BY TIM HINELY
I wasn’t even aware of the name Jim Peterik and didn’t know a great deal about the music of Survivor, but the book came recommended from a friend stating I’d enjoy it anyway, which I did. Peterik grew up in an immigrant family in a suburb of Chicago (Berwyn) and got interested in music at an early age. Then with some high school and neighborhood buddies formed the Ides of March while still in high school. Their song “Vehicle” became a smash hit and a few others became nearly as big. After marrying his high school sweetheart (still married, 42 years!) and a stint writing some jingles, Peterik then with some experience behind his belt, sets his sights higher and wants to form a band even bigger than the Ides.
He gathers up some more Midwestern guys and forms Survivor (including guitarist Frankie Sullivan, who later in the story, would become Peterik’s nemesis). The band played the club circuit, basically playing their asses off until a call comes from Sylvester Stallone looking for a song for his latest Rocky movie (Rocky 3). Pererik and Sullivan wrote “Eye of the Tiger” and the rest is history (apparently Stallone couldn’t get the rights to Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust”).
The band was never able to follow up the success of “Tiger,” not for lack of trying. and just to be clear, they did score other top 10 hits, just nothing as monstrously popular as “Eye of the Tiger.” Eventually in Survivor Peterik felt like he was being relegated to sideman status by Sullivan, being pushed further to the back of the stage while Frankie gave him dirty looks through most of the gig; it didn’t help that Peterik admits to being passive aggressive for many years in the band and not taking a stand. Throughout the book Peterik comes off like a genuinely nice guy who was able to avoid basically all of the trappings of being a rock star—here’s a story in the book of him walking out of a hotel room where Led Zeppelin was partying: “Not my scene, man.” In fact, this is one of the few rock autobiographies you’ll read where the author didn’t have several stints at rehab and several ex-wives. Not that Peterik didn’t have his issues, just not a fall from grace that was like a tumble off of a mountain. Despite the fact that Peterik is a normal Joe, erm, Normal Jim (the guy still lives in a Chicago suburb) don’t equate that with a boring book. It’s anything but that.