Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo made a match in rock-hit heaven

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For years the public only knew the name Pat Benatar, but behind it was a partnership.

Benatar was the voice and her husband and musical partner, Neil Giraldo, was the guitarist and producer.

"When Patricia and I first met we met on equal terms," says Giraldo in a call from Bangor, Maine. "We realized we were each other's muse. She made me better. I made her better. We built the first band around the sound of us together."

Benatar and Giraldo were from very different backgrounds. Her background was in musical theater and classical voice training, but she liked rock. He was an aggressive guitar rocker who could appreciate a great singer.

Giraldo says he knew immediately he and Benatar would mesh musically.

"The duo was really one of those things made in heaven. We were partners from the day we started. ... The really weird part was, tempo-wise and feel-wise, it's almost like we're the same person. Her phrasing follows along with my phrasing when we play. We never need a click-track. The two of us are just so in-tune with anyone where it works so natural and it's so easy. It's a natural perfect marriage on all levels."

The two married in 1982.

Giraldo wasn't hired to be Benatar's producer.

"I was put in the situation where I almost had to," he says.

Benatar's first album was recorded in 1979. Producer Mike Chapman passed off duties to engineer Peter Coleman and Giraldo.

"Luckily, we had a great relationship together. We were really on the same page and it worked out really well. I feel like I was almost made to do that more than be a guitar player. I play a lot of different instruments, but I concern myself with the song. I'm a not a great shredder. I want to make great songs."

Some of those songs include "Hit Me With Your Best Shot," "Hell Is for Children" and "You Better Run."

Giraldo says he wasn't surprised when the music was successful.

"I didn't think it would go to the levels that it went to, but I knew what we had. I knew we created a sound that was powerful vocals with a powerful guitar-driven band and it would only be a matter of time. It felt right."

Giraldo says he tells people there's "a ghost in the song" that you're trying to capture. If you capture it, it's going to be a hit.

"I knew we had it right. I just didn't know we'd be playing clubs for 10 days and the next thing you're playing front of 10,000 and then 15,000!"

Giraldo, who has acted as producer for several other acts, says he can hear the finished product in his head.

"When I did 'Love Is a Battlefield,' it was a very slow song, but I heard it as a very up-tempo song with a totally different rhythm and I basically rewrote the song in arrangement terms so it wasn't like the original at all. I was in the studio when Don Henley comes in and goes, 'How did you do "Love Is a Battlefield" '?"

Giraldo explained how he'd gotten the sound and Henley asked if it was OK if he stole the sound.

"Then 'Boys of Summer' came out and if you listen to the song it's almost the exact same thing!"

Admittedly, it didn't hurt that MTV was then a powerful force in music and Benatar looked good on camera.

"If she wasn't so good looking and the music still sounded great it might not have been the same thing," says Giraldo. "But with the combination we had, I knew it couldn't miss!"

He says the two handled success well, partly because they had each other.

A few years ago, Benatar suggested that the two should simply start billing the act as a duo since they're really been one all along.

"There was always somebody asking, 'When did you join the band?' " says Giraldo with a laugh.

He is writing an autobiography that might clear things up in some people's minds, but it hasn't been so bad.

"The cool part is I'm this mysterious unknown!"

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Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo

When: 8 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 7

Where: Tennessee Theatre

Tickets: $49, available at Knoxville Tickets outlets, 865-656-4444, wwww.knoxvilletickets.com

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