The Cinderella Discography: Hair Metal Heroes
"She said Shake Me...allllll NITE!"
Hailing from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Cinderella was one of the most successful "hair metal" bands of the late 1980s. Though they were initially dismissed for their pouty-lipped good looks, Cinderella eventually earned respect on their high level of musicianship, which outshone many of their hair-metal contemporaries.
Cinderella sold 7 million albums in the U.S. between 1986 and 1991, scored a half dozen top 40 singles (including "Shake Me," "Nobody's Fool" and the tear jerker ballad "Don't Know What You've Got (Till It's Gone)") and shared concert stages with top-tier 80s rock bands like Bon Jovi, the Scorpions, Judas Priest and Poison. It's been more than 20 years since their last studio album but Cinderella are still a familiar presence on the retro-rock touring circuit to this very day.
The Infamous "Pat's Chili Dogs" commercial (1983)
Hot Dogs and Humble Beginnings
Guitarist/vocalist Tom Keifer and bassist Eric Brittingham had previously played together in a heavy metal band called Saints in Hell before forming Cinderella in 1983. Guitarist Jeff LaBar and drummer Fred Coury came into the picture after the band's original guitarist and drummer left to form the rival glam-metal act Britny Fox. Like all young bands, Cinderella spent a number of years struggling to make a name for themselves on the Philadelphia/South Jersey rock scene. (A vintage Philly-area cable TV commercial featuring the then-unknown band singing the praises of a local hot dog joint became a viral video sensation when it resurfaced recently.) They eventually caught the attention of local hero Jon Bon Jovi, who championed the band to execs at his Mercury/Polygram label and convinced them to sign Cinderella to a deal. Thanks to the Bon Jovi connection and heavy MTV rotation for their high-gloss music videos, they were soon on their way to multi-platinum status.
"Night Songs" (1986)
Back in 1986, I initially tried to resist the lure of Night Songs. I was a loud 'n' proud sixteen year old metal head at the time who listened to Metallica, Anthrax, Megadeth & all things thrashy and obnoxious, therefore Cinderella was the kind of band I was supposed to hate. They represented everything uncool about hard rock! They dressed funny, their big song was a ballad, and worst of all, they were buddies with (shudder) Bon Jovi, who of course was THE ENEMY... but dammit, every time I heard "Shake Me," "Nobody's Fool" or "Somebody Save Me" on MTV or the radio those songs would be stuck in my head for days afterward, and eventually I broke down and bought a copy of the album. Metal credibility be damned, a good song is a good song!!
Looking back, Cinderella was really nothing to write home about on Night Songs - the album is pretty basic four-on-the-floor Aerosmith/AC/DC style boogie rock, topped off by some of the dumbest lyrics ever written ("I need a shot of gas-o-leeeeeeeeeen... I'm hittin' one six-teeeeeeeeen! I git so hot I see STEAM!"), but even the most jaded listener had to admit, they knew how to write catchy hooks. Night Songs eventually went triple platinum in the U.S. so obviously I wasn't the only headbanger who was able to look past the spandex and Aqua Net.
"Long Cold Winter" (1988)
For their sophomore album, Cinderella set out to expand their sound and prove that they were more than just another pop-metal act. On Long Cold Winter the band brought more of their classic rock and blues influences into the mix, creating a much more mature sounding album than the debut. From the one-two punch of opener "Bad Seamstress Blues/Fallin' Apart At the Seams" to the catchy "Gypsy Road" and the massive hit ballad "Don't Know What You've Got (Till It's Gone)," Long Cold Winter still sounds great today. Check out Keifer channeling his inner Janis Joplin on the whiskey-soaked title track!!
I have several funny memories attached to this album. I was a teenager with no car when LCW was released in 1988, so I had to walk several miles to the nearest record store in order to buy a copy. It was a brutally hot day and I remember trudging home with my prize in hand, trying not to pass out from heat stroke, and thinking that the band had a lot of balls releasing an album called "Long Cold Winter" in the summertime.
I also got to see Cinderella live during their tour for this album, as the opening act for heavy metal heroes Judas Priest - which was a pretty odd combination. Needless to say, the leather-n-studs Judas Priest crowd wanted nothing to do with the glam-to-the-max quartet and they heckled Cinderella pretty mercilessly from the moment they stepped onstage. To their credit, Cinderella soldiered on despite the abuse and delivered a great set. Once again, the album went triple platinum, successfully avoiding the dreaded "sophomore slump."
"Heartbreak Station" (1990)
Cinderella's third album is also their most hotly debated among fans. On Heartbreak Station, Keifer and company dropped almost all of the hard-rock trappings that had been their trademark thus far in favor of a sound that owed more to the Rolling Stones and Small Faces than Aerosmith or AC/DC. In short, Cinderella became a Classic Rock band trapped in a hair band's body.
Unfortunately, by the time Heartbreak Station was released the overcrowded hair metal scene was rapidly approaching critical mass. Despite great reviews and such quality cuts as the rockin' single "Shelter Me" and the cinematic power ballad title track, the album sold less than its two multi-platinum predecessors, racking up around one million in sales. Drummer Fred Coury left the band at the end of the Heartbreak Station tour, but Cinderella's troubles were only beginning.
When this album was current, I wrote a rabid fan boy review of it for my college newspaper that makes me cringe when I read it today. I closed the article by saying, and I quote, "With Heartbreak Station Cinderella are poised to kick off a whole new decade of blues-based hard rock supremacy right alongside the Black Crowes. Get in on the ground floor now!" -- yeah, I sure called that one, didn't I? Little did I know at the time that a band named Nirvana was about to change everything.
"Still Climbing" (1994)
The odds were stacked against the band's fourth (and to this day, final) studio album, the ironically-titled Still Climbing, from the get-go. The album's writing and production were delayed by the death of Tom Keifer's mother, and the frontman also underwent surgery to correct persistent voice problems, which required a lengthy recovery period. By the time Still Climbing was finally released in 1994, four years had passed since Cinderella's last album (which is an eternity in the music business) and the musical landscape had changed drastically while they were away. Their big haired, old-school blues rock couldn't possibly have been more out of fashion during the grunge-crazed, anti-image 1990s, therefore the album sank like a rock. Still Climbing barely cracked the lower portion of the Billboard Top 200 before disappearing into oblivion.
...which is a shame, because Still Climbing is a great disc, combining the grit and attitude of Night Songs with the added maturity of Long Cold Winter and the world weariness of a band that had spent years on the road. The album is loaded with great tracks like "Talk Is Cheap," "Still Climbing," and the heartfelt "Hard to Find the Words" (dedicated to Keifer's mother), but unfortunately no one was listening. Due to the chilly reception from record buyers, the band was dropped from Mercury/Polygram and Cinderella went on hiatus for several years.
"Bad Attitude Shuffle"
Cinderella resurfaced in 1997 to promote the release of the Once Upon A... greatest hits album. Thanks to a resurgence in interest in '80s "hair metal" acts, they also landed a new recording contract with producer John Kalodner's Portrait Records label. Portrait's artist stable at the time also included a reactivated Ratt and Great White, but the label dropped Cinderella before any new material could be released. Throughout the 2000's they were regulars on '80s themed summer concert tour packages, performing alongside hard rock contemporaries like Poison, Ratt, Quiet Riot, and Firehouse.
Cinderella fans remain hopeful that the band might someday release a new album, but until that happens Tom Keifer's solo debut, The Way Life Goes, should satisfy their jones for bluesy, honest rock n' roll. After working on the album for nearly a decade, the frontman released the disc independently in 2013.
In addition to Cinderella's four studio albums, the band's name and back catalog has maintained a regular presence on store shelves thanks to a large number of greatest hits collections and live discs, so finding Cinderella's music should be a fairly easy task for anyone who wants to go down memory lane or is interested in checking out this great band for the first time. Happy hunting.
Which is your favorite Cinderella album?
CINDERELLA Select Discography:
Night Songs - Mercury, 1986
Long Cold Winter - Mercury, 1988
Heartbreak Station - Mercury, 1990
Live Train to Heartbreak Station - Mercury, 1991
Still Climbing - Mercury, 1994
Once Upon A... - Mercury, 1997
Live at the Key Club - Deadline, 1999
20th Century Masters: The Best Of Cinderella - Mercury, 2000
Rocked, Wired & Bluesed: The Greatest Hits - Mercury, 2005
Extended Versions (live) - Sony/BMG, 2006
Gold - Mercury, 2006
Authorized Bootleg: Tokyo, Japan, 12/31/90 (live) - Mercury, 2009
Live at the Mohegan Sun* (live) - Frontiers, 2009
*Same concert as Extended Versions, reissue w/extra tracks.