Between a Heart and a Rock Place: A Memoir - Pat Benatar (2010)
Chapter 8. THE HARD WAY
THE DISTANCE THAT HALEY’S birth put between my music and me quickly became a problem. I had a bunch of dudes around me who wanted to continue with the status quo. Keeping things as they had been was their goal, and they did not want to negotiate this next chapter.
Almost immediately after I’d given birth to Haley, a litany of comments from Chrysalis began in an attempt to motivate me back to work by warning me that there could be backlash about me having a baby.
“No one wants to see a rocker who’s someone’s mother. Mothers aren’t sexy.”
“You downplay this; no talking about the baby, no photos with the baby.”
“You need to make everyone forget it ever happened. You need to assure them that nothing’s changed. That you’re still the hard-core rocker girl you’ve always been.”
At first I dismissed all this as their typical insulting bullshit, but after hearing this chorus for long enough, I started to believe it. They made me feel that by becoming a mother, I’d risked my entire career. It got under my skin. I started to convince myself that the only way to stay on top was to rush back into things. I became panicked. What if they were even half-right? I didn’t want to make a mistake and mess everything up for our future, for Haley’s future. So I did what needed to be done: I pulled my new mother self together and went to work. And that was how in 1985, approximately three months after giving birth to Haley, I found myself recording the song “Invincible.”
“Invincible” had come to us through our friend Holly Knight, who’d also written “Love Is a Battlefield.” She’d written the song for a film called The Legend of Billie Jean, and not long after Haley was born, she approached us to see if we were interested in recording it. In a perfect world this opportunity would have come six months later, allowing me to settle into motherhood, but unfortunately it didn’t. I really wasn’t ready on any level. I was just beginning to get a routine with Haley, figuring out how to avoid falling asleep on my feet. But there I was back in the studio laying down vocals. When it came time to shoot the video, I hadn’t even lost all my pregnancy weight, and we ended up incorporating live performance footage with scenes from the film.
Even though the movie “Invincible” was made for ended up being a bit forgettable, the song itself was a smash, a top-ten song in the U.S. It was the hit that everyone had wanted to keep us visible, but it also had another consequence: it whetted Chrysalis’s appetite. They didn’t want just one hit single—they wanted a full album.
With the success of “Invincible” fresh in their minds, everyone pushed us to go back into the studio. This time, though, it was clear this wasn’t about my career and staying in the game, it was about their bottom line plain and simple. What they didn’t understand was how not ready we were for undertaking an entire album. It was one thing to bang out one song, but to craft an entire album so soon after having a baby was unfathomable.
When Chrysalis started making noise about a full album, our entire world was consumed by Haley—as it should have been. We knew we didn’t have the focus necessary to get the job done. At that point, the most important thing on our agenda was trying to figure out how to achieve something resembling a sustainable routine. Haley wasn’t even sleeping through the night. I was up and down at all hours breast-feeding her and living in a perpetual state of exhaustion. I was in no position to do much of anything, let alone write, rehearse, and record an album.
In most professional musical families, the husband and wife don’t usually work together, and this means they have different schedules, making it easier to take turns caring for their kids. Alternatively, one of them is a layperson who can stay at home while the other is off touring or recording. In our case, we had the same schedule. If I was working, Spyder was working. It was a logistical challenge. We didn’t want to hire a nanny to take care of this baby we’d waited so long to have. We wanted to do it. It’s the same struggle all working parents go through. I wanted to stay home, but I knew that would be a mistake professionally, and Chrysalis did not waste an opportunity to remind me of that.
In truth, Chrysalis had bigger problems than dealing with me. The infrastructure of the record company was in the process of a major transition. Over the course of 1985, Terry made it clear that he wanted out, and eventually he sold his share of the company to his cofounder, Chris Wright. This was a stunning, jaw-dropping change. As much as Terry was a pain in the ass, the man knew the record business. He knew how to bring an album to market and how to get it sold. We weren’t so sure how things would go with Chris, but the immediate result of Terry’s departure was disarray.
Still, the shakeup with Terry and Chris didn’t stop Chrysalis from demanding a new album. On the contrary, the banging only got louder as it became clear they needed another hit record as soon as possible. When I told everyone—including my management—about the realities of having a three-week-old baby, the men made light of it, shrugged it off. I begged Chrysalis for a little more time, but they wouldn’t go for it. They didn’t want to lose the momentum created by “Invincible.” Strategically, I couldn’t argue with them—they were dead right—but on a human level, it couldn’t have been more callous. As always, they retreated behind their contract and used that to get what they wanted—no matter how unreasonable it was.
Their shortsightedness was staggering. They were willing to sacrifice all of our futures for one more shot at making some money. Meanwhile the record label as we knew it was disintegrating around us, and the new record that they so desperately wanted us to record would suffer for it. But everyone continued with the same lines they’d been using for years: “You gotta get in the studio. You gotta get in there.” We had no choice; we packed up the baby, got my parents to babysit, and went in to record.
In gambling, craps to be specific, the term “the hard way” refers to rolling doubles to get four, six, eight, or ten. It’s difficult. Since you can’t roll doubles and get an odd number, “seven, the hard way” is slang for an impossible bet. That’s what this record was all about, an impossibility—seven albums in seven years. Hence the eventual title of the album, Seven the Hard Way.
Life in the studio on Seven the Hard Way was a cruel comedown from the emotional high we’d felt making Tropico. There was none of the smoothness or ease that we’d encountered with Tropico. This time, everything was a struggle, everybody was agitated, and all of that showed in the final product. There was bickering and fried nerves—not to mention a general lack of cohesion between us and between the cuts themselves. By the end of it, everyone just wanted me to go back to being pregnant.
Attitude was only one part of the problem. Simply put, we didn’t have any songs ready. We’d always gone in to make a record with at least half of it written. This time we had nothing. Nothing! And Chrysalis shrugged that off as well. Just write something. So while we were trying to record, we were also trying to write the songs. We knew all too well what our process was for writing songs, and writing with the clock ticking in the back of our minds was not a good way to unleash our best material. During the recording, we ended up writing a few good songs that would have become great songs had we been able to work in our usual way, but there was no time. Instead, we recorded songs that hadn’t fully evolved, songs that never should have been released. Songs that we weren’t even finished writing, for God’s sake! We accepted outside material because we had to, but even then the album only contained nine songs, which was ridiculous because normally we had twenty or so contenders from which we’d choose ten to fourteen tracks.
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of all this was that many of the tracks were almost there, and knowing that felt so much worse than if we’d missed the mark altogether. It was heartbreaking that we’d spent our whole career striving for such a high level of integrity in everything we did, only to have it end up here. More than ever we saw ourselves for the commodities that we were to the label. They didn’t care about us, they didn’t care about our future, and they sure as shit didn’t care about our family.
I kept lecturing myself to get a grip, but when you are a first-time mother you can’t get a grip. You’re doing well if you can hang on, feed and change the baby, and maybe—just maybe—get a little sleep. I was always very picky about recording. I wanted everything and everybody to be the best possible. I wanted to work my butt off and have everyone else doing the same. And I didn’t want to hear any sissy crying about hard work, either. But there were not enough hours in the day to pull that off this time.
I was so exhausted and distracted that I couldn’t do my job, and Spyder was so worried about me that he couldn’t do his. I’d be ready to sing and Haley would start crying. We took a Winnebago to the studio every day, and we set up a porta-crib in the studio. Between recording sessions, Haley and I retreated to the RV, but when I was singing, I was often distractedly worrying that Haley was hungry or wanting her mama. The problem was, I couldn’t just run back in and check on her. It’s virtually impossible to get a cohesive vocal if you’re constantly starting and stopping, because you lose all your momentum. This meant I had to continue singing until we got the take. That was just how it had to work. By the time I’d get back to Haley, we were both crying.
In the end, only Crimes of Passion surpassed this record in terms of difficulty and tension. Of all our albums, Seven the Hard Way cost the most to make and sold the least. The record came out in November 1985, but it was not a huge success, peaking at number 26 and only achieving gold record status, with 500,000 copies sold. It was the first time in seven years that we’d made a record that didn’t sell a least a million copies. I was stunned but not surprised. We’d made a record we had no business making, at a time when the record company had no business selling it.
Perhaps the worst part of all this was that making this album at this pace was completely unnecessary. Even just a little sensitivity on their part, a little flexibility in scheduling, would have made all the difference in the world. (Spyder still dreams of taking all of our original songs from that record and crafting them into their true potential. It would be closure—maybe one day.) If they’d been willing to give us just a couple of more months and a bit more space, we would have returned to the studio ready to do what needed to be done. After all, making records was our job, and we knew as well as anyone that we weren’t ready to stop doing what we loved. We just needed time to achieve a balance between being parents and being musicians. But that kind of latitude was not in the cards.
The hardest thing to stomach was that I knew they were manipulating me. All of the clarity I’d experienced in the immediate aftermath of becoming a mother was still present, but I was simply too beaten down by exhaustion and fear of making the wrong decision to do anything about it. They knew all of this. They could see it in my face and hear it in my voice. They knew I was struggling, and they used it against us.
Ironically, despite our dissatisfaction with the final result and the lower sales figures, the reviews were good. Rolling Stone’s Tim Holmes wrote: “Behind the scenes, producer-guitarist-songwriter Neil Giraldo uses the studio like a machete to help Pat slice through the thorny entanglements of relationships. Pat and Neil seem to be a match made in AOR heaven. Their approach combines the sonic bombast of yarbling metal with the intelligence and compassion of feminism. Railing against the constraints of male-dominated power rock, Pat Benatar sings her lungs out with the kind of sentiments that the rock boize might address if only they had the balls. The album is an emotional combat zone.”
Interestingly, without any inside information, Holmes made a shrewd observation:
“Luck has little to do with [Benatar’s] position as the apotheosis of Eighties American womanhood—she got there through experience.”
THE MINUTE THE RECORD was released in early 1986, we went out on the road. Naturally, this time out everything about touring changed. With a young baby in tow, life on the bus would never be the same.
Strangely enough, Haley seemed to love all the traveling, and in fact touring with her was easier than it had been to record with her. During the recording, we’d been working twelve-to-sixteen-hour days with hours on end spent apart from her, but in our insulated world on the road, the schedule was much more manageable, not to mention predictable. Kids thrive on routine, and because of the strict schedule that touring requires, routine was the one thing we had plenty of. I only had two responsibilities every day: be with Haley and perform. Of course, there were also press events and photo sessions, but for the most part my schedule eased up much more than in the past. With Haley around, it was impossible for me to go to radio stations and do endless press like I’d done in the past, so a lot of those options were simply taken off the table. While this gave us more time to be together as a family, it was definitely part of what hurt record sales. It was, however, a price we were willing to pay.
The entire day was organized around naps and feedings. Calling ahead to promoters to find out the best restaurant in town was replaced with locating the closest Chuck E. Cheese or playground. We carted a ton of crap with us—cribs, playpens, strollers, anything and everything we thought we might need. Haley even had her own Anvil cases for toys. (Later on when our second daughter, Hana, was small and I had learned not to drag around so much stuff, we were in a hotel lobby in New York when a tour bus pulled up. Some crew people got out and proceeded to unload a ton of baby gear. It turned out to be Bruce Springsteen’s bus, and his wife Patti was there with their kids. Spyder and I just chuckled, remembering the days when we did the same.)
Even though we’d been touring for years and had played in these cities hundreds of times before, this time was different. We got to explore cities through Haley’s eyes, creating wonderful memories along the way. She learned to walk in Minneapolis and had her first birthday in Detroit. She loved the bus. It made her sleep better, which was a blessing because I needed to sleep in order to sing. When she wasn’t sleeping on the bus, she was taking in the outside world as it flew by the oversized glass of the tinted windows.
On that tour, my philosophy about many things changed. I didn’t want to put on an outrageous show. I wanted to give the audience a layered offering of our music. It was less about the act, more about the music. While this shift made sense for a lot of reasons, my voice paid the toll for that road, too. Because my vocal cords had gotten no rest, I started having throat problems for the first time in my life. I truly felt like I was the caboose of this train, being pulled along with no chance to ever catch up to the rest of it. Doctors were brought in, but all they could do was tell me to take a break from singing and shoot cortisone in my throat.
The whole tour was supposed to stretch out over a period of a few months without interruption. We didn’t even have a chance to come home. All this would have been fine if I’d been in great physical shape, but I wasn’t. Of course, when I asked them if I could take a few dates off so that my voice could recover, their answer was a resounding no.
“Look, if you don’t do these five shows, here’s how much we’ll lose. You’ve got to look at the bottom line. You may want a day off, but we’re still paying the crew. Look how much that costs!”
When I’d resist, which was most of the time, they’d bring out the big gun: “You’ve got forty employees who depend on you. Do you want to be responsible for them not getting paid? Those people have families.”
That was what always got me. They used my nature against me. Those guys all knew that I was a straight shooter, always the good girl trying to do the right thing. I was a conscientious, ethical person. And they knew that talking about people depending on me would bring me around every time. It’s my worst character flaw—not so much guilt as it is that I simply cannot quit. No matter the circumstance, I will be compelled to complete something if I’ve committed to it—regardless of whether or not I should. The knowledge that people were depending on me only exacerbated this personality trait, pushing aside what was right for me in favor of what was right for others.
I let them bully me into doing what they asked and I stayed out on tour. I couldn’t quit and they knew it. Each time they pulled that I said to myself: This is sickening! They are just playing you, figuring out the way to make you do something that is not in your best interest. Not if you want to keep your voice, anyway.
But instead of telling them I was onto their tricks, I usually said, “Okay. I can do it. I can do it.”
And I did.
WHEN THE TOUR WAS finally over, we returned home and at last got some time off. It was the first time in seven years that we were home and not working in some capacity. This was a wonderful period for our family. We were basically having a “normal” life—eating dinner at home and putting our child to sleep in a bed, not a bunk. We had barbecues, saw our family and friends, went to the park—all the things we’d never been able to do before.
Being home felt so good that it overshadowed the fact that a month earlier I’d been handed my first Grammy loss. “Invincible” had been nominated, but I lost to Tina Turner. It was a disappointing end to a disappointing year, and we were ready to put the whole mess behind us. I remember making a note to myself that it seemed unfair that your professional life had to suffer in order for your personal life to thrive. I’d have to work on that.
That balance was something that I thought a lot about when we started talking about the next album. The time off allowed Spyder and Myron to write songs at their own pace, and as that happened we collectively began to figure out where we’d go from there. Long ago, I’d stopped worrying about whether each record outsold the last one; I understood that careers don’t work that way. And I wanted my career to work my way. But that didn’t mean that I shrugged off my frustration with Seven the Hard Way.
In 1987, we finally took the material we’d been working on into Spyder’s Soul Kitchen, setting out to record what would become Wide Awake in Dreamland, and from the outset, things went incredibly well—the best they’d been since Tropico. The difference between recording at a huge studio and doing it at home was like night and day. There was a relaxation to everything we did, an ease to our approach that none of us had felt in years. It didn’t hurt that Haley was a couple of years older now, and appropriately, she was more independent.
Being in our own studio emphasized that this was our record we were making. It was more on our terms than anything we’d done in years. With Wide Awake, the music took the listener into our world both sonically and personally. We recorded what would become our first single from the album, “All Fired Up,” as the last song for the record. Peter Coleman and Spyder produced all of Wide Awake except for this song, which Spyder and Keith Forsey produced. We were actually enjoying the process again. We were happily doing what we’d always done: creating, writing, and recording. I had gotten motherhood under control. Our personal lives were in order. I was ready to go back to being a rock star in a big way, but what I didn’t fully understand was just how screwed up things had become at Chrysalis.
Despite the fact that the album was progressing nicely, Chrysalis was collapsing around us. Before his departure, Terry had been in charge of the U.S. portion of the company and Chris had run the UK and international divisions. As a result of this hierarchy, we hadn’t dealt much with Chris. We had a more casual relationship with him. Chris was more of a businessman, whereas Terry worked a lot on developing talent and promoting records.
All that changed when Terry left and Chris was forced to take a more active role in the U.S. business. Chris didn’t seem that interested in the day-to-day running of the American company, so he hired an endless stream of “presidents” to do the hands-on work—some good, some not so good. It was a revolving door, with people only staying a short time, which made doing business with them chaotic and disorganized.
This turmoil at the label ended up having a disastrous impact on the release of Wide Awake in Dreamland and the subsequent tour supporting it. When the record came out, we went out on tour, but for the first time since 1979, we weren’t selling out venues. Right away we could see that this tour was a bust. This was partially due to audience fatigue. Our ridiculous schedule of an album and tour every nine months had officially come back to bite us in the ass. The audience had seen us a lot. We had saturated the market, and this backlash was a direct result. Tours were supposed to be special, unique experiences, and there were very few audiences that were truly insatiable for them. After a certain point, they’ve had enough, and it seemed we’d reached that point. Our career was slowing down.
But while there was no doubt that we’d been on the road too much, it was the confusion at the label that really sank the record and the tour. Chrysalis was in transition; they didn’t focus on marketing and promoting the record as much as they should have or as much as they had with past records. This combination proved fatal to the album and the tour.
Of course we didn’t realize this until it was too late, and we started off the tour feeling as confident as ever. At first we simply kicked back and had a great time with Haley on the road. She loved it—and the “house-bus” was her favorite part. She decorated her bunk and was the little queen with an extended family totaling nearly forty people. Her parents and godparents were with her every day. Before she was born, I’d sleep until one P.M. when we were on the road, usually because I’d been up ’til four A.M. the previous night. Now, we were up and out the door first thing in the morning, always looking for ways to entertain an energetic three-year-old. Up until this point, I’d led a pretty insulated and reclusive life, but with Haley we had lots of visits to museums, parks, kid movies—even the dreaded mall.
Though only three, Haley was an avid shopper, and I found myself traipsing through places like the Mall of America with a huge African American bodyguard and a three-year-old decked out in a Disney Princess costume (complete with tiara and “sparkle shoes”) and trying to blend in. Women would stop us, oblivious to me, but dazzled by the child and say, “Oh! Isn’t she adorable? Is it her birthday?”
I’d smile and say, “Yes…. Yes it is,” and then I’d get the hell out of there.
We spent many days teaching Haley how to swim in pools across America. Spyder taught her how to play baseball in the artist’s parking lot of Pine Knob Music Theater outside of Detroit. Eventually Haley became such an experienced traveler that she would walk into our hotel suite, go straight to the phone and say, “Mommy, I’m going to call room service and see if they have crème brûlée.” She was incredibly precocious and sweet, and we adored her.
While all this was fun for us, it was not exactly the rock star life that most people imagined. When I was plugging the new record, I went on Howard Stern, who was in L.A. promoting his new radio show. I had met Howard years back in New York before he became the shock jock he is today. I did my interview first; we were talking about how normal my life was, considering my profession. You know, no trips to rehab, actually married to my daughter’s father—the usual. Between takes we talked about having kids, and he asked me where he could get a Disney princess costume for his little girl while he was in L.A.
Also on the show was Robin Leach, who was the host of the show Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, and when Howard started interviewing Robin, Robin launched into his stable of great stories about the excesses of the wealthy. When Robin’s aristocratic British voice came to a break, Howard chimed in: “Robin, you should have Pat on the show sometime.”
Robin deadpanned, “She just spent twenty minutes telling you how boring she is. Why would I do that?” All I could do was laugh, but I had to admit, the man had a point.
But as much fun as we were having, the actual shows themselves became increasingly lackluster. Venues were undersold; the crowds weren’t showing up in the same numbers. “All Fired Up” was flying up the charts, but even that wasn’t enough to stop the tour’s break-neck downward spiral. Promoters began panicking, and before long, our booking agents for the tour were suggesting that we cancel the tour and cut our losses before there was any more bloodletting. We had to protect our relationship with the promoters for future touring. Spyder and I were reeling; we immediately went into survival mode. Our first priority was salvaging everything we could. We’d put our heart, soul, and blood into this for the last nine years. After all the shit and sacrifices we’d made in our personal life there was no way we were going to sit idly as it all went up in flames.
We met with our attorneys and business manager and proceeded with triage. Besides all the damage that had been done to our reputation, there was one truly terrible question to face: we had a crew of forty people who depended on us for their livelihood and if we canceled the tour, what would happen to all of them? The very thing that they’d used to manipulate me on the Seven the Hard Way tour was about to come to pass. I was sick. We had to do the right thing. Some of these people had been with us since the beginning. Everyone was paid a severance and released from their obligation to us so that they could work elsewhere.
In the aftermath, I was furious. How had no one seen this coming? The label alone was not to blame. What had our side been doing? Where were our people? How had things gotten so bad? It seemed incredible that everyone was so complacent and hesitant to take a proactive approach to protect all of our interests. We were rife with questions and had very few answers.
GETTING OUR FIRST TASTE of real failure was eye-opening, but we didn’t come back from the Wide Awake tour to feel sorry for ourselves. We were eager to pick ourselves up and figure out where we’d go from there. As luck would have it, a peculiar chain of events led to a dramatic turn that would reshape our entire career and impact the rest of our lives.
It all began shortly after we returned home from our aborted tour for Wide Awake, when our attorney, Owen Epstein, died of a brain tumor. Newman and Owen had been best friends, and for years he’d represented Newman with the club and many of his comedy acts. Our A&R guy, Buzzard, was close with Owen as well. This strange triangle was a little too cozy for comfort, and it inevitably created a conflict of interest for Newman and Owen. Where did their allegiance lie—with us or the label? For years, we’d looked the other way, but the combination of the Wide Awake disaster and Owen’s death meant that we had new incentive to take hold of the situation.
After Owen died, I retained new counsel, a man named Gerry Margolis who had been Spyder’s original attorney for a short time in the very beginning, and the first thing Gerry did was clean house. He examined all of our current contracts and associations, and as we sorted through the documents, it immediately became clear that we had major problems with how our management had been handling things. He sat me down and said it simply and clearly: “The bad news is that there are a lot of problems here. The good news is that they are all fixable.”
And then he laid it out for me in no uncertain terms: there were large-scale issues with how our affairs were being handled. For a couple years some things had been going on that we hadn’t bothered to take control of; now all that had to change. These problems began with Newman but they didn’t end there. Because money was always an issue and Newman was pretty overwhelmed with his various responsibilities to us as well as the club, he eventually took on a partner, a guy named Richard Fields.
Appropriately, this had all started around the time we made Get Nervous. At first Fields didn’t actually work with us—he worked with Newman. Fields’s job was to help Newman run the business of the club and the comedians that Newman managed, and we were adamant that it stay that way. But Fields wasn’t content doing that. All the fun stuff was happening in our world, and slowly he began to infiltrate it. That was when we learned one of the ugly axioms of the entertainment business: if someone works directly with your manager, they are also working with you. Don’t dream that they’re not.
Spyder and I protested his involvement. We didn’t want this guy to just waltz in after all of us had worked so hard together to achieve what we had. But Fields was crafty, making us feel at ease and showing us how much this would help Rick out. Little by little he worked his way in, and we started to see the impact here and there. When we filmed an HBO special, his name appeared as a producer. When decisions were made, he was always there. And he seemed to think he was a Rockefeller. The next thing I knew, our most trusted business manager had been let go. Fields became more involved in everything. Suddenly we had Dom Pérignon in the dressing room. We had fleets of limos taking us around town. We were staying at the St. Regis. We were encouraged to spend money as well. At Fields’s suggestion I once bought our attorney Owen a DeLorean, as compensation for doing such a good job on the renegotiation of our record contract. Money was being pissed away moment by moment.
Millions of dollars were coming in the door, and a lot of it was going out for no good reason. We weren’t completely oblivious and we didn’t go broke, but we weren’t in control as much as we needed to be because everything was channeled through my management. I kept feeling like something was very wrong, that what had basically become a show-business empire was in danger of going in the dumper. The money we got from our writing, for example, we protected. But there was money coming in that we couldn’t even track. My management even took out a million-dollar life insurance policy on me, using power of attorney. Apparently this was not illegal, but crazy, nonetheless.
There were other reasons that some of this maneuvering slid past us at first. Fame brought more than money in the door. For a while I had a Winnebago full of FBI agents protecting me from a stalker. Out of the blue one day, some crazy guy’s parents contacted our office. It seemed their son had just been released from a mental hospital in Georgia because of some loophole that prevented the hospital from keeping him. During his time there he’d written threatening letters saying that he was the real Neil Giraldo and that Spyder was an imposter living in his home with his wife and child. The letters claimed he was going to California to set it all straight, even if it meant killing Spyder. Now, I’ve been around weird people all my life, but the crazies, they’re scary. So the FBI was brought in and they lived in our driveway, in a Winnebago, for six months. They finally caught the guy; he’d made it all the way to Denver.
In the end, between the fleets of limos and expensive hotel suites, I would guess that the new partner cost us about half a million dollars. We probably wouldn’t have ever discovered the full extent of what was going on if it hadn’t been for Owen’s death.
As Gerry laid everything out for me, I felt like I’d come out from inside a cave. This had all been happening under our noses. We took a serious look around us, and it wasn’t pretty. With the exception of everything surrounding Wide Awake, the last few years had been incredibly good to us professionally and financially, but the rate at which everything had unfolded caused us to commit to things without fully understanding what we were getting ourselves into and what the consequences might be. The music business is littered with these situations.
If I was going to be the mother I wanted to be, I needed to be protective. I began to see the future in terms of taking care of a family, of providing for a family’s future. All of a sudden it wasn’t our money, it was for our daughter, and that realization helped me to see I didn’t have to be so nice about things anymore. If I questioned what people were doing, I wasn’t being a selfish pig. I was looking out for my child. I became a viper. I ended up marching in and saying, “What the hell do you people think you’ve been doing? I want an accounting. I want to know where every dime is. And if you don’t know where it is, you better be able to explain why.”
It was like day and night. I’d drawn a line in the sand. I called each and every asshole on the carpet and started heads rolling. People got fired. People got scared off. People realized that we were done bank-rolling whatever they wanted. It was a beautiful thing to see.
While it felt good to take control, in reality this turn brought about one of the saddest points in my professional career. All of the aggravating and tedious experiences we’d been through with the label paled in comparison to what it felt like when we finally had to confront Newman about what had been going on. Newman was one of my oldest friends, going back even farther than Spyder. From the first moment that I stepped off the stage at Catch, he’d been there, listening to my crazy ideas and helping me make them realities. Even when he wasn’t sure he agreed or understood what I was talking about, he’d cheered me on. He was my confidante, my manager, and my friend.
Even today, I don’t really know what happened, and I’m not sure I want to. Somewhere, as things progressed, boundaries became blurred, ethics were pushed aside. People justified their actions and codes of conduct were relaxed in the name of compromise. Being forced to see it all in the daylight hurt immensely. Newman didn’t do anything out of malice; that much I knew for sure. His intentions were good and his heart was always in the right place, but he was in the horrible position of keeping the peace between all the parties. Something had to give, and unfortunately that something turned out to be us.
To some extent, I think he and I were both naïve and trusting, and people took advantage of that. I took full responsibility for my part in all of this, but I held everyone else accountable as well. Newman had allowed Richard Fields to play far too prominent a role in our affairs. Fields’s actions may have hurt us, but they destroyed Newman.
We parted ways “amicably.” It broke our hearts, because Newman was a friend, but for both our sakes, we had to sever the old tie. It was 1988, and I’d been with him for over ten years. Now for the first time in my professional career, I didn’t have a manager.
As if that weren’t a sea change in itself, there was still one surprise waiting for us. As big as Gerry’s discovery about our managerial problems had been, it was not the most shocking thing that he had uncovered when he went through Owen’s paperwork. Rustling through the reams of contracts and decade-old documents, he made the most important finding of all: our contract with Chrysalis was no longer legally binding.
It seemed that under California law, a person could not legally be bound to a personal service contract for more than seven years. Though the original document was signed in New York, which didn’t have that law, when we had renegotiated our contract with them in 1980, it was done in California, so the law applied. It was now 1988, meaning that more than seven years had elapsed. They had been so caught up with everything happening in their company and focused on pushing us back into the studio that they hadn’t realized their mistake until we brought it to their attention. Just like that, we could walk—no lawsuit, no lawyers. We simply could walk away with no repercussions. It was crystal clear; we were free.