507. ‘Eye of the Tiger’, by Survivor

We’re meeting some of the decade’s big hitters now (pun fully intended). ‘Fame’, to ‘Eileen’, to this. And it’s another iconic intro. Synths growing, and growing, while a guitar goes chuckachuckachucka… It’s almost disco… Then Bam! Bam bam bam! The chords smash as hard as Rocky Balboa’s punches.

Eye of the Tiger, by Survivor (their 1st and only #1)

4 weeks, 29th August – 26th September 1982

I love it when the beat drops, and we settle into a groove. The bass riff is great (it’s heavily-influenced by ‘Another One Bites the Dust’). Right here, twenty-seven seconds in, this could be one of the best chart-toppers ever. Except, from this point on it’s all a bit of an anti-climax. It’s a record that shows its hand too early; and the remaining three and a half minutes are a bit of a plod.

Having not listened to this song properly in years, I was fully expecting to be won over by its poodle-rocking silliness. Big hair, power chords, even the title is ridiculous. But the vocals are too earnest. The lyrics are cheesy, and not good cheese. Cheap triangles of Dairylea cheese. It’s missing something, or maybe it’s just been ruined by its prominence in pop culture. It’s been used too many times with tongues in cheek. Hell, it’s been used too many times without tongues in cheek. (Plus, the band didn’t even that big hair…)

It’s polished. It’s glossy. But that’s not really the problem. Most pop music released in the 1980s was glossy and polished. It’s also got a great hook: away from the intro, the best bit is clearly the He’s watching us all with the eye….. Of the tiger line. But. But but but. ‘Eye of the Tiger’ is, I’m sorry, rock music for people who don’t like rock music. All the ingredients are there, but it never builds to anything. It plays it too safe. It’s just verse, chorus, verse, chorus… fade. There’s no solo! Where’s the solo? You’ve got that iconic riff, and no solo? So wrong.

It’s too earnest. That’s the problem. Earnestness in rock music never appeals to me. File it alongside other motivational classics, such as ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ and ‘You’re the Voice’, that I’d happily never hear again. Maybe it’s an American thing… We’ve just had ‘Fame’ (I’m gonna live forever…) and now this (Don’t lose your grip on the dreams of the past, You must fight just to keep them alive…) While in between a bloke in ill-fitting dungarees from Wolverhampton sang an Irish jig about getting into a girl’s pants.

For me, this song exists solely on a ‘Best Rock Album in the World’ CD that got heavy rotation in our family car way back when. I’ve never seen a Rocky film, and it definitely doesn’t feature in any of my regular playlists these days. It’s a childhood memory, and not even that fond a memory… I didn’t particularly like it even as a kid. (I do have a huge soft-spot for 80s hair-metal, though.) Sadly, ‘Eye of the Tiger’s success won’t herald many other hard-rock chart-toppers, and Survivor themselves wouldn’t have another hit until ‘Burning Heart’, from ‘Rocky IV’. Sadly for them, they weren’t invited back for ‘Rocky V’, and that was that as far as their UK chart career went.

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15 thoughts on “507. ‘Eye of the Tiger’, by Survivor

  1. Funny enough Sylvester Stallone wanted to use “Another One Bites The Dust” for Rocky III but Queen refused to give him the rights so Survivor was picked because Stallone was friends with the head of Survivor’s label. Tom Breihan has a good description of the song in his review at how it doesn’t really pertain to any one genre combining early glam metal with the dominant corporate rock of the early-’80s with a touch of a post-disco pulse in an ’80s style described as “flashdance,” “They sound something like what might’ve happened in an alternate reality where Bad Girls was a solo showcase for Journey’s Steve Perry, not a Donna Summer album. If flashdance really is a genre, “Eye Of The Tiger” is flashdance as fuck.” Much like the other big Rocky song “Gonna Fly Now,” “Eye Of The Tiger” is pretty much a cliche at this point when you want to soundtrack a training or sports montage but I still dig it. Just a fun song to put on and jam out to. On Billboard, Survivor did get a few more Top 10 hits in the ’80s including going to #2 with “Burning Heart” but you don’t hear those songs today. “Eye Of The Tiger” is one of those songs that’ll probably outlive all of us.

    If you want a funny non-sports use of “Eye Of The Tiger”

    • Yeah, is it metal? Is it even rock…? Is it disco? I think it’s a song that exists better as an idea: that riff and the main chorus line. When you sit down to listen to the song as a whole it disappoints…

  2. They were the first band I ever saw in concert…they were the openers for that mammoth band named REO Speedwagon lol. The song has sentimental value but that is it. The riff is the key…I liked the movie more than the song. It sounds like someone TRYING to write a hit song…no soul, no meaning, and that glossy production that was a sign for things to come.

  3. Its the riff and the rhythm for me. I did buy it. I didnt see the movie. It topped my personal charts. I rated it then. Less so now, 40 years of oldies airplay has dulled its appeal somewhat. Its not a bad record though, and they get extra points for not doing the poodle hair perm of the 80s!

    • I think maybe 1982 was bit too early for the classic ’80s poodle perm. I was disappointed when I saw the band’s hair, I must admit. Let’s say they were ‘proto-poodle’…

  4. Pingback: Recap: #481 – #510 | The UK Number Ones Blog

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