Cyndi Lauper released the cut-to-the-bone break-up ballad “My First Night Without You” as the second single from her third studio album, A Night To Remember, in 1989. The song, which she co-wrote with veteran songwriters Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly, featured production work from Lauper herself and long-time collaborator Lennie Petze. Though Lauper had already established an impressive history of releasing chart-topping ballads like “Time After Time,” “All Through The Night” and “True Colors,” “My First Night Without You” was a noticeable step into the more adult contemporary market.
When “My First Night Without You” was released, all signs pointed to another Top 40 hit for Lauper. Despite Epic Records’ lack of interest in properly promoting her new album, Lauper’s previous single, the seductive “I Drove All Night,” was a bonafide hit; becoming a top 10 hit on both sides of the Atlantic in 1989. A stylish music video for “My First Night Without You” was filmed by director Larry Jordan, best known for later directing the “One Sweet Day” music video for Mariah Carey and R&B group Boyz II Men. The clip, which was one of the very first music videos to utilize closed-captioning for the hearing impaired, told the heart-wrenching story of a woman going home to face an empty house for the first time. Unfortunately for Lauper, “I Drove All Night” would prove to be her last top 10 hit in America. “My First Night Without You” made little impact on the charts, peaking at a disappointing number sixty-two on Billboard.
Part of the problem with “My First Night Without You” is the dated-on-arrival arrangement that only manages to bog the song down. It’s Lauper’s passionate vocal delivery that saves the song from mediocrity and somehow elevates it to something pretty remarkable. When Lauper declares, at the opening of the song’s chorus, “The sun is in my eyes, so I can’t see. But when it sets down behind the mountain, it’s gonna be my first night without you,” you can actually feel her intense connection to the emotionally charged lyrics. It’s nothing short of remarkable.
The powerful emotional connection found on “My First Night Without You” is carried throughout the entire A Night To Remember record. Lauper’s despair on the LP is always lurking just beneath the surface, even if it never fully reveals itself above the heavy-handed production. With the exception of “I Drove All Night,” Lauper rarely performs the material found on the album in concert, and she has always been very vocal about her feelings for the record: often calling it A Night To Forget. Like a painful memory that we instinctively push to the farthest depths of our mind, it would seem that revisiting A Night To Remember is just too difficult for Lauper — even twenty-five years later.
“My First Night Without You” is considered by many fans, including myself, to be one of Lauper’s strongest moments. It is a heartbreaking should’ve been hit that made her third album a worthy purchase for those few who have been lucky enough to discover it.