Top Cinderella Songs of the '80s

Along with late-'80s multi-platinum pop metal superstars like Bon Jovi and Poison, Philadelphia band Cinderella helped coin the often derogatory term hair metal during a period when MTV and pop radio couldn't get enough of this style of music. However, more than a few of these bands contained roots musicians in spandex clothing, and Cinderella particularly belied its name and image with a genuine blend of hard rock menace and blues rock soulfulness. Here's a chronological look at the best Cinderella songs from the band's peak period during the second half of the '80s.

This instant hard rock classic burst onto radio during the summer of 1986 on the strength of a winning if familiar central guitar riff, and it fit perfectly into the developing hair metal wheelhouse with its unabashedly carnal yet refreshingly honest tale of a sex romp. Still, it was easy to see that Keifer's songwriting skill and his clear understanding of the heavy blues core required to make competent hard rock placed Cinderella a cut above many of its less substantial contemporaries. The band's 1986 smash debut LP wouldn't have sold nearly as well without embracing a glossy hair metal image, but the music was sturdy enough to cut through plenty of coiffed nonsense.

Cinderella's biggest hit unsurprisingly came with its signature power ballad, but this one happens to stand as one of the best of the decade across several genres. Hinging on atmospheric arpeggiated guitar and Keifer's genuinely threatening, gravelly timbre, this track manages to attain a genuinely pulverizing hard rock glory despite silky smooth production. The secret here once again is confident songwriting from Keifer, a veteran East Coast bar band leader, but also in a wisely simplified guitar-drums-bass attack. The roots rock influences might not be obvious on Cinderella's debut, but the musicianship and keen sense of how to employ both aggression and restraint certainly are.

Listeners who looked and listened closely to Cinderella's third successful single from Night Songs could see the bluesman trapped behind Keifer's rocker hairdo and dangling earrings. After all, the opening line ("When I was a young boy...") of this track sets the stage for an often unique, sometimes tongue-in-cheek narrative outlining a typical but compelling woe-is-me perspective. Another great guitar riff and some sparkling hooks again help to sell records, but it's Keifer's weathered wisdom that sticks to the ribs: "Well everybody's got opinions, but nobody's got the answers. And the s#!t you ate for breakfast, well it'll only give you cancer." There's true attitude here, and it saves this song from being just another arena rock anthem.

There aren't any real clunkers or throwaway tracks on Night Songs, but it's hard to deny that the song quality declines significantly once a listener gets beyond the album's three top-notch singles. This modestly sleazy after-hours anthem, however, possesses both a distinctive driving guitar riff and a grasp of rock and roll urgency that draws far more from AC/DC than Motley Crue. These foundational merits help elevate a song intent on describing sexual prowess through what are by this point tired slices of innuendo ("I need a little push push" - get it?) to a slot a bit more permanent in hard rock history.

Following the massive success of the band's triple-platinum debut, Cinderella fans and critics may not have been terribly surprised to see a bit of a drop-off in the performance of 1988's. But that certainly didn't happen, even if the band's sophomore LP featured a greater emphasis on greasy blues-rock riffs and hardly any pretenses of either bona fide heavy metal or pop metal. This track's earthy riff spotlights the quartet's solid structure and also its undeniable, spontaneous energy even in the studio. Keifer's vocals most definitely are not for everyone, but few hard rock bands of this period were brave enough to embrace stripped-down arrangements like this.

This tune's arpeggiated opening captures a heartland rock vibe that holds firm throughout the heavy riffs of its verses and the gentle melodies of the chorus. Such versatility serves Cinderella well, especially when its music is considered a quarter-century following its release. Ultimately, the group's second record can be characterized more accurately as naturalistic than experimental in even the broadest sense. Nevertheless, there's a boldness to that approach for which Keifer & Co. have never really received enough credit. A song like this never threatens to flirt with brilliance, but there's always a place for impeccably respectable, straight-ahead rock.

Here's the first taste of straight-up acoustic guitar from Cinderella, and it actually stands out as a damn fine moment. The songwriting here also happens to be some of Keifer's best, and the result is a rootsy display of twin-guitar heroics and a heartfelt, almost folk rock musical approach. Obviously, the somewhat listless power ballad "Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone)" was a bigger hit for the band than the other three singles from Long Cold Winter, but it's also the fourth-best song of the bunch. This track, on the other hand, was a great way to wrap up Cinderella's underrated '80s singles output.

This closing track of Long Cold Winter pulls out all the stops in Cinderella's bid to be taken seriously as a rock band that had fully transcended its hair metal origins. Convincing slide guitar parts combine with Keifer's spirited bluesman romp to qualify this tune as an important forerunner of the traditional American rock soon to be championed in high-profile fashion by the Black Crowes. And although Keifer is no Chris Robinson in the cross-genre singing department, his gifts as a songwriter and bandleader are made quite apparent here - even when examined decades later.