled Benatar in concert, it was the bad-ass look of the moment.

Almost as fast as the video for “Fire and Ice” was released, girls began cutting their hair and donning bandannas. Some even went so far as to make the trademark tight-fitting black bodysuit with red belt a wardrobe staple. It was a look that suggested strength and street smarts, just what a teenage girl from the suburban outer belt wanted to project.

The album that spawn this look had its musical merits also. While some critics went so far as to label Pat Benatar a sellout (in the same category as Foreigner and Journey), the public voted with their money. Songs like the hit “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” and “Hell is for Children” became radio classics. The later song created quite a stir with the Moral Majority and others who did not take the time to realize that the song was anti-child abuse. While not released, it remains one of Pat’s most popular songs on the rock radio. Perhaps the best song on the album was her cover of Kate Bush’s “Withering Heights”, sang with less mystery but just as much passion.  However great those songs were, the track that might best summarized Crimes of Passion was the somewhat creepy and vindictive “I’m Gonna Follow You”.

Crimes of Passion held on the #2 position on the Billboard album chart for 5 weeks. In all the album became a 5x Platinum seller. Pat Benater won a Grammy for Crimes of Passion in the “Best Female Rock Vocal Performance category in 1980.


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