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Stallone wanted ‘something with a pulse’

Survivor 1986: L R: Marc Droubay Frankie Sullivan Jim Peterik Jimi JamisStephan Ellis. Archived Wednesday September 21 2011. | Jim

Survivor, 1986:, L to R: Marc Droubay, Frankie Sullivan, Jim Peterik, Jimi Jamison, Stephan Ellis. Archived on Wednesday, September 21, 2011. | Jim Peterik family photo

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Updated: November 15, 2011 8:45AM

The “Eye of the Tiger” has brought a lion’s share of good fortune to Survivor.

In late 1981 Survivor co-founder Jim Peterik got a call from Sylvester Stallone, who was looking for a theme song for “Rocky III.” His first choice was Queen’s “Another One Bites The Dust,” but Stallone could not secure the rights. Survivor’s manager Tony Scotti had told Stallone about the Chicago-based power rockers. Peterik wrote the song with Survivor lead guitarist Frankie Sullivan in the front music room of Peterik’s home, then in west suburban La Grange.

“We wrote it in an hour and a half,” Peterik recalled in an interview in a much bigger home in Burr Ridge. “It was excitment from playing the answering machine and hearing Stallone’s voice. He said he didn’t want a ‘Gonna Fly Now’ song [from ‘Rocky’] , he wanted something for the kids, something with a pulse. He later sent us the montage of the first three minutes of the movie. We set up the Betamax on the kitchen counter. I picked up my white Les Paul and started doing these 16th notes: digga digga digga. We marched into the music room with that digga digga digga. That was the pulse. You see the punch is thrown and you aim on it.

“It took about a week to get the lyrics stretched out,” Peterik said.

Band member Dave Bickler — now heard in the dramatic Bud Light “Real Men of Genius” advertisments — sang lead.

“There’s always that moment when a group catches lightning in a bottle. And that was our moment,” Peterik said.

Peterik said, “It astounds me that it is still around. Little kids are putting it on Rock Band. I looked at the Billboard charts a couple months ago. Survivor is still in the top 10 with ‘Eye of the Tiger’ as a download.”

Survivor had a budget of about $400,000 to make the hit “Eye of the Tiger” album. “Nowadays you can probably make an album for $40,000 with home studios. If you’re not the songwriter you have to wait until every dollar is recouped from that $400,000 budget before you get a penny.

“If you’re the songwriter, you get paid from record one as a songwriter — through ASCAP [American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers], through your publisher. That’s the huge difference between being a songwriter and a musician in a band. It’s very hard to get rich if you are a musician in a band — even to this day. A song is an annuity. One hit will pay off the rest of your life.”

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