Exit Interview: Tom Keifer
IF THERE WERE any justice in this world, Tom Keifer and Cinderella would be to Philadelphia what Jon Bon Jovi is to Jersey — an icon of ’80s rock, a cultural treasure, and a symbol of hair that has never seen a bad day. But while JBJ enjoyed a resurgence, Keifer battled vocal problems that jeopardized his career. With his pipes repaired, the 49-year-old Springfield native has the band back together and hits the Electric Factory on April 9th. Keifer reminisced about a life-changing night on Roosevelt Boulevard, bad music videos, and why you might be missing those photos you tried to get developed in the ’80s.
People might think your band has a Disney fetish, but the name came from a different kind of movie, right? In the early ’80s, all of the band names were pretty literal, really heavy-sounding. We wanted something different, like Queen, Alice Cooper or Kiss. You always associate that heavy sound with that light name. It’s such a cool contrast. We were paging through an HBO guide one night, and we saw the name Cinderella. It was the porn version. I think we were so excited we found a band name we liked that we went out and celebrated. I’ve never seen the porn.
That’s shocking. It is. I just haven’t lived yet, I guess.
Legend also has it that Jon Bon Jovi discovered you at the Empire Rock Club on the Boulevard in the Northeast. We didn’t want to do covers, so there were only two places we could play — the Galaxy in Somerdale and the Empire. We were playing there one night, and Jon was in town making their second record and ended up at the Empire. He came back and said, “Man, I really liked the show.” And that was it. Our demos were pretty shitty back then. What Jon did for us was tell Polygram Records, “Forget their tape. Just go see the band live.” That got the whole ball rolling for us. I’ll forever be indebted to Jon for that.
What was life like before the record deal? During the week, we had a rehearsal room in an attic of the American Legion building in Wayne, where we’d go after our day jobs and work on material. We all worked for a photo finishing company. You know when you take your film to a Walgreens and it’s back in 24 hours? We were the guys who made sure that happened. [laughs]
Did you tone down your look? I imagine a carload of guys from Cinderella rolling up on a Rite Aid was a little intimidating. Nah. Obviously the hair was there. You can’t hide that. Offstage, I’ve always been a t-shirt-and-jeans guy. I want to clarify — we each had our own routes. It wasn’t like this clown car pulled up and these guys got out, throwing film and slamming bottles of Jack Daniel’s.