Precious Time

Album: Precious Time (1981)


  • This was one of the first hits written by Billy Steinberg, who later teamed with Tom Kelly to write "I'll Stand By You," "Like A Virgin" and many other hit songs. In a Songfacts interview with Steinberg, he told the story behind the song: "'Precious Time' is one of the songs that I wrote by myself. And that song is about my mother. My mom and I were really close, and she really encouraged my songwriting, and the poetry I was writing, she encouraged it. But she was also kind of domineering, and so that song was sort of about her. Specifically, 'Your home is like a fortress, no one comes in but the florist, the gardener and the maid.' The whole thing was really kind of about her. I was quite proud of that song, really.

    'Mercy in the wine,' that was one of the lyrics that sometimes I would feel badly when I thought that people would misinterpret what I was writing, because when Pat Benatar recorded that song, they printed the lyrics in the sleeve of the LP. And the lyric, as I wrote it, it said, "All that I remember about the days in that September was the mercy in the wine." That's M-E-R-C-Y. And on that Pat Benatar record they wrote 'the merci,' like a French word for 'thank you,' so I was horrified by that. I was so proud of the line 'the mercy in the wine,' and they changed it to 'the merci in the wine.' But, yeah, that was a very personal song. And I thought it was one of the best songs that I wrote on my own."
  • "Precious Time" is the title track to Benatar's third album, and although it wasn't released as a single, it earned airplay on the Album-Oriented Rock (AOR) radio stations willing to play female artists. The song also got a music video directed by Keith MacMillan, who also did "Promises in the Dark" and "Fire and Ice." The album dropped a month before MTV went on the air; the second video they played when they launched on August 1, 1981 was "You Better Run" from Benatar's previous album, Crimes Of Passion. It quickly became clear that Benatar and MTV were going to get along very well: She was a rare female, American rock singer who made quality videos and looked great in them; the network delivered an audience of teenagers who went out and bought the albums after seeing the videos.

    So Benatar made more videos, even for songs that weren't singles. "Precious Time" was her first with a concept and special effects. It shows Benatar at an estate where she sings as another version of her decides that life is too short to waste precious time, and it's time to dump this rich bozo. With green screen compositing and split screens, it was one of the most technologically advanced videos on MTV at the time.


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