first round game
(2) cinderella, "don't know what you got (till it's gone)"
(2) cinderella, "gypsy road"
& will play on

Read the essays, watch the videos, listen to the songs, feel free to argue below in the comments or tweet at us, and consider. Then vote. Winner is the aggregate of the poll below and the @marchshredness twitter poll. Polls closed @ 9am Arizona time on 3/7.

Which song kicks the most ass?
Cinderella, "Gypsy Road"
Cinderella, "Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone)"
Created with PollMaker

dan gibson on cinderella's "gypsy road"

Let’s face it, if the Pat’s Chili Dogs ad Cinderella recorded in 1983 were eligible in this contest—it’s most likely on the outside looking in because it’s thirty seconds long and about the two locations of a 24-hour Philadelphia hot dog establishment, thus lacking the gravitas of “Pour Some Sugar on Me”—this would be all over. And I’m not saying you should vote for “Gypsy Road” because of the “Pat’s Dogs” video, but it’s at least worth factoring in.
     However, in the end, we’re here to talk about “Gypsy Road,” the first single from Cinderella’s second album, and yes, the temptation is obviously there to throw support behind the tracks with more permanence in your bracket—there’s clearly no escaping “Welcome to the Jungle,” blaring through speakers at sporting events forever, I imagine and “Panama” will shred FUCKING FOREVER, y’all, but there’s something, let’s say, charming about Cinderella. If you enjoy cheering for the underdog, these guys, led by Tom Keifer, who has the decency not to try to cobble together a new band and call it Cinderella these days, unlike some of his contemporaries, might be the ones to back here.
     Yes, it’s a little preposterous to call a band with three multi-platinum albums an underdog, but Cinderella didn’t get the big-time fandom that came with the truly pretty boys of their era or the ability to survive the Nirvanapocalypse when grunge mostly killed metal. They were Philly guys, often consigned to warming up the stage for bigger acts as the opener, then sidelined by Keifer’s throat issues in the early nineties. Hell, go back to the hot dog ad: they’re actually having fun, while decked out in full uniform, aiming to avoid tripping on the parking curb.
     In the end what’s most important is the song and if you haven’t heard “Gypsy Road”—maybe you haven’t ever heard it—it’s a damn good track, reflecting the mildly-bluesier sound (somewhat like AC/DC with some ballads) Cinderella brought to Long Cold Winter. There’s not a whole lot to it. It might be a tribute to the loneliness of the road, a pretty common rock meme, it might be a song for truckers, who knows. Lights burning bright, driving all night, etc., but this vision of being out there trying to keep it between the lines sounds a hell of a lot more fun than Bon Jovi’s steel horses or Journey’s sad-sack tribute to monogamy. The video holds this up as the dudes of Cinderella hang out in Mexico, drumming on statues and living out their truth where a “fast talkin’ mama for a dollar” puts “a smile on [his] face.”
     I get it, you probably haven’t thought too much about Cinderella in a while and “Gypsy Road” might have been left somewhere in the purgatory where old episodes of Headbanger’s Ball reside these days, but from start to finish, there’s a lot of charm over these four minutes. Uncomplicated good times and dubious leather clothing choices were what the glory days of hard rock were all about. “Gypsy Road” has those in spades.

[photo if you wanna rep one]

Dan Gibson is the director of communications for Visit Tucson. Previously, he was editor of the Tucson Weekly, a music journalist for Gawker and elsewhere, a professional playlist creator, the manager of a bakery, a graphic designer for publications including California Tomato Grower and Mini-Storage Messenger, and a three-time game show contestant. He is also the founder of the multi-generational dance troupe Beat on the Street.

ander monson on cinderella's "don't know what you got (till it's gone)"

  1. Because I wore my Cinderella shirt to the Dokken show two weeks ago and did receive some glares from boys.
  2. Because in my enthusiasm for these bands who coexisted and even may have crossed paths on the chart or on one bill or another, I’d forgotten how much some people (mostly boys, mostly self-styled serious hardcore boys) dislike Cinderella. I’ve registered that while talking about the tournament with people (mostly boys) who, when presented with the list of songs, take exception at the number of power ballads we’re repping here (by my count 11 of 64):
    1. “Alone,” “Mama I’m Coming Home,” “High Enough,” “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” “Home Sweet Home”, “Wanted Dead or Alive,” “Close My Eyes Forever,” “Don’t Know What You Got,” “Ballad of Jayne,” “Don’t Close Your Eyes,” “Fly to the Angels”
  3. Because  “Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)” is Cinderella’s best moment in their best mode: the moody ballad.
    1. Though the band’s sound was originally heavier (consider “Shake Me,” their debut, and its follow-up, “Night Songs”), when “Nobody’s Fool” hit #13 on the Billboard Top 40, they must have known that they had something. 
    2. Those earlier songs, and their videos, and their look drew way more from the Crüe and Poison than I remember, and, though they’re still pretty good, they blend into what everyone else sounded like at the time, which is probably why Cinderella ends up, more often than not, at least among the boys I know, as some kind of milquetoast referent, after which men like to explain the power ballad to me.
      1. Their best early ideas were the video iconography like the fairy tale stuff (clocks, the stepsisters, midnight curfew, you get it) and the fact that they were willing to poke fun at themselves:
        1. In fact, in the video for “Somebody Save Me” the guitarist wears a Poison t-shirt, and at the very end, the weirdly way overdressed hot stepsister girls diss the band, embarrassingly, in favor of Jon Bon Jovi (helpfully wearing a Bon Jovi jean jacket, as if we didn’t know who he was). And can you blame them? Cinderella was no Bon Jovi, the men explain to me.
    3. Then comes second album Long Cold Winter, featuring first single “Gypsy Road” (our opponent), which broke dramatically into a whole new—and bluesier territory—and I’m not going to run down “Gypsy Road,” which is a great song. But shortly thereafter, we arrive at “Don’t Know What You Got,” a straight-up power ballad that, alongside a few others (most obviously “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” and “Home Sweet Home”) defines the genre.
  4. Because Cinderella was never quite cool. Because they weren’t ever particularly metal. They weren’t threatening enough to trouble my parents. Often enough, even, they sounded like blues (which they would become). But they sold a lot of albums, probably because Tom Keifer could write songs and because they figured out what they were good at, and did it. And their pouty, moody look suited them (and me) in ways that shaded into my eventual interest in goth (see also next year’s March Vladness, the goth bracket). In retrospect I’m not sure that any of my friends liked them at all, or at any rate, no one would admit to it. The cool kids were choosing the more aggressive bands, the ones most likely to impress their Canadian girlfriends or trouble their teachers. 
  5. Because power ballads were never cool either. Not then, not now.
  6. Because they’re accessible. Because they seem simple and don't fluff their feathers quite as much as the shreddier tracks. (Consider The Case of the Listenability of Yngwie Malmsteen, which is a lost Encyclopedia Brown book.)
  7. Because it was the ballads that got me. I remember loving them, and I still do, and don’t mind saying so. I don’t care how wussy that makes me sound.
  8. Because more often than not, for many of these bands, the power ballad is the  thing we remember, because they endure past adolescence, because no one is ever going to shred as hard as Malmsteen, my friends explain to me. 
  9. Because I like moody things and because hair metal is as much a mood—a posture—an affect—as anything else. And because the moody ballad is an undersung element in what we’re talking about in this tournament.
  10. Because, regarding moodiness, Cinderella’s album titles (Night Songs, Long Cold Winter, Heartbreak Station) say it all, do they not?
  11. Because Cinderella can bring it (key for defusing the resistance to sentimentality in the hardest metal heart, and because that sentimentality needs cherishing and protection, that’s probably why all the remonstrations at the number of power ballads and the general utterances of woe from the men and some women in my life).
  12. Because the vocals here are tough karaoke sledding: Keifer’s shriek of a voice is something you just don’t want to do. It’s no surprise that he’s lost it intermittently (due to “paresis of the vocal cords”), and he’s undergone several surgeries to get it back for you). Keifer’s feeling it. Keifer suffers.
  13. Because his feeling it is proxy for our feeling it. Because his suffering is the thing that leads to our suffering.
  14. Because, sure, it’s a little self-pitying, but it’s also grand. The video’s all landscapes, wide and empty, and helicopter shots of the band with their unplugged instruments against the background of California’s Mono Lake, a park eventually defunded by the Bush administration. And if they’re miming the solo on an unplugged electric guitar, we know how that goes.
  15. Because they actually have in the piano an instrument that does not need an amp to sound.
  16. But really because the chorus.
  17. Because the chorus rules.
  18. Because the god damn chorus rules.
  19. Because the chorus is not just a chorus but a position statement: at first it's familiar: “Don’t know what you got till it’s gone.” That may be a cliché, but it’s a good one, the sort that we’re continually living, and the kind of thing that reminds you why we made clichés: because they do useful work for us. In the aftermath of the relationship’s wreckage, all we are for a little while is broke. And we romanticize the past. We like to feel our feels and keep on feelin until the feelin does what it’s supposed to do: it coats the pain and eventually recedes. But this song doesn’t recede. It’s in the ditch after the car wiped out, and it's playing, and it’s just looking up at the sky. And it knows what it’s feeling is the thing it’s after, not the thing that caused the wreck, and whatever clean-up follows it.
  20. Because I want to tell Keifer: some things are better in the past. And even if it wasn’t me, it was you, whatever, and you “Don’t know what it is [you] did so wrong,” there’s that moment when you can just fucking feel like it was over. And maybe it was. Maybe it is. But it feels good to think that maybe there’s still something there, a scrap of hope. That’s all fine. Hoping is good.
  21. Because Keifer’s 14 years older than me, I don’t have to tell him these things. He knows.
  22. Because let’s keep talking about the excellence of the chorus, in which the final line brings turns things again: “Now I know what I got / it’s just this song”.
  23. Because: “Now I know what I got / it’s just this song”.
  24. Because that’s interesting. Whatever’s left after the wreck of whatever relationship this is: just this song, the art that I’m in the process of creating, the mourning that I’m making, whatever ring the song’s left on you, thirtyish years on. Fuck yeah.
  25. Because that’s the equation underlying art. It’s not easy to say out loud, much less to put in a millions-selling rock song on a triple-platinum album in a genre that was derided at the time (and even now by its detractors) for its emptiness.
  26. Because it makes a profound statement about art and loss without having to overcomplicate it (unlike, perhaps, the engine of this essay which I know tends toward the maximal).
  27. Because it’s not fussy, not overly technical. Kiefer doesn’t have to work for the rhyme: gone chimes fine with song. Everything is here in its right proportion. It’s grand but not grandiose, big but not bloated (or at least to me not bloated, or not in a bad way anyhow: there are times when bloat can sustain you too). It’s got sentiment without sentimentality. And here I am, thirty years later, still thinking about just what I got—what we all got—when we got this song.
  28. Because Tom Keifer’s pouty mouth delivering it seems to open for all of us.
  29. Because Tom Keifer’s vocals here are good—dude is feeling them for sure—but they’re not too showy, unlike the vocal and physical gyrations that lesser songwriters might require by way of performance to suggest emotion. These guys’ amps aren’t pulling the thunder from the gods (in fact in the video nothing is even plugged in, in that way you notice at some point as a teenager and wonder how easy it is to believe in an artifice).
  30. Because the more I think about it, the more I’m beginning to think this is the best of the power ballads (though Ann Wilson’s for-the-ages vocal turn in Heart’s “Alone” probably takes it out head-to-head).
  31. Because while you could argue that Shredness and Hair Metal is all about excess, and you wouldn’t be wrong, then you’re basically arguing that “Cherry Pie” should be up against “The Lumberjack” in the final with their battle for the least subtlety, which makes me barf a little bit in my brain.
  32. Because if you really hate the idea of power ballads like “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” or “Home Sweet Home” winning it, this song maybe just might could just kill them. (Provided you don’t pick “Gypsy Road.”)
  33. Because if you really hate the power ballad I think you hate a little part of yourself. (Because you fear it.)
  34. Because these guys are from Philadelphia, not LA. Because they had to earn their cool. Because they worked for it.
  35. Because cool is exhausting (and aping it produces little that lasts).
  36. Because there’s a reason why we romanticize the past, how you romanticize that relationship you had with hot whoever from high school or college, you know the one that comes back unbidden and reveals something about yourself when you believed yourself to be more free: how free were you, anyway? It wasn’t all that good. There’s a reason why it was over, too.
  37. Because there’s a reason why you still think about her and why you’re can still access that feeling.
  38. Because my friend Paul tells me that in the wake of his divorce, he's reconnected with the first girl he ever kissed.
  39. Because memory and because hope.
  40. Because sentiment and because the power ballad is the best vehicle for it.
  41. Because songs are the quickest way to get us back to whom we think we used to be.
  42. Because you are—I am—we are—are some sentimental motherfuckers way down in there somewhere.
  43. Because what you say and what you vote don't have to be the same thing.
  44. Because listening to “Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)” on cassette was a lossy enterprise (remember how those media degraded with each listen?), as is living, and as is remembering the past or trying to reinhabit it or take it apart.
  45. Because what you took of “Don’t Know What You Got” is yours and always will be, whether or not it wins this tournament (or even this matchup).
  46. Because in the end you know what you got, and hopefully it’s something good, but if it’s not, after everything, it’s just this song, and that’s something too.
  47. Because you know what to do.


One half of the March Shredness Selection Committee, Ander Monson is all in for Cinderella, among other enthusiasms. (His photo is perhaps more AC/DC than Shredness proper.)

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