Wednesday, July 18, 2018
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Pat Benatar's husband/musical partner Neil Giraldo talks '80s hits and musical theater

Here's a curious piece of musical history you probably didn't know: Four-time Grammy-winning Pat Benatar, who performs Friday with Journey and Loverboy at Tampa's 1-800-Ask-Gary Amphitheatre, has yet to score a Billboard No. 1 single. But her longtime husband and musical partner/producer/co-writer has one of his own.

Well, nearly his own. When you listen to Rick Springfield's 1980 chart-topper Jesse's Girl, that's Neil Giraldo handling the incendiary guitar solo.

"I did all the guitars on Jesse's Girl and I've Done Everything For You; I co-produced it and arranged it," Giraldo explains on the phone during a recent tour stop near Chicago. "I knew the song was a hit when I heard his demo."

Listen closely during Springfield's signature tune and you'll hear the familiar pop hooks that have defined Benatar's sound since her 1980 breakout Hit Me With Your Best Shot. But for decades Giraldo — who also has contributed to hits by John Waite and Kenny Loggins — seemed almost anonymous to casual fans because management decided the spotlight should be focused solely on Benatar.

These days, husband and wife get equal billing on tour bills as they travel the country, belting out an impressive catalog of FM-friendly fare including Love is a Battlefield, Treat Me Right and Hell is for Children. Giraldo talked about life on the road, his distaste for musical theater and more during our short conversation. Here are some highlights.

I imagine that given the age of the band members performing Friday that touring in 2012 is a little different than touring in 1982.

Not necessarily. I don't think so. For us, personally I think we're rocking just as hard if not harder now. We're really, really confident. We know we can go out there and rip the place apart.

Do you enjoy doing the '80s circuit grouped with bands like Loverboy and Journey?

I think it's a good thing for people — I mean economic times are tough. ... They should have done this more in the early days. It's just unfortunate that egos probably got in the way with most of these things, but now it doesn't matter as much.

Some classic Benatar songs were contributed to the musical and movie Rock of Ages. What was your reaction when they asked to use your music?

First of all, I've never seen the play, so I never knew what it was. And I didn't see the movie — still yet I've never seen it. So when they first mentioned it, I said, "Sure."

You never saw it?

Listen, I'm not a big musical guy. I don't like musicals because I can't sit in that getup; I've got like claustrophobia and I get really weird when there's crowds of people around me and I can't really move. I can't like theater because if you get up, people sneer at you.

Is it gratifying to finally tour with equal billing with Pat?

We've always been a partnership; just in the early days, because of management and things of that nature didn't want that to happen, it was a very strange thing. ... Patricia always thought it felt odd to be on stage — considering all the things that I do and what it means to the band — to not have my name there. ... I don't care. I'm going up there as me and coming off as me. I'm hitting hard and everybody's happy. It's a good life.

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