Apr 09

SURVIVOR – “Eye Of The Tiger”

FT + Popular76 comments • 4,985 views

#507, 4th September 1982

Before I talk about Survivor I’m going to talk about me a little. Skip down a few paragraphs if you don’t care.

There. Now, I was lucky enough to have a happy childhood. And from mid ’82 to late ’84 it was at its happiest. Not dramatically joyful or anything, not eventful even – just the simple, hassle- and hormone-free happiness of the boy of 9 or 10 who knows what he enjoys and has the space and security to get on with it. Simple, nerdy stuff. Books. The BBC Micro. Camping trips. School projects. Youth theatre groups. Doctor Who. Dungeons & Dragons. The radio.

Being happy didn’t mean I liked all the pop music I heard at the time. Far from it. Some of it I hated. (And hating it was something else to make me happy). But the result is that on some level I like almost all of it now. The suffusing marshmallow memory of my happiness has subsumed my judgement, smoothed it out. I feel safe in saying that there is not a single record which charted in 1983 that I couldn’t get some base nostalgic pleasure out of even if my higher brain functions were screaming out against it.

Will this make any difference to how I write Popular entries? I have no idea. But it seemed fair to warn you against it.

And now, let’s talk about Survivor.

On the Irene Cara thread there was some talk about American triumphalism and swagger in pop – in contrast to the more playful tones of British New Pop. Obviously, “Fame” is like Noel Coward compared to “Eye Of The Tiger”, which was specially commissioned to be as pummelling and bombastic as is musically possible. Does it succeed?

Yes, indeed too well. If this was a boxing match, the hero would flatten his opponent within the first fifteen seconds. The taut, macho bassline and punchbag riff that open the track are awesome: the only problem is that Survivor have to follow them with a song, and “Eye Of The Tiger” predictably underwhelms. It’s already said everything it needs to with devastating economy – all this “man and his will to survive” stuff is just labouring the point, and the longer it goes on the more you doubt it.

Perhaps theirs was an impossible task – though when Destiny’s Child got their hands on something very like the “Tiger” bassline for “Bootylicious” they built a killer song on top. On the other hand, there are many bands who strain for years without producing anything as primal as the first fifteen seconds of “Eye”: Survivor’s failure to capitalise – in both a track and career sense – can’t take that away from them.



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  1. 31
    JonnyB on 21 Apr 2009 #

    With rules of thumb, you must take the rough with the smooth, Billy. A sacrifice, sure, but a noble one.

  2. 32
    Izzy on 21 Apr 2009 #

    On celebration music played to drive up the frenzy at sports stadia, would organisers please note that THIS DOES NOT WORK. All that happens is that it drowns out the crowd, who then promptly shut up. My current pet hate is the guy who shouts ‘CHAM-PAYYYYyyyyyyy…’ over the drivers’ celebration in formula one.

    If you must try to hype things up, the only thing I can think of that might work would be playing the sound of a cheering crowd. Probably best to use a tape for this – amplifying the crowd’s own noise would risk the mother of all feedback loops.

  3. 33
    Billy Smart on 21 Apr 2009 #

    In about 1990, at a particularly low point in their fortunes, Watford FC did just that, strange amplified cries of “COME ON YOU HORNETS!” much louder than the actual sounds of muted dissatisfaction heard on the real terraces.

  4. 34
    Izzy on 21 Apr 2009 #

    I love that Watford story.

    As for Survivor, I don’t get the contempt for this at all. Pop is more than anything about great moments, and the intro to this is up there with the best. That alone would be enough. (it’s mirrored by a great intro to the video, where the singer walks down some mean streets and is joined by the band one by one – gang/camp effect only slightly ruined by the hilarious plaid shirts, huge spectacles and mullet ensemble sported by a couple of members) The rest of the song is perfectly fine – anthemic tune, great guitar, well put-together – though I’d agree that the vocals are a bit high. I wouldn’t necessarily want Robert Plant loose on it, but a Robert Plant soundalike could’ve done a fine job. It’s not a ten, but easily deserves an eight.

    I think I’m a couple years younger than Tom, so this only really registers with me as a Rock Classic. But ‘Burning Heart’ absolutely did the business for me when it was my turn. There was such glamour to boxing at that time, and the entry music was a big part of that – the intimacy (and I suppose inebriation) of boxing or darts shows that in some circumstances music-and-sports can be done well! I saw Rocky IV recently, and although there are great moments (Apollo Creed dancing to the ring), some of it is ludicrously overblown, like the cornermen arguing the merits of communism vs capitalism at the press conference – but it’s always enjoyable. Which I suppose makes Survivor the perfect soundtrack.

  5. 35
    wichitalineman on 21 Apr 2009 #

    At Trelleborg in Sweden, when the home side scores they play something that sounds like a 78 of Yes We Have No Bananas in Swedish, which gets yanked off (I’m convinced you can hear the needle being lifted) mid song.

    Jonny B, no! I’d also really miss Glad All Over (Crystal Palace), When The Red Red Robin Goes Bob Bob Bobbing Along (Charlton Athletic, Carshalton Athletic) and Tijuana Taxi (Leyton Orient).

    When Mike Walker had his short, unhappy reign at Everton he got them to ditch Z Cars in favour of (I think) Eye Of The Tiger. All part of the overly serious, flavourless Sky world of sport, enough to make you squeak “it’s only a game!”

    The Liquidator used to be played at West Brom AND Wolves didn’t it? Oh the irony when Wolves were on the brink of liquidation circa ’84.

  6. 36
    Steve Mannion on 21 Apr 2009 #

    add ‘Pigbag’ to the exceptions to JonnyB’s rule

  7. 37
    lex on 21 Apr 2009 #

    All football chants can die forever, but I was sort of shocked to discover the existence of the Jock Jams compilation series in the US, which seems to mostly consist of banging Eurotechno.

    I don’t recall any tennis player particularly repping for ‘Eye Of The Tiger’, except maybe (inevitably) for Lleyton Hewitt – the younger generation seem to prefer 50 Cent and the Black Eyed Peas. Progress! I also remember Jennifer Capriati requesting Outkast’s ‘Bombs Over Baghdad’ as her entrance music to the Miami stadium – which would be awesome, except it was at the height of the Iraq war, and came off as astonishingly tactless. In googling to confirm the details I’ve just found one commentator huffing that “Capriati’s unregenerate vulgarity is the sport’s worst kept secret”, haw.

  8. 38
    Erithian on 21 Apr 2009 #

    Since Wichita has mentioned Everton, I recall the time when Sylvester Stallone actually turned up at Goodison Park, in January 2007 for a 1-1 draw against Reading. He’s apparently a friend of an Everton shareholder and was in the UK to promote the not-at-all-unlikely “Rocky Balboa”. Cue a huge chant from the Goodison faithful of “ROCKY IS AN EV-ER-TON-I-AN!” Match of the Day 2 cameras got a great shot of him sipping a carton of tea then all but spitting it out as the taste hit him like a right hook.

    We had my little nephew round to stay at Christmas ’82, and I played him “Private Investigations” while narrating what I thought was going on in the imaginary movie to which the instrumental section would be the soundtrack. “The detective’s walking down the deserted streets … is that someone watching him or just a cat?… here comes the baddie, POW!” (as the power chord clangs in). He was mesmerised. I think it works!

  9. 39
    Steve Mannion on 21 Apr 2009 #

    my favourite entrance music moment ever is Nigel Benn using Goodmen’s ‘Give It Up’ prior to Eubank defeat.

  10. 40
    rosie on 21 Apr 2009 #

    The intro to EotT evokes Waterloo Sunset, does it not? Before it goes all in-yer-face macho on you I mean.

  11. 41
    Tim on 21 Apr 2009 #

    I lived in Leeds in the late 80s/early 90s. At that time Leeds United used to run out to a horrible thing which started with the opening keyboard line from “Fanfare For The Common Man”, then segued into the intro from “Eye of the Tiger” and followed that with a quick chorus of “Simply The Best”.

  12. 42
    Tom on 21 Apr 2009 #

    It’s “Waterloo Sunset”‘s lairy cousin maybe! It’s a shame the two intros are both far too famous to make a blind test practical.

  13. 43
    Tom on 21 Apr 2009 #

    #41 the birth of the mash-up!

  14. 44
    Tim on 21 Apr 2009 #

    Oh and Wichita (#35) – there’s a bit in “My Life As A Dog” in which a fellow obsessively plays his Swedish language 78 of “Yes We Have No Bananas”. His wife (eventually driven to distraction) smashes up the record. I wonder if the two are related in some way?

  15. 45

    shrewsbury town used to run out to biff bang pow!’s “there must be a better life”

  16. 46
    wichitalineman on 21 Apr 2009 #

    Re 44: Wasn’t that I’ve Got A Lovely Bunch Of Coconuts? But it was definitely something just as daffy. Isn’t Sweden great?

    On the pop/sport interface: opening melody lines of themes from Black Beauty and World Of Sport are identical; Forget About You by the Motors is basically the Grandstand theme.

    It seems Gary Glitter has avoided the vanishing commissar treatment in the US where Rock’n’Roll Part 2 lives on. Hello Hello I’m Back Again was, of course, another terrace chant which has now been expunged.

    Re 41: Dirty, dirty Leeds. I’d expect no better.

    Re 45: I’d love to think that’s true…

  17. 47
    JonnyB on 21 Apr 2009 #

    I think Tim #41 sums it up…

    A distinction needs to be drawn on the stadium thing. Individual tracks, perhaps quirkily-chosen ones, or things that have a local, team or punning relevance are far more acceptable. Generic ‘triumphant moment, work up the crowd!’ songs cross the line. Personally I am happy to admit a fondness for ‘We are the Champions’ as a pop song, but I can’t separate it from sports stadium hell.

    I loved the Watford story. I might try to introduce the same sort of thing at bowls on Friday.

  18. 48
    Steve Mannion on 21 Apr 2009 #

    #43 surely it’s more of a medley! or megamix (still not entirely sure what distinguishes one from the other)

  19. 49
    LondonLee on 21 Apr 2009 #

    In the States they often play music while the game is going on which drives me up the fucking wall. And the NFL seem to have some corporate rule that every team has to play the same music so you get The Stones’ “Start Me Up” at every single kick off.

    The Boston Red Sox “theme tune” is Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” which I do admire as a choice for it’s eccentric thinking outside the usual sports box but it has ruined that song a little bit for me.

  20. 50
    Matthew H on 21 Apr 2009 #

    This song reminds me of my one single term at boarding school, which is mainly a bad thing. Then again, 27 years on, I’ve got a rose-tinted nostalgia for both. It makes this anthem sound melancholy.

    Oh, and ALSO I recorded the Top Of The Pops when this hit No.1 just before I went off to school – recorded on audio tape, of course; Ferric Oxide, possibly – and it has my mum drawing the curtains over the top of the intro, precisely in time. Recording telly on audio tape, eh? Them’s was the days.

  21. 51
    Billy Smart on 21 Apr 2009 #

    #35, as with Everton abandoning ‘Z Cars’ for ‘Eye of the Tiger’, in the late 1990s Charlton briefly replaced ‘The Red Red Robin’ with the stirring punk sounds of ‘Into The Valley’ by The Skids – to the derision of all.

  22. 52
    LondonLee on 21 Apr 2009 #

    What do they play at Charlton now? “Down Down” by Status Quo?

  23. 53
    wichitalineman on 21 Apr 2009 #

    Or “Death Valley” by Charles Blackwell. As long as Millwall don’t swap places it’s sort of bearable. Cue return of Curbs?

    Tom, I’m not sure if you noticed that Chipstead were relegated from the Isthmian League on Saturday. Yes, I’m afraid the Chips are down.

    The most unlikely sport/pop crossovers had to be the BBC themes of the 70s, some of which endure:

    Booker T & The MGs – Soul Limbo (cricket)
    Winifred Atwell – Black & White Rag (snooker)
    New Dance Orchestra – Pop Goes Bach (skiing)
    Brian Bennett – Holy Mackerel (rugby – frivolous Moog fest)
    Douglas Wood Group – Cranes (darts – weirdly tuneless piano groove with solitary extended Moog fart)

    Two Popular artistes in there!

  24. 54
    LondonLee on 21 Apr 2009 #

    Fleetwood Mac – The Chain (Formula One)

  25. 55
    wwolfe on 21 Apr 2009 #

    I haven’t commented in a long while because I’m not familiar with a lot of the #1 from the past few years. But I wanted to say how much I enjoyed the entire “Come On Eileen” entry, as well as the second and third paragraphs of this one. I’m about fifteen years older than you, but I’m happy and fortunate to say those paragraphs describe that time in my life perfectly.

  26. 56
    Erithian on 21 Apr 2009 #

    Adoption of songs by fans of certain teams has a great illogicality. You can see why Manchester City took to “Blue Moon”, but it’s less obvious why Stoke City adopted “Delilah”, and even less so why Bristol Rovers adopted Leadbelly’s “Goodnight Irene”, which they’ve sung since the 50s.

  27. 57
    ace inhibitor on 21 Apr 2009 #

    Two more Popular artistes in sporting contexts; did anyone else hear ‘Geno’ being played in Dublin when Ireland scored a try in the recent rugby internationals? And at Wolves, about 15 years ago (as a charlton away supporter, as it happens), they used to play ‘Hi Ho Silver Lining’ before the game, only after the Hi Ho’ the tannoy would cut out so the crowd could bellow ‘Wolver’ampton’…

  28. 58
    ace inhibitor on 22 Apr 2009 #

    re 55, I also really enjoyed your description of your ‘normally happy’ childhood tom. I was, in the same period, a normally unhappy 17-18 year old, in a town where nothing ever happened, waiting for life to begin, and finding solace in an (official) listening diet of PiL/Robert Wyatt/Au Pairs etc (the only new pop I admitted to liking was the Associates, unless the Fire Engines count). Despite this I too feel a fondness for almost everything thats cropping up at the moment (even Eye of the Tiger, which admittedly I mainly enjoy crucifying on the playstation singstar 80s legends – its what passes for family entertainment in these parts). Its the familiarity of everything that resonates, & I think yr line about hating some music being one more thing to enjoy that sums it up; my relationship with music was so intense and opinionated at this time that I have a relationship with everything, which endures even when the opinions themselves have mellowed, or reversed

  29. 59
    pink champale on 22 Apr 2009 #

    i love ‘save a prayer’ too – there’s not much as gloriously absurd as ”and you wanted to dance so i asked you to dance / but fear is in my soul” in simon le bon’s podgy whine

  30. 60
    lonepilgrim on 22 Apr 2009 #

    I would never have admitted to liking this at the time but it now sounds almost bearable – particularly for those opening, jabbing chords. I became reconciled to the sounds of US rawk when I got the Dazed and Confused soundtrack – but EOTT is no match for Ted Nugent.

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