Jim Peterik has penned a wonderful biography entitled “Through the Eye of the Tiger.” If you haven’t already, be sure to buy it from one of these fine retailers listed below.
As the founding member of Survivor and co-writer of one of the most inspirational songs in rock history, Jim Peterik easily fits into the category of ‘rock star.’ But a closer look at Peterik’s life and career reveal that he is anything but your typical rock star. Forgoing a life of meaningless sex and drugs, Peterik married his high school sweetheart and focused on the music, becoming one of the most prolific songwriters of his generation.
Here, for the first time, Peterik shares the stories behind his iconic songsfrom touring with Led Zeppelin and Janis Joplin on the heels of the Ides of March number one classic ‘Vehicle’ to his Grammy-winning, triple platinum ‘Eye of the Tiger’ with Survivor and beyond. He explores the often torturous power struggles within the band contrasted by the giddy highs that accompany a trail of worldwide hits. Peterik has also co-written songs with some of the most famous bands and artists in rock-and-roll, including 38 Special (Rockin’ Into the Night, Caught Up In You, Hold On Loosely), Sammy Hagar (Heavy Metal), Brian Wilson, The Doobie Brothers, REO Speedwagon, Cheap Trick, the platinum comeback of The Beach Boys (That’s Why God Made the Radio), and many more.
Through the Eye of the Tiger is more than just a memoir of a songwriting legend; it’s a classic rock-and-roll story, told through the eyes of someone who has lived through it all- and through the Eye Of The Tiger.
Friends, colleagues, family members, life-partner, Karen, and childhood friends recall past encounters and collaborations with Jim.
Close childhood friend, fellow ukulele player, and model railroader who is currently rebuilding a ’68 Camaro in his garage
December 14, 2011
My mother bestowed that name upon me, based on the Binky toy – which was a pacifier for a little kid. That’s where it came from, and it stuck ever since.
Jim lived right across the street from me. We had a good time. We put together some orange crate scooters. We took a 2 x 4 together with a roller skate – broken in half – and put two nails in the front and two in the back. Then we put an orange crate on top of the 2 x 4 and just scooted around the sidewalk on those things. When you leaned to the left or to the right, it would turn that way because that’s the way the roller skates were made.
We used to sit on 26th Street and watch the cars go by. We’d count which ones had white walls, which ones had black walls, and which ones should have had white walls – silly stuff like that…
When Jim got a little bit older, he moved to the corner of Oak Park and 27th. He had a pinball machine in his basement; it was like skee ball, but it wasn’t quite skee ball. It had the holes at the end, but it didn’t have the rims. It had wooden balls and I used to love playing that thing.
Even after Jim moved, we still got together. I knew his mom and dad. Actually, they looked like Dennis the Menace’s parents. His dad looked just like Dennis’s dad, though his hair was darker – not that Jim was Dennis the Menace, at all! But we did some crazy stuff.
It was John Babinek – who lived two doors down from him – and we all used to play ukuleles. I think that’s what inspired Jim, to start with, and he still has that black and white picture on his fireplace, of when we were sitting on the porch and we played together. That’s how it all started, on Jim’s porch, but I think it was when Jim got his first guitar that he realized that that’s what he wanted to do.
Jim and I used to watch the cars, but John usually wasn’t involved in that. I was into these plastic, model cars that I was building. I’ve got a picture of Jim and I, standing in the back yard, and I’m holding the car and he’s got his hand on top of it.
I don’t know if Jim ever built any – I can’t tell you that – but I think he’s got some real cars now: a ’55 Chevy and a Corvette.
I was only seven or eight when we started hanging out. We were young. He was a couple of years younger than me, but it didn’t matter. We just clicked and we got along and we’ve been friends forever.
It was a very friendly neighborhood and the kids all got along. We used to ride bikes and wagons together and everybody was close. There was a girl who lived next door, Laurel Veselski, who hung around with us, even though she was a girl! But she was cool, too.
Then there were the Karlivik boys who lived on the corner – Billy and Eddie, I think, and we all just kind of hung together. We played marbles, and we flew glider airplanes in the prairie – before they built the Berwyn Police Station on the corner. Now, of course, it’s torn down and it’s like a little park, but it used to be a prairie and we used to go there on Saturdays and have a good time.
We used to go to Selba’s on 26th St. She had a soda fountain in there and we used to get single-dipped ice cream cones for seven cents, but by the time we got out of there, they were double-dips. Mrs. Selba just loved us.
She sold everything in that store: hairnets, candy, comic books, and caps for our cap guns. She was a neat lady and she was also a piano teacher. You had to multi-task – to stay alive.
My sister, Lorrie, and Jim’s sister, Alice Anne, graduated from Morton East in ’59. They go back to the reunion all the time, so they know each other, too.
I graduated from high school in ’65. In ’67, I went in the Air Force, so I’m sure we lost touch then. But when I heard “Vehicle” on the radio, I wasn’t surprised because this was a driving inspiration for Jim: music – I knew that.
So it didn’t really surprise me, but I was thrilled – just thrilled – because that was his goal – to be a musician – not necessarily to be popular, because that’s just what comes with it, but he enjoyed music; he always did.
He keeps me in the loop on all kinds of things. He had the Pride of Lions, and then he started getting into jazz. I told him, “Man, that’s different!” and he said, “You’ve got to constantly keep reinventing yourself.”
Now he’s back to Ides of March again. I get the Berwyn Live [community newspaper], so I keep tabs on him. Berwyn was a wonderful place to grow up. It really was. Jim was fun to grow up with and I’m just so happy that he’s so successful, and that he still looks good with purple hair!
Ides of March Co-Manager
July 1, 2011
I have had the pleasure of knowing Jim for over forty-years and in some circles, that would be considered a lifetime. We met in 1968 (fondly remembered by most hippies as “The Summer of Love”). Jimmy was 18-years-old, just out of high school. I was working as Regional Promotion & Marketing Director for Warner Bros. Records.
If it hadn’t been for the persistence of Herb Gronauer, the Ides of March booking agent, the meeting with The Ides and Jimmy would never have happened! Herb is an old and dear friend of mine, and back in my old Dick Clark touring days, he was also my agent. He had been bugging me for several months to come see and meet with The Ides.
He really believed in them and said they just needed a good manager and some production. I told Herb I didn’t care much for the name “Ides of March” and secondly, I heard they were a phony “English Invasion” band, wearing wigs and pretending to be English! You would have thought that would have been the end of it but thank goodness, it wasn’t!
From my past with Herb, I knew if he believed in a talent he would “go to the wall” for it, and, at some point, I would acquiesce. He cornered me in the London House one day and told me The Ides were right across Michigan Ave. in his office and I should come and meet them now!
I entered Herb’s office; sitting in the waiting area were Larry Millas, Mike Borch, Bob Bergland and, of course, Jimmy. My first thoughts upon introduction from Herb: “God, these guys look nerdy! Three of the four are wearing glasses! This will be a quick meeting!”
After a little small talk and constantly having Jimmy in my face with questions, I tried for a graceful exit. Herb insisted that I hear the guys sing before I leave.
Jimmy happened to have his acoustic guitar, so they commenced to sing right there in the foyer. Herb knew I was a big Four Freshman fan and a sucker for vocal harmonies. Jimmy and the guys started singing. Thirty seconds in, I was hooked! They did The Walker Brothers’ “Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine” and an a cappella version of “Close Your Eyes.”
What I thought would be a five-minute “blow-off” turned into a thirty-minute set and a forty-year friendship! Before I left Herb’s office, I promised the guys that I would come to Larry’s house and listen to more songs.
On the drive home along the Eisenhower Expressway, their songs kept going through my head and I guess, subconsciously, I started making plans on working with them. Later that evening, I was telling my wife about the meeting.
“You should hear these guys sing! There’s this one guy, I think his name is Jimmy. He really bugged me at first, he was kind of pushy, but there is something about him that’s really intriguing! He was a little overbearing, but, man, he has passion!”
More recollections from BOB DESTOCKI, November 2011
One of the things I remember about Jim is that he had a tremendous need to be on stage. Performing was like a drug to Jim. I used to laugh when people asked me what kind of drugs he was on. My answer was always the same, “adrenaline, man…pure adrenaline.”
Jimmy has always possessed that rare quality of being able to walk into a room and be noticed. He has never been one to just blend in, and when he takes the stage, he doesn’t just walk out, he takes command! It’s as though he has a “holy obligation” to entertain, to share his passion, and he’ll do almost anything to accomplish his goal. In all of the hundreds of performances I witnessed, I never saw him disappoint.
In my forty-some years in the entertainment industry, I have worked with some of the biggest stars in the business. I was fortunate to have witnessed some really memorable performances. One of those memorable performances, that always comes to mind, occurred in the summer of 1970 in Winnipeg, Canada.
It was an outdoor music festival held in Winnipeg Stadium, called The Manitoba Pop Festival (Man-Pop). Led Zeppelin was the headlining act, and the supporting acts were The Youngbloods, Iron Butterfly, Chilliwack and The Ides of March.
On the day of the show, about an hour before the opening act, there was a tremendous wind and rainstorm that took out part of the stage and the PA system. The promoters decided, rather than cancel, they would move the festival into the Winnipeg Arena, which was next door. Most of the acts decided they didn’t want the hassle of setting-up and tearing-down again, so they took their money and left.
Peter Grant (Led Zeppelin’s manager) told the promoters they would stay and play the show at the arena. I told the promoters we (The Ides of March) would also stay and play the show. Man-Pop became Led Zeppelin with opening act, The Ides of March.
The Winnipeg Arena had lower capacity than the stadium, and when the capacity was reached (probably 15,000 -16,000) there were around 800 valid ticket holders who were refused admission. This caused a near riot at the entrances of the arena. Many of the glass doors were kicked in by angry ticket holders who were refused admission. I remember we needed a police escort to get into the arena.
Inside the arena, it was chaos! Roadies and tech guys were scrambling around trying to reset the stage and PA. The audience, most of them soaked from the rainstorm, had been waiting about three hours for the change over. The natives were restless and the tension was high!
The promoters came by our dressing room before the show and asked if we would mind going on second. They had a local act (which they managed) that they wanted to go on first.
The only thing I remember about the band was that they had a pretty good female lead singer. The local band did about half-an-hour and then it was “Jimmy-time”! The beast needed feeding and he was more than ready to satiate them!
The lights dimmed…the trumpets played the opening line of “Aire of Good Feeling”…the drums kicked in…lights came up…
Jimmy, pointing out at the audience, delivered the opening lyrics…a tremendous roar enveloped the arena as sixteen thousand people jumped to their feet…it was game on! The “holy obligation” ended about two hours later with three standing ovation encores!
I was standing in the wings next to Peter Grant and he was shaking his head. I heard him tell the stage crew to take their time on the change over and give the crowd time to settle down!
A few years ago, I ran into some people from Winnipeg and I asked them if they were around for Man-Pop. Several of them said they remembered it as one of the best rock concerts they ever saw! I whole-heartedly concur!
All excerpts from Bob Destocki’s book, Don’t Believe in Superman!
“Jim, this is our exit!” How many times have I frantically cried out that cue to my husband on our way to driving somewhere? Too many to recall, yet I suppose this is a fairly common marital exchange. At least my husband has an excuse for being spacey from time to time: he’s often in the middle of writing a new song.
Jim finds inspiration (or does it find him?) just about anywhere and his musical brain immediately begins the familiar journey he has taken so many times before. The process generally goes like this: write a great song, record it with top notch musicians and singers, and find it a “home” on an album, the radio, in a movie, a TV show, or on your iPod.
Eventually, it will find its way into the inner recesses of your brain; it will be all you can think of for a while and it will quite possibly define a time in your life. This is Jim’s gift; his ability to elevate the human condition, inspire and offer hope. He is doubly rewarded when fans share what his music has meant in their lives.
Thanks to the music publishing and licensing societies, the fruit of his labor is carefully metered out quarter by quarter, and we have been able to make a wonderful life for our son and ourselves. I often say that I’m the luckiest girl in the world. The financial security is important, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the emotional security and happiness of our long-lasting relationship. After the gift of being born to my parents, this has been the greatest gift in my life along with becoming the mother of our son.
Imagine going to a musical amusement park that’s filled with a wide variety of attractions. I’m not referring to the usual rides, mind you, but, more precisely, a roller coaster of audio delights that inspire and delight the spirit.
As these sonic jewels waft from one end to the other you hear melodic hard rock, melt-your-heart love songs, uplifting, smooth jazz rhythms and stadium power ballads. These songs are at once familiar and yet new. They have traveled around the world and their currency is universal. This is the soundscape of my life as the wife of Jim Peterik.
I get to hear his songs early on in the creative process and then, again, after the last overdub is complete and the song is mixed and mastered to perfection. His music has always made sense to me – I can tell a Jim Peterik song a mile away and I will inadvertently gravitate to that song. Go ahead, test me!
Married to Jim at the tender age of 19, I knew that if the feeling of “destiny” I felt when I first met my future husband was going to last, we would both have some growing up to do. The question was, could we do it together while allowing what was unique in each of us to continue to flourish? Would the proverbial push and pull of careers, friends and social pressures get to us and cause a chasm too vast to cross?
Heading into our 39th year of married life together, I can honestly say that our lives just seem to grow richer and more complete with every new challenge and resolution. We are blessed to have a fundamental and unconditional love for each other than makes even the worst day okay.
Having this supportive “filter” helps us get through the tough times, and our shared humor softens the hard edges of life. We would not only prefer to be with no one else than each other, but we have never gotten sick of each other either, and that is completely true!
I guess I should address the fact, also, that my husband is a “Rock Star.” That, he is, but more important to me is that he is a “Good Man.” I often feel like I am living my dream life: I have a husband who supports and adores me, a son who is the perfect blend of the best attributes of his parents, and I have my own satisfying and successful career.
Our home is our palace – it is our place of solitude and replenishment. The amount of light in our open floor plan was purposely planned to fill not only the physical space, but our spirits with a positive life force. Jim has always called it our “launching pad!”
Music Director/Radio Personality at 95 WIIL ROCK, (Chicago) and lifelong friend)
November 30, 2012
“Hi, I’m Jim. Can I see your guitar?”
Those were the first eight words that Jim Peterik ever spoke to me; February 24, 1973. A couple of months prior I had been solicited by my high school alma mater, Warren Township High School in Gurnee, Illinois to contract a “major” artist for a concert in the school gymnasium. I suppose the task was relegated to me largely because I was an enthusiastic and active alum of sorts, but perhaps most importantly, because I was in an up and coming local band called Jon Blon and the powers-to-be simply figured that I’d be the best person to ask.
When the request was made of me to find a band, I immediately asked “…how about the Ides of March?”
Sam Licocci, the school band director who had saddled me with the task just as quickly responded, “Sure, if you can get ’em! In fact, why don’t you guys (Jon Blon) open up for them and then we’ll be all set!”
My head began to spin with the possibilities.
I had followed The Ides of March ever since I first saw them in 1969 at a teen club called The Wild Goose. I had been a huge fan of their ’66 hit “You Wouldn’t Listen” and once “Vehicle” hit in 1970, I was smitten. I loved everything about the band and followed them everywhere. But I was most impressed by their charismatic and cocksure lead vocalist and guitarist, Jim. He played a Les Paul Gold Top, so as soon as I could afford one, I bought a Gold Top, too. Mine was a ’70 Deluxe with the mini-humbuckers and I was backstage running through the six-song set we would perform that night when I heard a tap on the rehearsal room door and looked up to see Jim smiling, hand extended, asking permission to check out my guitar. I was much relieved that he was so cool…and so much like me! I had learned from a Sunday feature in one of the Chicago newspapers entitled “Portrait of a Suburban Rock Star” that Jim and Karen had recently wed on September 2, 1972…the very same day that I myself had married my college sweetheart, Gayle. The four of us laughed after the show about the coincidence of it all, exchanged phone numbers, and made a casual commitment to stay in touch. The next time we spoke was about a month or so later when Jim phoned to invite Gayle and I to join he and Karen for dinner at their tiny little apartment in Riverside. And that was really when it all began for me.
Thankfully, Jim and I hit it off from minute one and all we ever talked about was music. We loved the same artists and for one of the very first times in my life, I felt validated, appreciated, even admired for my musical convictions. We went out of our way to try and scoop each other on a great new song or artist and exchanged an incredible number of cassettes with each other. When Jim started sending me tapes of his own demo material, I knew the relationship was something special. The fact that he actually appreciated my opinion meant everything to me and I did my level best to be as objective and supportive as possible. To this day, I have literally hundreds of his compositions saved on reel-to-reel, cassette, vinyl, DAT, CD, and mp3. And I think that even Jim himself would admit that I am one of the foremost authorities on all things Peterik. I take great pride in that opinion. Because long before Jim was one of my best friends, he was my hero.
It’s hard to believe that he and I have stayed so close over the last 40 years. People change and he and I have certainly been through our share of it. But the nucleus of what drew us together in the first place has always been a constant. I was his confidante whenever he was
faced with a major musical decision or distraction – from disbanding The Ides in favor of a brief solo pursuit to his heart wrenching decision to leave Survivor…I was there for it all.
As the years passed, Jim experienced the most exhilarating highs and debilitating lows one could ever imagine. But he always took me along for the ride and shared both the best and the worst of it all.
Disbanding The Ides was simply a matter of his outgrowing that ensemble and a burning desire to create the new sounds he was hearing in his head. Leaving Survivor was an entirely different story altogether. I can’t tell you the number of times we talked about the latter prior to his departure. Jim didn’t want Survivor to ever end, but his inability to tolerate and pacify an ever disgruntled Frankie Sullivan was just too much to bear.
I loved Frankie and remain a fan of his to this day, but as Jim’s tenure with the band neared its end, I blame Frankie for it all. I always thought that Jim was extremely generous in the amount of credit he extended to Frankie for his contributions to the Survivor catalogue. Don’t get me wrong, Lennon needed McCartney, Henley needed Frey, and Bacharach needed David. And Peterik needed Sullivan, too. But when the Scotti Brothers began to insist that Peterik/Sullivan writing credits be changed to Sullivan/Peterik, that was it for me. Remember, I’m the guy who heard most of those songs first and to suggest that anyone other than Jim was primarily responsible for their creation was a sacrilege to me. And while I would hesitate to suggest that Survivor would’ve been just as successful an act with another guitarist, Jim would never have had to desert a band he had worked so hard to assemble and create were it not for the overbearing and totally unreasonable demands of Frankie Sullivan.
It was all I could do to resist the urge to blow up the Message Wall on the Survivor website once Jim left the band. The vitriolic spewings of Sullivan and his supporters angered me beyond all rational belief. But what irritated me the most was the hurt they inflicted on my friend. You see, Jim’s not one of the assholes in the business. I’ve worked in rock radio for 23 years now and I know what I’m talking about. Sure, he has his quirks and bad days like the rest of us and even he and I have had our share of contentious moments and conversations throughout the years. But Jim is the most generous, optimistic and open minded person I’ve ever known.
I always say that I owe everything good that ever happened to me in my life to God, my family, Jon Blon and Jim Peterik, for without Jim, my life would’ve been a hollow shell of itself. He taught me all about vintage guitars, introduced me to more people in the music industry than I can even recall, and made my teenage dreams come true when he asked me to collaborate with him on several songs over the years. (Little ol’ me collaborating with an Oscar-nominated and Grammy Award-winning songwriter? You bet your ass, I’m in!) Ironically, when I received my Writing and Publishing membership certificates from ASCAP, they were dated November 11, 1997…Jim’s 47th birthday. Some things are just too pure to question.
It’s nearly impossible for me to be concise about Jim…40 years is a long time together and I fear I could live another 40 and still fail to give Jim his just due. I know I can never ever thank him properly for making my life so much better than I ever imagined it could be. Jim was the first person outside of my immediate family that ever gave me Hope. I mean downright, honest-to-goodness, stuff-you-read-about-in Sunday-school Hope. We have laughed together, cried together, cherished our youth, and buried our dead together.
Jim is the very finest person I have ever known in my life. Generous and giving, compassionate and caring, thoughtful and forgiving and I love him with all my heart. In a world of “tell-alls” and rhetorical confessions, Jim’s life story should be an inspiration to us all. I’ve always respected and even envied Jim. He got straight-A’s all throughout school, he’s never had a proper “job,” lives solely off his wits and emotions, and is as rich in heart and soul as he is wealthy. And make no mistake about it…he’s a Rock Star. I can’t imagine my life without him it. Don’t die without me, friend.
January 9, 2012
When I met Jim Peterik, I was a kid. I went to a high school auditorium and I saw The Ides of March playing. I was blown away, and some years later, I got into doing radio and TV commercials in Chicago. Jim was doing it, too, after The Ides had run its course. We were doing commercials together, so I got to know him.
I saw him play with the Chi-Town Hustlers and they were really great. They were session guys and I had worked with them as well. I knew all those cats and somewhere along the way, Jim decided that he wanted to do something different – not Jim Peterik and the Chi-Town Hustlers; more of a band.
He asked me if I wanted to join and I didn’t hesitate to leap at that chance. It was a big step for me. We had tremendous energy and musical creativity going on at that point. It was really great.
But there were some downsides as well. There were some big personalities there – especially Frank Sullivan. He was trying to be sort of a dominant figure. There was a bit of a war going on there.
But it was all really great. We started to play the local clubs. We got a buzz going and it was pretty awesome. Then we started making demos and sending them around. We didn’t get much response for a while, so we were getting a little depressed about that.
Then, finally, out of the blue, we were thinking we’d better make another demo. We started getting responses and interest. We started doing showcases and ended up with the Scotti Brothers.
I had a feeling “Eye of the Tiger” would take off, but I had had that feeling before. I thought “Poor Man’s Son” was going to do well. I thought Premonition was a really cool record and I thought that would do better than it did.
But “Eye of the Tiger” was special because it had something else going for it. It’s an infectious song and this has been proven over time. I do a music appreciation class for my son’s nursery school that they enlisted me to do, and these little guys know all about “Eye of the Tiger.” They’ve even got it on their iPods – so it has stood the test of time.
But even when we were recording the demo, I thought it was special. I really did. I thought it was amazing. Of course, it was going along with Rocky III so we had the most tremendous marketing campaign of all time, to date.
When went to the theater and saw it, people were giving it a standing ovation. Nobody recognized me. I just walked in.
The arranging in the studio was all give and take. It was all good. Jim would bring stuff in and he and Frankie would get music together. They would give me the base melody and I would have my way. We had a very smooth working relationship as far as getting the songs together. It was very straightforward.
When I returned to the band, there was a little tension because Jimi Jamison was performing as Survivor and those guys wanted to reclaim that, and so they brought me back in and it was really fun. I was thrilled to be playing with those guys again. We had some great shows. We really did.
It became different then, when “Eye of the Tiger” came out, but the audiences were still really appreciative wherever we played. It was pretty cool. But then there was a more diverse crowd of people, of different ages, who would come to see us. Some of them had grown up with that music and had come back to see us again.
I was doing songs that Jimi Jamison sang that I really like. I actually had fun doing that. There were some great songs that a lot of the people had never heard of, like “Ever Since the World Began” which was unique. We recorded the demo for that song the same night we recorded “Eye of the Tiger.” That song was considered for the movie as well. Sylvester Stallone really wanted to put that song somewhere in the film.
It didn’t work out, but it ended up being in another Stallone film. Jimi Jamison resang that vocal. I thought that was a really great song.
When I had medical problems, there was a lot of contention in the band. I think they all felt that it was my fault and some of it probably was, but not all of it. Singers get these kinds of problems. I found out later that just about everybody gets something, especially because rock is super demanding – all that tenor stuff. It’s very high and it takes a lot out of you. It was very rough. At the end of that tour, I was pretty wiped out; emotionally drained from a lot of the tensions going on there. I was completely surprised by the fact that my voice wasn’t coming back to me.
guitarist/songwriter, 38 Special
Writing songs, sometimes, is a very insecure feeling when it’s an idea that only one person has had floating around in his head for a while. As a collaborator, it always takes at least one more guy to say, “That’s good. Let’s run with that.” Then, you’re off to the races.
Jim was always a fan of music first. Initially, he would listen to an idea from that point of view, always open and ready to be inspired. Then, he would access “that little radio in his head” and hear what needed to come next.
When writing with him, I’d usually bring a primitive outline of an idea. I’d be banging on the guitar, spilling out melody and dummy lyrics to him in hopes that he would pick up on some string of phonetics that sounded like words for the moment. At the same time, I’d be tuned into his chord offering and phonetics, as well, and catch him on bits that had passed by.
But the “process” was just to stay open to change and be willing to throw complete sections out because there was a better way to approach it. Jim is a master at hearing unique melodies, chord structures and phrasing that someone else may not have thought about. When Jim got excited with an idea, I would be so taken with his energy that it became infectious and would breathe new life into a fairly repetitious piece brought to him.
Sometimes he’d want to take a break and go to a quiet place to sort out his thoughts on an idea. When he’d return, I’d be absolutely astonished at what he’d accomplished in such a short time. The joy of songwriting with him continued to inspire me to improve and try to emulate that process, and the unique genius he possessed. I have to say that I’d fall short, but he was a major catalyst in my own approach with our band. Whenever I was writing with the other guys, I’d think to myself, “What would J.P. do here?” That’s how much he influenced me.
There is also that intangible that you don’t find everywhere, and that’s the “chemistry.” We clicked from the very beginning and have enjoyed a lifelong friendship from our good times writing songs and having fun in the process.
As far as the songwriter in him, when I say that he is giving, I mean that he is incredibly patient; letting you stumble along while purposefully holding you up and supporting your idea with respect. That is a giving musician. Never judging your stumbling, just fortifying your dignity. That helps so much when presenting an idea that may not be fully fleshed out. He doesn’t know how much that is appreciated.
We absolutely had some great times writing together. And we still do. There were lots of laughs, being silly with lyrics and trying to impress each other with something new. “Chain Lightnin’” was a great experience. Jim immediately liked that big, bad guitar approach and the storyline spilled out of him so spontaneously. These experiences continued to remind me that I was in the presence of true greatness.
I have another memory of our first time writing. We had just met and, as I said before, sometimes presenting an idea can be very insecure at first. You’re not really sure if anyone is going to like a particular little ditty that had been noodling around in your head.
I remember we were sitting at his kitchen table, amps on the floor, and notebooks in front of us. He asked me if I had anything, and I said, “Well, there’s this little bit that I’ve been thinking about.”
I had been going through a rough time in my marriage and was frustrated that there was no give and take, as far as celebrating each other’s differences, so to speak. I said, “What do you think about this title…‘Hold on Loosely?’” He immediately said, “Oh, yeah! But don’t let go!”
And we were off, talking about the chasm between people who let themselves get to that place in their relationship, and how this was great advice for that particular malady. He had provided the perfect couplet in a nanosecond that has continued to endure even today. And that was 31 years ago!
It was the first song we’d ever written together and it continues to be a classic, all from that day at his kitchen table with an insecure little idea. That shows the power in a great song and how people find the truth in it. And, as songwriters, we know that truth is undeniable.
former guitarist of 38 Special, and Camp Jam founder
In the early days, working and meeting with Jim, Don Barnes and I would fly up to Chicago. We had success with “Rockin’ into the Night,” which was a song that, I guess, was intended for Survivor to begin with, but, for some reason, they didn’t want to put it on the record, so we got it as a demo. Our relationship was formed through that song.
John Kalodner had sent the song to our manager at that time, Marc Spector. We heard it and instantly liked it. Actually, our third album was already in the can getting mastered, but we stopped and came back and recorded this one.
The suggestion was made that we spend some time with Jim so we went to the house in La Grange. I have great memories of that very first visit. The first song that we wrote in that session was “Hold on Loosely.”
I had a guitar riff and a chord progression. Don had a title and a melody for the verse and it was just kind of stretched out, but we had something that was kind of interesting. Jim grabbed it immediately and, at the time when Don and I were writing, we really needed help with the lyrics and telling the story. Jim is obviously well grounded as a musician.
As we were sitting in the kitchen discussing things, Karen was making nachos. “Sing that verse again.” “Let’s change that,” back and forth, back and forth – finally, we would get a good road map and Jim would take these breaks. He would take off; walk around the back yard or go back to the room, so that he really could just zone out on the lyrics.
On this day, he had asked us to chill out. Meanwhile, I walked around his home and saw this picture on the wall. (I always tell this story when Jim and I do these songwriter-in-the-round sessions in Nashville, too.)
I saw this picture on the wall of a guy playing guitar and singing. He’s got big “mutton-chops” – what we called sideburns. When he walked back in, I asked him about the guy in the picture.
“Oh, that’s me. I was 18 and, technically, in my second band….”
I say, “Oh, really? What was the name?”
Jim responds, “The Ides of March.”
I say, “Right. Sure, dude. There is already an Ides of March. You know that song, ‘Vehicle’?”
Jim says, “Yeah, that was me.”
I couldn’t believe it. I thought he was kidding. Jim explained how the record exec had picked that song out of three. The band didn’t take the offer seriously, but Larry’s mom was a real go-getter and kept beating the guy up.
I still think it was a great story, because my initial reaction was, “You were kind of late. There already was an Ides of March.”
But during this session, we again started working on the song and started working on some other stuff and put the song back together that we had been working on the day before.
We’re sitting there, scatting it out and we’re getting really excited when, all of a sudden, Jim takes a pen and puts an X through the whole page of his notebook.
I said, “What are you doing?” I thought I would have a coronary.
Jim said, “That’s not right. It’s not good enough. It’s got to be better.”
Sure enough, we worked on the song; tweaked it until it became the arrangement that it was. I’m glad Jim had that wherewithal to be able to put himself under a magnifying glass, so he could say, “I can do better; this isn’t right.
That was how it all started. We were still touring the Rockin’ into the Night album and we were the opening act at Rosemont Horizon (now the Allstate Arena) and got together to work on “Fantasy Girl.”
At that point in time, it was so easy working with Jim because we had a good relationship, just from the prior writing sessions that we had done and the collaboration was really easy for me. The comfort factor was good for me because I tend to be really wordy with my music. I don’t mean, literally, but with chord arrangements, changes and whatever.
But Jim would say, “Give me more. That’s the stuff I love” and I would see my vision through his own eyes.
We wrote three or four songs for the Wild-Eyed Southern Boys album, one of which was the title song that he had written on his own. So, when we saw the success of that collaboration, we recognized the chemistry and wanted to continue the process.
The first song written on that second visit was “Caught Up in You.” That proved to be a little difficult because Jim was going through a tumultuous relationship with Frankie and we had to sneak around.
Jim and Karen were still living in the La Grange house, but we had to go to his mom and dad’s house because Frankie resented Jim’s collaboration with us. We had many conversations about how hard it was for him at the time. But his mom made cookies for us there, and we wrote “Caught Up in You” – our first top ten single – and Jim and Don wrote “Chain Lightnin.’”
The relationship was getting stronger and stronger, but “Eye of the Tiger” had been released after “Caught Up in You” and, since it was such an enormous hit, we thought that maybe at this point, with the success of Survivor, Frankie would now feel the band got what they deserved. We thought it might loosen things up so we could continue to work with Jim. But, for some reason, the plan didn’t work that way, and Jim was getting more and more pressure not to work with us. So, we weren’t able to work with Jim again until 1989, I guess.
It was about 1988 or 1989 when Max Carl had joined 38 Special, at which point, Jim realized he wanted to work and write with whomever he wanted. At this point, Don Barnes wasn’t in the band any longer, so Jim and I were just doing a lot of writing together. That was a good time. We wrote a lot of material that was on the Rock and Roll Strategy album and Bone Against Steel.
We never had the success again that we had had in those early days. I feel sorry about that because the combination of the three of us was a really creative team. But it stopped right when it was gathering momentum. I think about what we could have done together – working with Jim was such an easy thing. It was never, “We have to come up with something.”
It was like this – I’d pick up a guitar and he’d say, “What do you got? That’s cool.”
I’d say, “Really, you like that? I’ve got something else like that.”
So we collaborated very well – and Jim’s also a lot of fun to hang with.
Multi-Platinum Record Producer (The Who, Led Zeppelin, UFO, Heart, The Babys, Survivor)
September 7, 2011
Chronologically, I was involved with the first Survivor record, but I had a falling out with John Kalodner. I don’t remember exactly what it was over or what happened, but I do know that I had a pretty good rapport with the band…
John Kalodner was a wonderful guy and a great A&R guy, but a big meddler; he meddled in everything. He would send me notes like, “Please remove cymbal bell,” without the faintest idea that the cymbal bell is recorded in all the drum tracks. I can’t just remove it.
So whatever happened with that first album, I just got fed up with him, or it was something that didn’t have to do with the band, to my knowledge, and so much so, that the band tried to seek me out several times, in later years, to work with them again.
I think Mike Clink, who was my assistant at that time, worked on that album, and, of course, when “The Moment of Truth” came along, obviously, after Mike did the Rocky film song, “Eye of the Tiger,” he did that and, I guess, Scotti Brothers was involved in The Karate Kid.
So when “The Moment of Truth” came along, they picked me to do that, and I flew to Chicago and we did that, and then the Vital Signs album. So that’s the chronological order and that led to When Seconds Count.
They were not difficult to work with – Jimi Jamison was kind of very tough to get really good vocals out of because he was a great singer, but he just didn’t concentrate when he was singing.
And, in those days in the studio, you had to punch in every line, every phrase. He wouldn’t get the phrasing right and he wouldn’t get the pitch right – then he’d get the pitch right and he wouldn’t get the phrasing right – very frustrating. But it was rewarding – I got some great vocals out of him. We made some great records, you know?
Jim was part of an entity – which was Survivor. And, Survivor was Jim, mainly, and Frankie – the two of them, with the other guys, too, of course. And so I never thought of Jim, separately, until later years when he sent me songs. Or I would call him up and say, “Do you have anything I could use for this artist?”
When I was doing an album with Lynyrd Skynyrd, I had him rewrite part of a song. I ended up using another guy’s version, but it wasn’t really until recently that I had this girl, Casey D’ambrose, who was living in Chicago, who needed songs – I thought that Peterik would be perfect for her, because he’s such an amazing songwriter. It’s worked out great so far. He’s written a couple of songs; we’ve done some and we’ll do some more.
You know, they were really scared of me, and they stayed away from me and I stayed away from them. We kept it only professional – I didn’t hang out with those guys.
I just appreciated their musicianship and their songwriting ability and Jim always seemed to be the “main songwriter guy” with the great melodies.
I’m not diminishing what Frankie brought to it, but Frankie was a guy who Jim needed – to kind of make him feel like he was great, you know? Frankie was a guy who was maybe the alter ego or something, I’m not sure, because Jim was more fragile, emotionally, and Frankie was a little, tough kid. And it wouldn’t have been Survivor without Frankie, although Jim was the major writer, in my mind, in terms of the melodies and the lyrics.
Frankie contributed a lot, but I would guess that it was more like 75/25. I might be wrong, but that’s the feeling that I got working with them on the two albums that I did.
The one song that I did with them, that was written for The Karate Kid, was written by somebody else. It wasn’t a Peterik/Sullivan.
You have to understand that it was the late ’70s when I worked on the first album, and then it was ’84 when I worked on Vital Signs. That’s a very, long time ago and I don’t remember a lot of the details.
RON NEVISON discusses how working with Survivor differed from his other experiences as a producer of rock albums.
The difference was that it didn’t seem…the first time I worked with Survivor, they had David Bickler and the second time (the next time I worked with them) was with Jimi Jamison.
But they seemed to have a reputation as a faceless rock band, like REO Speedwagon. Like The Who had Daltrey and Led Zeppelin had Robert Plant…They didn’t have – I’m not saying that Jimi Jamison or Dave Bickler weren’t great singers, but they just weren’t great front men – they didn’t have that same charisma.
And they got a reputation, in my mind, which annoyed me. I thought we had great vocals and great music, and we did – Vital Signs had a bunch of top singles. I thought the stuff on When Seconds Count, and “Man against the World”; there was some great, great stuff there.
I was always annoyed that the vehicle that Rocky gave them, “Eye of the Tiger,” wasn’t taken more seriously by the public. That was always my take. When you get a film that takes off like that – it was totally unexpected. I mean – it’s great, too – don’t get me wrong. Every artist dreams of riding that kind of vehicle onto the airwaves.
I mean, to this day, it’s probably one of the most played songs in the history of rock and roll – in the Top Ten, anyway.
I mean, you can’t turn on the football game without hearing it. It’s incredible.
But in the end, it didn’t make Survivor into a household name.
I remember being on a plane to London, one time – I guess, it was in the late ’80s. I was sitting next to a guy for about ten hours, and after about nine hours, we started chatting about something, and I told him what I did. He asked me who I produced, and I said, “Survivor” and he said, “Oh my God. We played ‘The Search Is Over’ at my wedding.”
Now, what a great wedding song: “The Search Is Over.” He was flabbergasted that he was sitting next to me. When that happens, it’s very touching. The Vital Signs album is one of my favorites that they’ve ever done.
former guitarist/songwriter, 38 Special, Camp Jam, founder
June 6, 2011
Carlisi recalls the early days of Camp Jam and chronicles my involvement.
When I first started Camp Jam, I reached out to my friends. I said, “Hey, I’m doing this thing. Can you help me out?”
That included Jim, Liberty DeVitto, Derek St. Holmes, and a few other artists – the bench has grown since then. I would do master classes as well.
I have empathy for stand up comedians. You get up before sixty campers – the average one is a 14-year-old kid – and they’re tough. They don’t understand humor yet. They just stare at you like you’re an idiot. They’re looking at you, like, “Who are you, old man, and what are you doing up here?” Then you start playing and they go, “Oh my God. That’s incredible.” But you have to give them a story – something to take home with them, and every year, they get a different lesson.
One, you don’t have to like all kinds of music, but, listen to it. Liberty does one of the best classes because he is so engaging and such a powerful drummer. He always talks about why Ringo Starr was one of the greatest drummers around. Starr was known as the songwriter’s drummer. So it’s a real journey.
Chuck Leavell also talks about how he networked through all of these bands. He practiced hard, worked hard at it and, next thing you know, he’s playing keyboards with Dr. John, and then, he’s in the Allman Brothers and then, he’s in The Rolling Stones, and then, Clapton takes him out on tour.
Some of the guys might play some songs and then say, “I was born in Detroit, I grew up and the next band I was in….” It was their bio, basically. That’s all fine, but we really are looking for something interactive. Something where the light bulb goes on and someone goes, “Oh, I never thought about that.” Or, “Wow. That’s great advice”’ Fifteen or twenty years from now, maybe a kid will say, “I went to this thing called Camp Jam and this guy, Jim Peterik, said…”
So not only is Jim engaging, but the kids love it because he looks like a rock star. (Jim, when you were younger, you never looked like a rock star.) Now he wears those satin, puffy-sleeved shirts and purple hair. I said, “Good for you, that’s great.”
He has this history of great songs. To see these kids – and I don’t care how young they are – when they hear “Eye of the Tiger,” they lose their minds. They rush the stage like they just heard Led Zeppelin or something. Everybody knows that song – whether it’s because they heard Rocky III or it’s their ringtone or from Guitar Hero – it’s a timeless song.
But Jim really engages the kids and gets them involved. He’ll actually get them to come on stage with him and he always has some “take away” to give them. So, as a result, because I run the camp in eighteen cities, now, I have to look at last year’s schedule and the year before, and I have to say, “I can’t send you there again because you just did that one last year, or the year before” – so I’m able to use Jim a little bit more, because he loves doing it.
Quite frankly, when I first approached him about it, he said, “I don’t know. Play a bunch of stuff for kids?”
I said, “Just do one” – I think it was the one in Atlanta. “You’ve got a security blanket. I’ll be here. I’ll be here with you.”
He did it and said that that was the coolest thing he had ever done. He said, “Put me in, coach.” And, that was seven years ago.
President & CEO/A&R Director, Frontiers Records, Italy
July 15, 2011
He is a pure gentleman and full, trustable person. I love him.