Eddie Schwartz knew he had a winner with “Hit Me with Your Best Shot,” but those around him weren’t so convinced. Then Pat Benatar recorded it for her 1980s album Crimes of Passion and it shot into the Billboard Top 10, selling more than a million copies. Singer/songwriter/producer Schwartz, charts the course of his best-known tune. His original demo version is available on his new greatest hits CD All Our Tomorrows.
What was the early reaction from those who heard your version of the song?
I had a demo recorded at home on a four-track, which I played for my band. One member, who is now a prominent songwriter and producer, said, “What is it that you like about this song?” He hated it. Soon after I was playing a club in Sturgeon Falls, Ont., on guitar with Charity Brown. She was late so I went up and did a few songs, including “Hit Me with Your Best Shot.” The crowd really responded — all these bored people stopped and took notice. So the musicians didn’t “get” it but the audience connected with it right away.
So tell us, what is it that you like about that song?
Two things: First, the lyrics really captured an attitude of defiance, of not giving up or being a coward in the face of circumstance. I was excited about that. Also, it captured the style of music that I was really into. It was the era of glam rock, power chords and over-producing but this was more of a tight, punchy, café rock-band sound.
I understand your publisher, ATV, didn’t like it either, and erased it from your demo. A kind of pirate version ended up with Pat Benatar. When did you first hear her track and what did you think of it?
No one had told me it was even coming out as a single. I was on Yonge Street in Toronto and walked passed a hairstyling place, the House of Lords. The doors were wide open because it was the first day of spring. I heard the music coming out of there and I stopped cold. I stood there for the three minutes, just listening with my jaw around my knees. When the song ended, a police cruiser pulled up. They thought I was a wino acting weird around the store. Then I told them my story and they really thought I was crazy.
Did ATV ever apologize for not giving you the song?
No, it was a running battle. In fact, I called them in L.A. the day that I heard it to ask if they would support it, promote it on radio and they said, “We don’t think it’s the definitive version.”
What is your favourite cover of the song?
There’s a new band from Windsor, Ont., called Stereo Goes Stellar with a brilliant singer and their version sounds very original. I also got a tremendous kick out of the Chipmunk version, which is a kind of cultural statement, and Joe Piscopo did an impression of it as sung by Frank Sinatra.
Have you played it on Guitar Hero? What do you think of its inclusion on the video game?
My teenage daughter got Guitar Hero for Christmas last year so I was dragged into the rec room to play it in front of her friends. I got through it with a “You’re OK” or something. I love that teenagers all know it. It’s become a generational thing and I’m happy that it’s just as popular today as ever, if not more.