Survivor – Eye of the Tiger

First Hit #1: July 24, 1982

The Rocky movies love their montages, and they have a surprisingly good record of finding the perfect song. Survivor’s contribution to the series, the very perfect Eye of the Tiger, is exactly what a boxing movie’s training montage needs. Vague inspirational lyrics, a killer guitar riff, a lead singer in a silly beret, all keys to making the template for all big montage songs. It’s kind of obvious how it’s all put together, it’s clear that the song is designed very specifically to get a certain mood and aggressive atmosphere. But it works, and it is actually a song that makes one want to get out, work out, and make a challenge for a title fight or something similar. Sure, I’m writing this in December, with a ton of snow on the ground and cold temperatures, so that need to be excellent quickly dissipates and I decide it’s more important to sit on my warm couch, but the song was a hit in July, so it’s not like it couldn’t have had the intended effect. It’s a fist pumping bit of power pop, and that makes it ideal for a movie about fist using boxers.

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One Response to Survivor – Eye of the Tiger

  1. RBerman says:

    In musical theater, they talk about “lift-out” songs which have lyrics specific enough to provide commentary on a particular moment in the story of the theatrical production (or as in this case, a cinematic production), while still vague enough to find application in contexts outside the production altogether. It’s more challenging to write a good lift-out song than either a song that has nothing to do with the story (Deniece Williams’ “Let’s Hear it For the Boy” in Footloose has nothing to do with the scene containing it, except for the presence of a boy.), or a song that’s very specifically about the situation it’s played over. (Survivor’s later hit “Burning Heart” does this in Rocky IV; “Arthur’s Theme” by Christopher Cross was already discussed recently.) Paul Williams pulled off an impressive feat in “The Muppet Movie” by populating the entire soundtrack with nothing but lift-out songs. The TV show “Glee” thrives on “lift-in” songs, either reinforcing or subverting pre-written songs with the story written around them.

    “Eye of the Tiger,” like “Gonna Fly Now” before it, is a great lift-out song, suitable for fist-pumping in any situation requiring one to “rise up to the challenge of a rival.” Lift-outs were immensely popular through most of the 80s, spawning massive original hits from movies like Risky Business, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Footloose, Top Gun, and Flashdance. John Hughes was all over this in his teen movies. Wonder what economic forces caused the trend to die. Also, the music videos are usually littered with scenes from the movie, but not in this case.

    Like “Don’t You Want Me” yesterday, “Eye of the Tiger” makes great use of a static 16th note ostinato, this time playing the root of the scale, although not all the notes get equal stress. That’s harder to do on guitar than on piano. Wonder if they looped it.

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