Single Again is a column on Radio.com where Dan Weiss investigates chart hits of the past and present, their stories and what they meant and how good they really are.
For this edition of Single Again, Radio.com spoke to Jim Peterik of Survivor, about “Eye of the Tiger” the theme from Rocky III and the biggest hit single of 1982. Peterik’s new book Through the Eye of the Tiger details his surprisingly clean-cut career, from his days as a member of the Ides of March (best known for the 1970 hit “Vehicle,” which Peterik wrote) on up to songwriting collaborations with Brian Wilson and others.
Radio.com: What do you think will be the most surprising revelation for people reading your book Through the Eye of the Tiger?
Jim Peterik: Well I think first of all, people are going to go ‘Who’s Jim Peterik?’ [laughs] And then the revelation might be that he’s involved with a lot of songs that are still on the radio that they may even like. And not even just the obvious stuff like “Eye of the Tiger” but also .38 Special and [“Vehicle” by] the Ides of March, which was my first hit record.
What about for the people who were already familiar?
I guess it’s the fact that—I don’t want to moralize in any way, shape or form—that I never really fell into the rock ‘n roll lifestyle. I’d like to at least shatter some of the stereotypes that you have to do to make it. They really fell into the huge pitfalls that a lot of rockers did.
Was that difficult with people around you falling into that?
It was almost easier—I saw what it did to them and what idiots they were when they were high. And I just wanted to go into the next room and write the next hit song.
Was “Eye of the Tiger” the first time you ever wrote a song to order?
Well, it was the first time we really specifically set out to go “OK, we’ve got to write the most amazing song ever for this movie called Rocky III.” We had a great script to work from and the rough cut of the movie right in front of us, so if we messed up we’d have no one to blame but ourselves.
Were you a big fan of the prior Rocky movies or boxing before Stallone approached you?
Huge fan of Rocky I, and II was good, too, my wife and I were really into it. So when I got home that fateful day in early 1982, I had a message on my answering machine that went: “Jim, nice answering machine you got there, give me a call, it’s Sylvester Stallone.” So I thought, yeah, right, c’mon. Stallone would have a handler or an agent…it’s not every day you get a message from Stallone. So I thought somebody was pranking me. I called my buddy Sal who did an imitation of him: “Come on, don’t do this to me.” He’s like “Do what?” So I called him back and Stallone answers, “Yo.” And I said, “Is this Sylvester Stallone?” And he goes [affects Stallone voice], “Yeah, call me Sly.” So I go, “Hi Sly, how you doing?” And he goes, “Yeah, I like the sound of your band. I want that sound for my new movie, can you help me out?” And I said, “Is the pope Catholic?” I knew this was the chance of a lifetime.
He sent us a rough cut of the movie, the first three and a half minutes of a montage. So me and [Survivor guitarist] Frankie Sullivan just watch this thing, and he’s got a Les Paul and starts playing the “chugga, chugga, chugga” thing.