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Survivor: Eye Of The Tiger - Album Of The Week Club review

An overbearing hit single became the soundtrack to the 80s – but have Survivor stood the test of time?

Survivor eye of the tiger cover art
(Image: © Scotti Bros)
Survivor - Eye Of The Tiger

(Image credit: Scotti Bros)

Eye Of The Tiger
Feels Like Love
Hesitation Dance
The One That Really Matters
I'm Not That Man Anymore
Children Of The Night
Ever Since The World Began
American Heartbeat
Silver Girl

Every great band needs a little luck. And for Survivor it came in 1981 when Sylvester Stallone commissioned them to write the theme song for the third movie in his blockbuster Rocky franchise. Stallone loved the Chicago rockers’ minor hit Poor Man’s Son, and wanted an anthem in a similar vein. “Something with a pulse!” he said.

Jim Peterik, Survivor’s keyboard player and principal songwriter, knew instinctively what was needed. “I saw the punches in my mind,” he said. “Bam! Bam, bam, bam!” And from that thumping staccato riff, an all-American rock classic was born.

Eye Of The Tiger topped the US and UK singles charts in July 1982. The parent album, full of brilliant songs including American Heartbeat, another hit, and gritty power ballad Ever Since The World Began – would seal Survivor’s status as one of the great AOR bands of all time. 

Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute. 

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Background

Formed in Chicago in 1977 around the nucleus of keyboard player Jim Peterik, guitarist Frankie Sullivan and original singer Dave Bickler, Survivor shot to fame in 1982 with Eye Of The Tiger. Written for the blockbuster Rocky III – at the personal request of the movie’s star Sylvester Stallone – Eye Of The Tiger topped the charts in eight countries.

Bickler was a charismatic figure, with his powerful voice and signature Che Guevara-style beret, worn to hide his premature baldness. But after the phenomenal success of Eye Of The Tiger, he developed nodes on his vocal cords and was forced to leave the band. As Peterik said: “Very few bands can survive a lead singer transplant.” 

And yet, with his replacement, Jimi Jamison, Survivor had a huge hit with the album Vital Signs and then with a repeat performance for Stallone on Burning Heart, the theme song from Rocky IV, which reached No.2 in the US.

When the hits dried up at the end of the 80s, Survivor was officially declared “on hiatus”. In the years that followed, there would be various reunions but, in 1996, Peterik left the band never to return.

Eye Of The Tiger remains the band's best-known work.

Other albums released in June 1982

  • Private Audition - Heart
  • Battle Hymns - Manowar
  • Built for Speed - Stray Cats
  • Chicago 16 - Chicago
  • Screaming Blue Murder - Girlschool
  • Killers - Kiss
  • Beat - King Crimson
  • Mirage - Fleetwood Mac
  • Daylight Again - Crosby, Stills & Nash
  • Pictures At Eleven - Robert Plant
  • Animation - Jon Anderson
  • Eye In The Sky - The Alan Parsons Project
  • Good Trouble - REO Speedwagon
  • Nugent - Ted Nugent
  • Sunshine Dream - The Beach Boys

What they said...

"With the group's first two releases barely causing a ripple on the charts, it was Tiger that catapulted the band to the top, thanks to the chart-topping title track, which was used as the theme song to the hit movie Rocky III the same year. Despite this, the Eye Of The Tiger album is often overlooked. The reason for this was that nothing here really scales the same height as the title track. But as a memento of mainstream rock circa the early 80s, Eye Of The Tiger is a faithful snapshot." (AllMusic)

"This rousing No. 1 hit from 1982 is essential listening that deserves repetitive attention. Boasting a brilliant, iconic power-chord riff and a wonderfully bombastic vocal performance from original lead singer Dave Bickler, the tune has held a consistent place in pop culture for the more than three decades of its existence, ranging from its association with one of cinema's most well-known screen characters – Rocky Balboa – to a memorable 2004 Starbuck's TV pitch." (ThoughtCo)

"Eye Of The Tiger serves as a full blown colour snapshot of radio rock in 1982, that moment in time when popular music bridged awkwardly from the monochrome, melting pot seventies to the upwardly mobile eighties, coalescing around the notion of anthemic, radio friendly arena rock." (The Midlands Rocks)

What you said...

Jeff Tweeter: I didn't listen to the whole album until 85 because I'd gotten so burnt out on the song (it was EVERYWHERE summer 82). When I did listen to it, I loved the whole thing - for quite a few years. Now I can't even listen all the way through. It's like it just died on me about 10-15 years ago. I still love Premonition, though.

Michael Smith: I'm a massive Survivor fan here, I love this album, but would rank it a 9, above the debut and Too Hot To Sleep, equal with Premonition and Caught In The Game, but not as highly as Vital Signs and When Seconds Count.

Ben L. Connor: Much better than its reputation. I don’t know why Vital Signs gets all the praise when this is harder, more diverse, and more 80s in the best way.

Bill Griffin: This album sucks. I would give it a 0 if that was an option.

Dennis Heitland: I bought this when it originally came out. Probably hadn't listened to it since around that time. Still just mediocre, to me. Back in the rack.

Ruben Vrielynck: 4/10. Not a terrible album, but definitely not a "classic". Way too mediocre for that – only for fans of Survivor, I guess. It actually bored me.

Brian Carr: I guess Survivor for me is another casualty of an overplayed song – I’ve never listened to this album prior to this week. I think when I reviewed Motley Crue’s Shout At The Devil, I likened it to a McDonald’s cheeseburger. This isn’t like that – this is more the equivalent of icing without the cake. Zero nutritional value, completely bad for you, but oh so good. Okay, I probably didn’t dig Ever Since The World Began very much, but at least it was buried on the tail end of the record.

Is it overproduced 80s cheese? Does half of the album sound like it’s pulled from an 80s teen movie? Does it contain one of roughly 753 songs about Children in the Night? The answer to every question is “yes,” but I just can’t help it, I’ve always loved stuff like this: super-melodic vocals and non-dazzling but catchy guitar. Count me in.

Gary Bowyer: Bought it when it came out. It was an early purchase from the now defunct Brittania Music, a postal record club at the time. Great album, very of its time and an underrated band in my opinion.

Richard Laity: Great Album, Hesitation Dance is a highlight for me! Dave Bickler's best album as well.

Tyler Mitchell: If you’re looking for near perfectly executed American rock, you can’t miss with Survivor. Badly under-appreciated band that really don’t have a bad album. Talented, consistent, well-produced, and always good for a listen on the road.

Bill Griffin: Most of this album sounds like a third rate rip off of Steve Perry's Journey and worse, just the ballads from Journey. Children Of The Night is actually the only track I enjoyed. The title track is okay but I never really liked it and it got way overplayed. Burning Heart is almost a carbon copy. I can't recommend this one at all.

Jacob Tannehill: Ok. I was super young when this album came out, so I didn’t pay much attention to it. But over the years I’ve come to appreciate Survivor and their brand of American Melodic Rock. Probably won’t spin this album much streaming, or on CD (don’t own a copy), but if see this on vinyl I’ll probably pick it up. Good to hear every so often. The singles (Eye Of The Tiger, Ever Since The World Began, American Heartbeat) are outstanding singles. For their time. Which is not a bad thing.

Warren Bubb: Not a bad album at the time. Eye Of The Tiger, American Heartbeat and Silver Girl were all good tracks but some filler like Hesitation Dance. They went on to make better albums, especially Vital Signs, a pivotal album in AOR, with the great Jimi Jamison. The best tracks still get frequent play in my 80s playlists but been a while since I listened to the whole album.

Jochen Scholl: One of my favourite bands at that time, but my love didn't last. Not listened to it for many years now. But to be fair: the title track is an immortal classic rock standard. And I'm Not That Man Anymore is another very strong track. The rest is expired AOR-material. I remember I liked the following albums even more but they didn't include a comparable hit single and I wonder if they will stand the test of time when I listen to them once again.

Anthony Latz: The single overpowered the album. Never listened to the album, and could not avoid the overplayed single. Classic pop song at a stretch, classic album, no bloody way!

Blackie Stalion: My soundtrack in grade 6. Listened to it last week for the first time in 25 years; enjoyed it. Feels Like Love and Children Of The Night were highlights for me. Cool guitar parts, but album lacks in the vocals department. 5.5/10.

Mauricio Telles: This one is funny: when the main single was released, I heard on the radio and liked, but being 14, I was focusing on learning other great bands from the 70s, so I never listened to this whole album until today.

Several cheesy AOR songs, but some are not so bad, with surprisingly good guitars.

I liked the nice guitar solo on I’m Not That Man Anymore and Children Of The Night.

But I bet that after more listenings, I will get really tired of the vocal(s). 4 of 10.

Matt Roy: This band is not even worth commenting about.

Armando Amarone: An absolute classic. Every song on it is a killer. Dave Bickler's voice is amazing – sharp, tight, powerful, soulful, just perfect. Very underrated album 'cause a lot of people think it's just that all-time classic single... as many comments here prove. But people with real love / taste for good AOR always knew better.

Jonathan Novajosky: Eye Of The Tiger is full of songs that are easy to listen to and enjoy. The problem is that most of the tracks sound too similar – so much so that they are nearly indistinguishable from each other. I am pretty tired of hearing Eye Of The Tiger by this point, but there's no denying that is a classic pump up song. If I had to pick another song I enjoyed, it would be The One That Really Matters. I gave it a couple more listens after going through the album. The rest are all fine, but I'm not sure I would go back to Eye Of The Tiger often, if at all. 6/10.

John Davidson: Not quite the corporate rock of Toto and Foreigner but certainly damned with the same polished production, this album stays so close to the middle of the road I'm surprised they don't trip over the Cat's Eyes.

If you swapped out the vocalist for Pat Benatar she wouldn't sound out of place, and might even give it some edge.

That said, its not unpleasant.

Vocals are very much in the Steve Perry mould – good, clean and tuneful and the guitars have a bit of chug now and then but there's nothing substantial enough to get the blood pumping. 

The sound is all top end.. where's the bass, where's the kick drum?

I know there's more to rock than Black Sabbath and Metallica, but this just doesn't hit the mark for me. A straight down the middle 5/10

David Mosley: Love melodic rock and this album is a classic one.

Tim Kaufman: Look, I'm 22 and don't know what it's like to live in the 80s but let's be for real, this is not an album to take seriously. With that being said, you have to knock them down a peg for a couple things. Vocals and guitars are heavily present and were really well done. The last four songs just felt like bad songwriting and how it was delivered just didn't do it for me. It felt like a bad attempt to be clever and mysterious about the subject but I think anybody could write it. The first five were good and I was really liking this. It's a straight-forward 5/10. Nothing special here but was still surprised how much I was enjoying it beyond Eye Of The Tiger.

Aaron Kaufman: I am familiar with Survivor but had never listened to any of their albums. I was okay with the first five songs but the last four were awful. Their guitar playing and singing is great but the songs just did not work. I give it a 5.5.

Carl Black: Listening to this album reminds me of reviewing The Final Countdown. One totally iconic song dominating the whole album. But like The Final Countdown, the song Eye Of The Tiger is a straight-up banger. I can remember at the Reading Festival, Green Day covering this song. The whole field went ape. It walks the tightrope between cult classic and mainstream smash. Executed wonderfully and with a titan of a film behind it, it was always going to be a winner. But what of the rest of the album? It's a nice slice of pop 80s rock, I could tell which ones I liked, very quickly. If it was keyboard driven, not for me, if it was guitar driven, it was A-OK. Towards the end, it got a bit smoochie. The end of the high school dance type of thing. But overall, not bad. With the stonewall classic and some guitar driven stadium rock, this was a good 40 minutes.

Brian Anderson: What a fantastically banal album this is. Thank heavens for the British and European rock bands in the early 80s dragging the world away from this terrible brand of pop music.

Gary Claydon: I once saw Survivor play live on an outdoor stage in Epcot at Disney World, Florida. This was well past their heyday and Robin McAuley was the vocalist. I have no idea who the rest of the band were. They were on in the late afternoon with the sun beating down from an unblemished blue sky and with the thermometer nudging 40C. They played a 30 minute set if I remember correctly which probably consisted of their greatest hits. I only recognised one song. I wonder if you can guess which one? The audience sitting in the bleachers was fairly small and I found the whole thing pretty soporific, unlike a lady of a certain age down the front who was getting her groove on big style (I've always wondered if it was Robin McAuley's mum). The rest of my fellow audience members seemed to be feeling pretty much the same as I was. All in all it was a strange affair. The set closing monster hit a little incongruous in the setting with little kids running round wearing Mickey Mouse ears while the band sung about being out on the street and the thrill of the fight etc.

That particular interlude had no real bearing on my opinion of Survivor, I'd formed that many years previously. The whole AOR scene just pretty much leaves me cold to be honest. Oh, there are gems to be found if you have the patience to search through the musical wasteland where the great beasts of AOR, soft rock, melodic rock and pop rock roam. But I've always thought you had to be a certain type of man to make that search, a man with a will to survive. Maybe.

I've never listened to this album before and I won't be doing so voluntarily again. I wouldn't cast any aspersions on the abilities of the musicians involved in this or other works of its ilk. It's just that personally it does nothing at all for me. I don't particularly want to say anything bad about it but, at the same time I can't think of anything good so I'll leave it at that.

Mike Knoop: Sure, Survivor hit it big with Rocky III but they missed out by not licensing *all of this album* for an 80s teen romance. 

Example: We are introduced to Perky Girl (played by a Jami Gertz) to the upbeat bounce of Feels Like Love as she goes about her morning helping senior citizens and painting crosswalks in bright colours. Perky Girl is extra happy today because her best friend, Shy Boy (C. Thomas Howell) is coming back today after being a counsellor at camp all summer. Wow! Camp has worked wonders on Shy Boy. He is buff and super cute. Perky Girl realises she has a massive crush on Shy Boy. 

But Shy Boy has set his sites on Dirty Girl (Kelly Preston) who he has pined for since 3rd grade. The two flirt and make out while Hesitation Dance pulses on the soundtrack. This pisses off her sleazy ex Rich Pig (James Spader) who finds about it and later hurts and humiliates Dirty Girl. Shy Boy beats Rich Pig's ass to the triumphant strains of The One That Really Matters. Dirty Girl is now head over heels for her hero, Shy Boy.

Meanwhile, to the tension-filled Children Of The Night, we see that Perky Girl isn't doing well and has fallen in with the wrong crowd, which brings her to the attention of Rich Pig. Dirty Girl knows this but she helps push Perky Girl to despair because she wants Shy Boy all to herself.

Rich Pig hurts Perky Girl pretty bad (drunk car wreck/lets her OD/stabs her). With Perky Girl in the hospital and her life on the line, Shy Boy realises what a fool he has been to the strains of Ever Since The World Began. Shy Boy and his camp friends take down Rich Pig and his stooges to American Heartbeat. He then finds out about Dirty Girl's betrayal and dumps her to I'm Not That Man Anymore.

He runs to the hospital to be with Perky Girl – but she's gone! Her parents tell Shy Boy she's left for Europe to get her head straight. He walks into the morning sunrise as the elegiac Silver Girl blasts in the background. How could he have let her go? But wait, Perky Girl is walking towards him! She says something both adorable and snarky and they kiss passionately as the song climaxes.

[Roll credits. Cue Eye of the Tiger]

After all, not every movie studio could afford Kenny Loggins or Journey.

Roland Bearne: I've always told myself that it's just a case of preferring Jimi Jamison's voice to Dave Bickler's as to why I never bought this at the time... The truth was, it was, after a brief moment of "Wow, what a song" that it became almost unbearable. Where I lived, in Luxembourg you just couldn't get away from it! Every party, every radio station, every radio show, not just the Rock DJs – even the trendies were dancing to it. No. Can't be seen with that album. 

Well, what a teenage twit. The song is a monster, true belter, now as then. As for the rest it is "unto itself" true. No filler to these ears, just really good broad appeal accessible rock tunes (and let's face it, Peterik is song writing machine). I have a slightly guilty pleasure in American Heartbeat, a perfect example of tasty, fluffy and delicious marshmallow creme KOR and those keyboard sounds bring those heady last years of school flooding back. If I see this in a charity shop vinyl sale I'll scoop it up. Solid and a great era-example of its type (I still prefer Vital Signs though!).

Final Score: 6.11 ⁄10 (203 votes cast, with a total score of 1241)

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