The 1989 fantasy flick Teen Witch has become a cult classic in the two decades since its release. Fans of the film are not only drawn to its enchanting plot line; but also the dazzling music soundtrack. As vocalist and co-writer of the standout numbers "Never Gonna Be the Same Again" and "Finest Hour," Cindy Valentine (aka Valentine Leone) received notable attention and carved a career for herself in film and TV scoring. Prior to that, however, she had already attained success as a recording artist—first in Canada as a rock belter, then in the U.S. and U.K. with the dance-club hit, "In Your Midnight Hour." She talks to Justin Kantor about the good and bad experiences she's had in the business, and why she stayed away from it for nearly a decade.
How did you get started as a performer?
As a child, I sang at weddings, baptisms, communions, and bar mitzvahs. When I was nine, I entered a contest. The prize was a trip to Italy to record at a studio with an opera singer from the conservatory in Milan. My father controlled our every move. Who knew I would win? When I did, he said, "You're not going, over my dead body." I decided that it was time to escape. I had a cousin who waited for me at the corner of the street where I lived. Off I went with my passport on a plane.
My aunt was waiting for me in Milan to take me in. I recorded a track while I was there, and a Canadian producer named Tony Green was in the studio. He saw talent and a look in me. From there, we started working together. I was signed to CBS immediately. I had run away from home more than once. I was still scared of my dad, and it took eight men to yank him off me at one point. I was disowned. As a result, Tony—who had become my manager—reversed my name from Valentine Cindy Leone to Cindy Valentine.
Tell me about the process of recording your 1984 debut album, Rock and Roll Heart Attack.
Tony encouraged me and taught me the process of writing. He was a great influence, and we had the best of times. But he was also looking at the process as creating something commercial; so to some degree it was creating something that I wasn't. He wanted to direct me into what he felt was going to sell. We went in the direction of rock. I made it into Cosmopolitan. I was being compared to Joan Jett. But shortly thereafter, he decided rock wasn't where he wanted me to be. He wanted to go in the direction of what had made him successful with France Joli, and the Madonna sound had become the big thing. We left CBS and ended up signing with Polygram two years later.