It was a combination of events that cemented Cinderella as superstars.
The main event was the supporting slot on the Bon Jovi “Slippery When Wet” tour. Bon Jovi had just broken through and started selling out all of the arenas. Apart from opening all the North American dates, Bon Jovi had a little jam session during each gig where the Cinderella guys would come out and do a song with them. Sort of like how in the recent Sydney show, Jon Bon Jovi brought out Kid Rock, his sax player and his back up singers for a version of Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock N Roll”.
Jon Bon Jovi even had a hand in getting the band signed with Polygram, by convincing Derek Schulman to check them out. By 1985, Schulman was four years into his A&R gig with Polygram and he was slowly proving himself at signing great talent. Of course he would also go on to sign such important acts like Pantera and Dream Theater in the years to come.
This is how Tom Keifer told it in a “Screamer Magazine” interview;
“We barely knew who he was because this was before Slippery When Wet. He was in Philadelphia making the 7800° Fahrenheit record, their second record, so we had no idea he was going to be there” stated Keifer. “He came back to the dressing room afterwards and introduced himself, Runaway was a hit, and he had a video on MTV so we knew who he was and for us at that point in our career, it felt like a big deal.”
“He was very complimentary, he really liked the band and enjoyed the show, nice to meet you and on his way he went. And we had no idea that he was y’know gonna get back to Polygram and he put in some very nice words to his A&R guy Derek Shulman who signed him. Derek had already had our demo tape as our manager had given it to him; and he was riding the fence. I don’t blame him because our demos were just god awful. We were pretty young and green and didn’t know how to record music. We didn’t really have much guidance. It’s a whole different thing to walk into rehearsal room or onto a live stage and blast out what you do, and then it’s another thing to walk in a recording studio and try to capture it!”
“So Derek’s riding the fence and basically what Jon did was, he said forget the demo tape, I just saw them live, and you should go down check them out.”
So the Bon Jovi tour gave Cinderella real exposure. Of course, they had the songs to capitalise on that exposure. While, lead off single “Shake Me” failed to make a dent, the second single “Nobody’s Fool” went nuclear, pushing the album to move 50,000 units a week. MTV put it in rotation and Cinderella became the new platinum darlings.
“Night Songs” was originally released in June 1986. In October 1986, the “Nobody Fools” video hit MTV and by December that same year, the “Night Songs” album is certified platinum. By February 1987, it was certified double platinum. So when it came time to record the follow-up, the pressure was on for the band to deliver.
Deliver they did. Within two months from when it was released, “Long Cold Winter” was certified platinum. “Don’t Know What You Got (Until It’s Gone)” certified Tom Keifer as a serious songwriter. Andy Johns (RIP) was on deck again to deliver another big sounding album. Drummer, Fred Coury didn’t even play on the album as Andy Johns kept on finding timing issues. The album is a blues rock classic that can rival all the best output from seventies bands like Bad Company and it celebrated its 25th anniversary this year.
It’s got that piano riff that’s instantly memorable and secondary to Tom’s raspy voice. The song had everything that all the glam rock/metal bands where selling, but at the same time it was different enough to be stand out amongst the noise.
“Don’t know what you got till it’s gone
Don’t know what it is I did so wrong
Now I know what I got
It’s just this song
And it ain’t easy to get back
Takes so long”
That’s what being an artist is all about. A need to express yourself. This is something that songs written by a committee cannot really achieve. The real stars of the Eighties wrote and performed their own material.
When you hit bottom, the first thing we turn to is music. Tom Keifer’s raspy voice brings the emotion out and connects on all levels. Truer words have never been spoken especially when in a few years, Tom Keifer would be diagnosed with a collapsed vocal chord. That still didn’t stop them from delivering “Heartbreak Station” and it would be another 4 years until “Still Climbing” hit the streets to a hostile musical climate. It quickly disappeared and their next project ended in a legal mess.
In an interview with Metal Sludge dated June 12, 2001, A&R Guru John Kalonder had this to say about Cinderella;
“Tom Keifer is a very talented musician and has always taken a long time to write a record. In two years, he demo’d some songs, only one of which I thought was good enough to be on a new album after so many years away. Just before we attempted to record some material last winter, I dropped them due to the lack of support from people at my company. Cinderella is one of my favorite bands and I hope they record a record and have great success with it.”
This is what Tom Keifer had to say on it on the matter of new music on Blabbermouth.
“We attempted that in ’98 with Sony and [former A&R executive] John Kalodner and it turned into a big legal hassle and lawsuit, which prevented us from recording the material that they claimed they owned, for five years. . . . Even though they didn’t want to record it. It’s typical in recording contracts. It’s called re-record rights. Once they claim they own the songs, you can’t re-record it for five years. They claimed ownership and decided not to make the record. It was like two years of writing and demos of material that we weren’t allowed to record. Needless to say, we had a slightly bad taste in our mouth. . .”
That’s the music business. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. When the history of hard rock is written by the winners, Cinderella needs to be there. Their first three albums are all masterpieces. Tom Keifer’s vocal style is his life style. When everyone was going for high range vocals in the Eighties, Cinderella brought it all back to basics. With each album they became rawer and dirtier, which was the opposite of what their contemporaries where doing.
Hearing them again today, it sure brought back a lot of memories. Guess you don’t know what you got until it’s gone.