Saturday, July 24, 1982

Survivor hit #1 with “Eye of the Tiger”

First posted 4/17/2019.

Eye of the Tiger

Survivor

Writer(s): Frankie Sullivan, Jim Peterik (see lyrics here)


First Charted: 6/5/1982


Peak: 16 US, 14 CB, 27 AC, 15 AR, 146 CN, 16 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales *: 6.6 US, 1.87 UK, 9.4 world (includes US + UK)


Radio Airplay *: 1.0


Video Airplay *: 483.3


Streaming *: --


* in millions

Review:

In 1982, Sylvester Stallone was looking for a song to use in his upcoming Rocky III movie. The first two movies used “Gonna Fly Now,” an orchestral #1 from Bill Conti. SF Stallone wanted something more cutting edge for the third movie. He initially approached Queen about using their #1 hit “Another One Bites the Dust.” After they turned him down, WK Tony Scotti, the president of Survivor’s record label played Stallone some cuts from Survivor’s 1981 Premonition album. SF Stallone thought the band’s “sound, writing style and street appeal” fit wth what he wanted SF and he asked the band about using “Poor Man’s Son,” the group’s top 40 hit from Premonition. WK

Jim Peterik, the band’s keyboardist, watched a rough version of the movie with fight scenes still cut to “Another One Bites the Dust.” He and bandmate Frankie Sullivan thought that was going to be tough to beat, but, as Peterik said, they “started slashing those chords to the punches we saw on the screen, and the whole song took shape in the next three days.” SF

The song was built around the phrase “keep the eye of the tiger” which was referenced repeatedly in the film BB100 and crafted lyrics to fit with the events of the film. SF The band wondered if calling the song “Eye of the Tiger” was too on the nose and played around with calling it “Survival,” to play up a rhyme with the word rival. Eventually, Peterik decided “Are we nuts? That hook is so strong and ‘rival’ doesn’t have to be a perfect rhyme with the word ‘tiger.’ We made the right choice and went with ‘Eye of the Tiger.’” SF

Stallone loved the song after hearing a demo, but made some suggestions. Peterik said the band wouldn’t typically take suggestions from an actor, but that “Stallone had a good ear for a hook. Just listen to his dialogues – he wrote those scripts. He came up with…hook phrases like ‘I’m going to knock you into tomorrow.’” SF

The result was a #1 song and the band’s signature hit. It wasn’t a run-of-the-mill chart topper; the song was not only one of the biggest hits of that year, but one of the biggest hits of the ‘80s. At decade’s end, “Eye of the Tiger” was in a three-way tie for #1 song which spent the most weeks in the top ten (15 weeks) along with Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical” and – surprise surprise – Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.” WK


Resources and Related Links:

Note: Footnotes (raised letter codes) refer to sources frequently cited on the blog. Numbers following the letter code indicate page numbers. If the raised letter code is a link, it will go directly to the correct page instead of the home page of a website. You can find the sources and corresponding footnotes on the “Lists” page in the “Song Resources” section.

Awards:


Grandmaster Flash charted with “The Message”: July 24, 1982

Originally posted July 24, 2012.

image from samplespotter.blogspot.com

“Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five was a pivotal group in the early days of rap, developing crucial aspects of the genre.” NRR Flash is “largely credited with the popularization of scratching” FR in which DJs mixed songs together and MCs would improvise verses – or rap – over the top. CR The style grew out of block parties in the Bronx in the mid-1970s when DJs would set up sound systems and play records. CR “What had once been a party trick became the most significant cultural movement of the next three decades.” CR

Sugar Hill Records tapped Flash & Co. to bring their talents to the recording studio, resulting in “the first record made solely from mixing other records.” CR Ed “Duke Bootee” Fletcher, a schoolteacher RS500 and the house band percussionist, CR wrote a poem which Sugar Hill’s co-owner Sylvia Robinson decided to turn into a rap record. RS500

With Melle Mel providing the main rapping, “The Message” “detailed the hardships of life in the urban environment.” FR It was “a breakthrough in hip-hop, taking the music from party anthems to street-level ghetto blues.” RS500 That “focus on urban social issues” NRR mapped “a course followed by many later rap artists.” NRR “Without this song, the entire course of the genre could have been very different indeed, and some of its most prominent voices might never have surfaced.” TB

The Message

Flash and the crew weren’t enamored with the political message CR and apparently Robinson only got them to agree to record it by promising it wouldn’t be a single. WI Of course, the song would be released and it became “an instant sensation on New York’s hip-hop radio.” RS500 As Flash said, “It played all day, every day. It put us on a whole new level.” RS500

Of course, its success went beyond lyrical content. “What’s obvious is how much the words were abetted by the music: melody sketched by synthesizer, pulse provided by fun bass and glowering drums, comment added by scratchy rhythm guitar.” MA It “was hardly the first rap record, but its sonic power…and the astonishing immediacy of its lyrics combined to make it the official announcement of the start of something truly new.” WI The song posed the concern, “Sometimes I wonder how I keep from goin’ under,” and critic Dave Marsh suggested, “Apparently dancing helps.” MA


Awards:


Resources and Related Links:
  • DMDB page for “The Message”
  • Grandmaster Flash’s DMDB Music Maker Encyclopedia entry
  • see lyrics
  • CR Toby Creswell (2005). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time. Thunder’s Mouth Press: New York, NY. Pages 391-2.
  • FR Paul Friedlander, Paul (1996). Rock and Roll: A Social History. Boulder, Colorado; Westview Press, Inc. Page 274.
  • MA Dave Marsh. (1989). The Heart of Rock and Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made. New York, NY; New American Library. Pages 61-2.
  • NRR National Recording Preservation Board of the Library of Congress The Full National Recording Registry
  • RS500 Rolling Stone (12/04). “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.
  • TB Thunder Bay Press (2006). Singles: Six Decades of Hot Hits & Classic Cuts. Outline Press Ltd.: San Diego, CA. Page 198.
  • WI Paul Williams (1993). Rock and Roll: The Best 100 Singles. New York, NY: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc. Pages 204-6.