Hit Me With Your Best Shot is a song by Pat Benatar which was written by Eddie Schwartz, a successful producer who has worked with Joe Cocker, Carly Simon, The Doobie Brothers and Jeffrey Osbourne. He has also written over 200 songs, including "Don't Shed a Tear" by Paul Carrack. Eddie is based in Nashville, but at the time he was a struggling guitarist living in Toronto. He told us: "I was in a kind of weird therapy when I was in my mid-20s, it was called bio-energetics, I believe. One of the things we did was punch pillows, I guess it had something to do with getting out hostility. I went to a session where we punched the pillows for a while. It all seemed kind of strange, but I remember walking outside of this therapy session and standing on the doorstep of the building I'd been in, this small house in Toronto, and the title just came to me, Hit Me With Your Best Shot.... I haven't been to therapy before or since. Maybe I should go back."
After he got the idea for this song, Schwartz was approached by a publishing company called ATV, who were interested in signing him. ATV was involved in The Beatles catalog and was a very exciting opportunity, but they wanted to hear a demo of Eddie's songs. Eddie didn't have any songs finished and was working as a guitarist for a Canadian singer named Charity Brown.
He describes how he put together the demo for this song:
"I booked a recording session for after our gig one night. The session started at 3 am and was scheduled to go until 6 or 7 in the morning. I had nothing written. On the way to the gig that night, driving along the highway in Toronto, it seemed like the sky opened up and the song just came to me (musically and the chorus, I didn't have the verse lyrics yet). I madly drove to the gig we were playing, I picked up a guitar and figured out what the chords in my head were and jotted it all down. Then we played the gig and I hired the same guys to come to this demo session. We got there at 3 in the morning, we recorded the tracks, and it was time to sing the vocals. I stepped to the microphone and realized I had no verse lyrics. The sun was coming up and we were all totally exhausted. I said 'Just run the tape 3 times, whatever I sing the third time, those are the lyrics.' I really just improvised the lyrics, and as I sang the first 2 times if anything came out of my mouth that I liked I jotted it down. By the time the engineer pressed record on the third pass the song was written as we now know it."
Eddie sent a demo tape of 4 songs to ATV, with "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" as the last song. ATV signed him and flew him to Los Angeles so they could record some of the songs and pitch them to various artists. Of the songs on the tape, Eddie was most excited about "Hit Me," but ATV hated it. Says Eddie: "That was my introduction to the music business. It took weeks and weeks to convince them to demo it, and once we did demo it they hated it so much they actually erased the master recordings. I was supposed to be there for a number of weeks, but because of all this back and forth about 'Best Shot,' I ended up being there for months. I was about to get on a plane to go back to Toronto and I was so dejected that my favorite song had been recorded and then erased. The engineer, John Rhys, invited me to dinner the last night to cheer me up and at dinner he passed me over a little cassette and said, 'they told me to erase the song and I had to because they're my biggest client, but I made one copy of the song for you because I knew how much you loved the song.' When I got back to Toronto, ATV had just hired a new guy in New York named Marv Goodman. He was working at Chrysalis but he was going to leave and go to ATV, but while he was still at Chrysalis for the last couple of weeks he was listening to material he'd be working with at ATV so I sent him "Hit Me." Sure enough, he liked it and kept playing it over and over again. The story I heard was that Pat Benatar took a meeting in the office next door, heard it through the wall, got excited about it and that's how she heard Hit Me With Your Best Shot."
This was written from a male standpoint, with the lyric "Before I put another notch in your lipstick case." When male bands cover this, they sometimes sing the line as "Put another notch in my guitar case." This was the only line Benatar changed when she recorded it, changing your to my.
Schwartz: "The song is laden with sexual innuendo, but at the core is a song about self confidence. It's a song saying 'no matter what you throw at me, I can handle it, I can play in your league.'"
The lyrics are suggestive, but most people didn't consider the song offensive. There was some politically-correct commentary in newspapers at the time about it being sexist and about encouraging violence against women.
Says Eddie: "This shocked me because it was written from a man's standpoint at the beginning and it was always meant metaphorically - no punches are actually thrown in the song."
This was a big hit when Aerobics was catching on in America. It was often played in the classes.
See a great example of "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" attitude in action in Song Images.
Crimes Of Passion was Benatar's second album and this song was her first Top-10 hit. The single had a slow, steady climb up the charts and eventually sold over 1 million copies.