Monday, December 28, 2009


AKA The Pinnacle of American Rock And Roll Songwriting In The 20th Century

Returning from a quick two-day jaunt up to Humboldt County the other day, Sweet Baby Jay, myself, and my son were rocking some killer jams in our rented Dodge Caliber, heading down Highway 101 on our way back to San Francisco. Unsurprisingly, Survivor's "Eye of The Tiger" came on at some point, prompting Jaybird to ask me if I knew what the song was actually about. I replied with a qualified "No", although the very same song had been pumping my nads with its lyrical ambivalence and vague references to "rivals", "tigers", "fighting", and "guts" since its release in 1982. Really, I've loved this jam since I was about 3 or 4 years old, but I never realized HOW MUCH was being said with SO FEW words in this song. It's actually kind of amazing. Without bringing any specifics to the table, Survivor managed to write the ultimate party/fistfight/training montage song OF ALL TIME, incorporating every word, phrase and image essential to being an awesome 80's rocker. In fact, if pressed, I would have to say that "Eye of The Tiger" is simply a song about BEING AWESOME, rife with lofty allusions to "perseverance", "determination", and several other elusive concepts to boot.

So today, I'd like to take a few minutes to pay tribute to this epic piece of American musical history, paying special attention to lyrical content but also exploring the circumstances of its creation and its impact on society on general.

Sing/read along:

Risin' up, back on the street
Did my time, took my chances
Went the distance, now I'm back on my feet
Just a man and his will to survive

So many times, it happens too fast
You change your passion for glory
Don't lose your grip on the dreams of the past
You must fight just to keep them alive

It's the eye of the tiger, it's the thrill of the fight
Risin' up to the challenge of our rival
And the last known survivor stalks his prey in the night
And he's watchin' us all with the eye of the tiger

Face to face, out in the heat
Hangin' tough, stayin' hungry
They stack the odds 'til we take to the street
For we kill with the skill to survive


Risin' up, straight to the top
Have the guts, got the glory
Went the distance, now I'm not gonna stop
Just a man and his will to survive


The eye of the tiger
The eye of the tiger
The eye of the tiger
The eye of the tiger...

The words themselves were written by Survivors Frankie Sullivan and Jim Peterik, and belted out by frontman Dave Bickler (right, being AWESOME). But really, no one person can take credit for an accomplishment so great. Sylvester Stallone himself asked Survivor to write this song for his film Rocky III (the one with Mr. T) after hearing their earlier single "Poor Man's Son", and upon its release it skyrocketed to #1 on the Billboard charts and stayed there for 6 weeks. Their follow-up album Caught In The Game was a relative failure, an injury made even more painful by the departure of singer Bickler after its release.
He was replaced by Jimi Jamison of the bands TARGET and COBRA (that's him, second from the right, below), who breathed new life into the band with tha aptly named Vital Signs in 1984. The album even contained another movie soundtrack gem, "The Moment of Truth" from The Karate Kid.

But check this bullshit out: After Survivor split up, Jamison re-formed the band with a bunch of hired guns, still billing it as "SURVIVOR" or worse yet "JIMI JAMISON'S SURVIVOR". He wasn't even IN THE BAND when they recorded their masterpiece.
Fuck that guy.

According to Jim Peterik, the first version of the song was titled "Survival", and as a chorus contained these lyrics:

"It's the eye of the tiger, it's the thrill of the fight
Rising up to the spirit of our rival
And the last known survivor stalks his prey in the night
And it all comes down to survival"

Can you imagine? Survivor - "Survival"? Crazy, right?
Luckily, the fellas made the right call and went with the repetitive yet superior "Double Tiger" version.

"Eye of The Tiger" was certified double platinum in 1982, and won both a Grammy for Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group and an Academy Award for Best Original Song. But true 80's Rock validation came in 1984, when Weird Al Yankovic parodied "Eye of The Tiger" on his second album, In 3-D!
Let's watch:

Yankovic's tale of a washed-up boxer working in a deli, titled "Theme From Rocky XIII", was a smash hit as well, and resurfaced on his 1993 greatest (food-related) hits album, The Food Album (where it was re-titled "The Rye or The Kaiser"). I can think of no higher honor for a song to receive.

"Eye of The Tiger" Fun Facts:

- Survivor prophesied two future hit albums in just one line when Dave Bickler crooned out the words "Hangin' tough, stayin' hungry". Observe:

- It is a common misconception that tigers hunt by day. They are nocturnal predators (well, crepuscular, to be exact), making the line "And the last known survivor stalks his prey in the night" both scientifically accurate and totally RAD.

- The mix of the song used in Rocky III actually had some sweet tiger growls dubbed into it, although the record and single versions did not. Ten bucks to the first reader who can provide me with an mp3 of the "tiger growl" version.

- "Eye of The Tiger" has been covered by boxer Frankie Bruno, Australian death metal band Regurgitator, The Chipmunks, The Jonas Brothers (with Demi Lovato), Finnish death metal band Withering, Paul Anka, Vomitron, Great White, and Christian rock band Echoes the Fall.

Behold, the training montage to end all training montages:

Oh, and one more thing: Have you ever actually looked INTO THE EYE of the tiger on the cover of the album (above)?
Upping the bar on self-reference yet again, you will find SURVIVOR THEMSELVES located therein. Survivor's GOT THE GUTS. Survivor's GOT THE GLORY. Survivor KILLS WITH THE SKILL TO SURVIVE.



Andy Muthafukkkin Bonney said...

I don't know why, but I always assumed the singer was a black dude. Now I know better.

Crankenstien said...

has anyone ever notices on "evil" by mercyful fate they riff the eye of the tiger by accident toward the end

Cialis Online said...

Eye of the Tiger is beyond a simple classic it is as you call it the pinnacle of song writing and composition brought to life in the 80's. I don't believe there is someone that hasn't heard that song that despite having no clue where it came from or what it is about is not fascinated by it.