Survivor comes to South Shore Room Saturday
In movie terms, Rocky Balboa is the ultimate survivor. It’s fitting then that the theme song to one of the most popular characters in film history is sung by one of the most popular arena rock bands of all time, Survivor.
The song is, of course, “Eye of the Tiger.” And you may not recall that it didn’t make its debut in the “Rocky” canon until “Rocky III,” when our hero had to face the seemingly invincible Clubber Lang (played by Mr. T).
Rocky prevailed, of course. Survivor has as well, although sustaining just about the same number of lumps and bruises.
The band was formed in 1977 by Jim Peterik, Frankie Sullivan, Dave Bickler, Gary Smith and Dennis Johnson – Peterik previously being the lead vocalist for the band Ides of March. After playing in small clubs for several years, Survivor released its first album, the self-titled “Survivor,” in 1979.
But it wasn’t until the 1981 follow-up album, “Premonition,” that they earned their first Top 40 single, “Poor Man’s Son.” The album is considered to be their best by many fans today.
“Poor man’s Son,” in fact, indirectly led to “Eye of the Tiger,” which was the band’s breakthrough hit. Sylvester Stallone had heard “Poor Man’s Son,” and in 1982 asked the band to write the theme song for “Rocky III.” It hit the Billboard charts hard, reaching No. 1 and staying there for six weeks. It also won a Grammy, a “Best New Song” People’s Choice Award, and received an Academy Award nomination. The album of the same title contained another Top 40 hit in the U.S., “American Heartbeat” (No. 2).
Survivor’s heyday was in the mid-1980s, with hits such as “The Moment Of Truth,” “I Can’t Hold Back,” “High On You,” “Burning Heart,” “When Seconds Count,” and “The Search Is Over.”
But it was following their seventh album, “Too Hot To Sleep” (1988), that the first cracks began to appear. Ellis and Droubay were replaced on by studio session vets Mickey Curry (drums) and Bill Syniar (bass). After lackluster sales, Peterik and Sullivan decided to put the band on hiatus indefinitely.
Jimi Jamison, who had joined the band in 1983, decided to continue touring and playing Survivor songs with local musicians. He subsequently recorded a solo album in 1990. After some success overseas touring in 1992, Sullivan contacted Jamison’s management and asked to be included on the tour; he performed on eight to 10 dates before leaving the group.
Soon after, in late ’92-early ’93, Survivor was tapped to do a new and more extensive hits package with two new songs. For a short time Peterik, Sullivan, and Jamison were reunited in the studio to record new material for the new package and forthcoming world tour. But after broken contract talks, Jamison quit and went back on the road as “Jimi Jamison’s Survivor.”
In spring of ’93, Peterik and Sullivan re-teamed with original lead singer Bickler, released a new “Greatest Hits” album with two new songs (“Hungry Years” co-written by Bickler and “You Know Who You Are”), and embarked on a world tour. As Jamison was also touring under the Survivor banner, Peterik and Sullivan filed a lawsuit against their former colleague for using the name.
“You know, it never really got ugly. At least in my eyes,” said Jamison in an interview with MelodicRock.com. “I mean, I don’t hate or wish Jim, Frank or any of the guys any harm or bad luck. I hope they are successful and happy. I held a special place in my heart for them. It was like a marriage and the songs were our children.
“A couple of years ago after months of litigation and days in court, a Wisconsin judge ruled, after questioning and viewing the evidence, that the right to use the name Survivor, was just as much mine if not more,” he said.
“Mainly because I tried to put the band back together but got no cooperation from them until I started touring successfully. At that point they became very interested in stopping me from playing.”
The current lineup is a mix of old and new members, inlcuding newcomer Robin McAuley (vocals), original member/songwriter Frankie Sullivan (guitar/vocals), longtime member Marc Droubay (drums), and veteran members Billy Ozzello (bass) and Chris Grove (keyboards/guitar).
McAuley replaced Jamison as lead vocalist in 2006.
“Oh, you know, I don’t even think that (the band’s legal problems) crosses our minds,” Sullivan said. “Jim is totally into it, he is beyond me with that, so I doubt he even thinks about it.”
Survivor appears at Harrah’s on Saturday, Sept. 29 as part of the South Shore Room concert series.