Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone)

Album: Long Cold Winter (1988)
Charted: 54 12
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Songfacts®:

  • This was Cinderella's highest-charting single, peaking in the US at #12. Dan MacIntosh prefaced in our interview with Tom Keifer of Cinderella that the band offered more depth of emotion and sincerity than their glam rock counterparts. This song is a perfect example: using it as a soundtrack you can steal yourself back in time where you remember someone, somewhere, and even now you can never say for sure where it went wrong. Maybe you do know where it went wrong. The pain was still the same.

    Keifer commented: "I'm sure some songs I write, people relate to more than others. Probably ones we call hits, right?"
  • The song was recorded at Bearsville Studios in the rolling hills west of Woodstock, New York. Bands often recorded here so they could reflect and get away from it all. Tom Keifer's lyrics of sorrow and forgiveness are accompanied by soaring minor guitar chords, the chords of sadness. Envision inside your mind the beautiful countryside as a painted background surrounding the band as they recorded this beautiful ballad that stirred our emotions on a personal level.
  • The video for this song was a grand production shot at Mono Lake in Bodie National Park, which is near the Nevada border in California. This was a time when record labels would shell out big bucks to create videos in exotic locales, complete with a helicopter to capture the action. This one created a lasting image, with Tom Keifer playing a grand piano on the beach, quite a logistical challenge when shooting in a national park where the landscape cannot be disturbed.

    Nick Morris, a British film-maker who did most of the early videos for Cinderella, Europe, and Warrant, was the director. He was given 10 days and a big budget to shoot two Cinderella videos: "Don't Know What You Got" and "Gypsy Road." Using a photo book, he discovered Mono Lake, which had the added benefit of a ghost town nearby. After doing "Gypsy Road" in Mexico, they decamped to Bodie. In our interview with Morris, he told this anecdote about the shoot:

    "The helicopter pilot was an ex-Vietnam guy, and one of those guys who is just a bit odd. He didn't charge it properly or something, so the second morning we were about to shoot there, it wouldn't start. So the truck driver gave the helicopter a jump start off the terminals of his truck. That was quite surreal watching the rotors go round about an inch above the truck.

    We had a lot of people who were just there to carry stuff because we weren't allowed to drag anything down to the water's edge, so we basically had to assemble in the car park and then walk it back and forth. But we were getting some really good stuff and the band were really up for anything. They were standing around for hours sometimes waiting for the sun to come down, and then suddenly I'd be screaming at them: 'Keep playing the song!'"
  • This song was featured in the 2008 film The Wrestler, starring Mickey Rourke. It was also used in a 2003 episode of South Park.
  • This was referenced in The Office episode "Branch Closing" (2006). Roy cites the title lyric when he learns he might not work with Pam anymore if the Scranton office closes.

Comments: 2

  • Rosie from Arizona This was my favorite song by them as a kid along with Nobody’s Fool. My older cousins introduced me to them along with many great bands. I would sing this song a lot in foster care. Especially when I would be leaving a place. Though there was only one good home that I had.
  • Left Head Kick from Middle Class UsaAwesome song, I remember this one from 1988 when I was a kid.

    “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 it takes so long...”

    I recall being with my ex girlfriend over the last couple years. Beautiful Mexican girl, very special. I couldn’t wait to see her, to work out with her, to travel with her, to experience nice things with her, but it became toxic. I guess we were young, we were in love, and we were stupid to think it could last forever.

    Things became toxic at the end because she wanted more and I couldn’t give it to her. Feel like she was taking her frustrations out on me because things were not going in the direction she wanted after years . My walls were up, and I was afraid of ending up like my parents.
    If you really care about someone you have to be honest with yourself, and either go all the way or, get out of the way.

    And now we don’t talk.

    “...Now I know what I got, it’s just this song...”

    Tom Keifer - sick lyrics!
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