Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Through The Eye Of The Tiger - Our Review Of The New Jim Peterik Biography

Before we go any further, we should probably first establish the fact that Jim Peterik is NOT ... nor is he ever likely to be ... the President of the Frankie Sullivan Fan Club ... a point he makes ABUDANTLY clear in his new biography "Through The Eye Of The Tiger" (BenBella Books, cowritten with Lisa Torem).
Nevertheless, it's still an intensely entertaining book to read ... so many of Peterik's anecdotes are presented with crystal-clear recollection (perhaps a tribute to the fact that he didn't spend most of his rock and roll celebrity days locked in a drug-induced fog but rather enjoyed both living the dream and living in the moment.)
I have read hundreds and hundreds of rock biographies over the years but I have NEVER read a book that struck so close to home for me.  Jim and I grew up in the same suburb and went to the same high school and, as such, our paths crossed numerous times over the years (although it was a very one-sided coexistence ... naturally, I knew who HE was because HE was in The Ides Of March ... so EVERYBODY knew who HE was ... I was just some punk kid from Berwyn three or four years behind him in school who showed up at countless concerts over the years NOT because these guys were my local heroes ... but rather because these guys made some REALLY great music.)
As such, I have been to and walked through all of the old haunts he describes so vividly in his book ... Balkan Music ... Cermak Plaza ... the auditorium at Morton West High School (where years later we would attend the street-naming ceremony proclaiming a section of Home Avenue near Riverside Drive in Berwyn "Ides Of March Way" ... MY first time there since my own graduation in that same auditorium some 40 years earlier!)
When Jim talks about picking up his then girlfriend / now wife Karen at her parents' home on Clinton Avenue in Berwyn, WE were there, too, as my best friend in High School, Brad Gould, lived directly across the street ... and we would nod and wave whenever Jim pulled up in his little green sports car (an MG maybe???) to pick Karen up for a date.  (My friend Brad, who was immortalized in Forgotten Hits folklore years ago when I suggested that his first album should be called "The Gould, The Brad And The Ugly", recorded HIS first demo record at Balkan Music, too ... and we stopped in there religiously every Friday to pick up the latest copy of The WLS Silver Dollar Survey because Balkan Music had the REAL survey, not the one with the "generic" Sears ad on the back that you got every week if you picked the survey up at Sears instead!!!)
What I didn't know (until I read his book) is that Jim met Karen at a Turtles concert at Riverside-Brookfield High School in 1968 ... a concert I also attended (because I went to school there my freshman year!)  He recounts SO many places and experiences (Salerno's Pizza ... all the old Berwyn "hot spots" where so many of us kids hung out back in the day) ... it all came rushing back as if part of what I was reading was my OWN biography!  (I guess I never really realized how many times I stepped in his footsteps along the way!  Of course, that became a bit more difficult several years later when he formed Survivor and was off touring the world ... and I was still stuck here at home in the Chicago suburbs!  lol)  But at the time, we were all just kids, growing up in the same place where there wasn't always a lot to do ... so we found ways of creating our own entertainment!
I vividly remember being at The Ides Of March farewell concert at Morton West High School in 1973, too ... one of the scariest days of my life when the girl-half of the couple we were with started to freak out and have a seizure in the parking lot after the show after her boyfriend slipped her some PCP ... we went right from the concert to MacNeal Memorial Hospital where they pumped her stomach, the whole while as she frantically tried to tear her own skin from her body because she "felt trapped inside".  It was one of those moments you never forget ... and (white sheep of the family that I am, aside) just one of the many reasons why I never so much as even tried a mind-altering drug in my entire lifetime. (Yeah, I know ... what a square ... but I can live with that!!!)  Ahh ... memories ... thanks, Jimbo!  (lol)
After The Ides split up, some of the guys teamed with members of The Cryan' Shames (one of THEIR favorite local groups at the time ... Jim ALWAYS wanted to capture the magic of those Cryan' Shames harmonies on his Ides Of March recordings) ... and performed as The Ides - Shames Union for a little over a year.  (Search our website and you'll find some vintage photos, recollections and even an EXTEMELY rare recording of this short-lived venture!)
Meanwhile, Peterik continued to evolve as a solo artist, cutting jingles for awhile, sitting in with other bands (including laying down a KILLER vocal on a Chase track "Run Back To Mama" in 1974, shortly before the fatal plane crash that took them away from us), honing his skills by writing songs for other artists and even kicking around the idea of a solo career under the name of Chalmers Garseny.  (Don't ask!)  We have featured countless Ides tracks over the years here in Forgotten Hits ... (we used to salute them on the 15th of March every single year!) ... from the pure pop brilliance of "You Wouldn't Listen" to the chart-topping timeless brass of "Vehicle" to the laid back, country rock feel of "L.A. Goodbye" ... to several lesser known album tracks that we felt deserved far more attention than they received at the time ... and always looked at The Ides Of March as one of Chicago's premier bands of the '60's and '70's.
But, as big as they were, even I wasn't expecting the Jim Peterik comeback of Survivor (originally intended to be billed as The Jim Peterik Band, an idea that quickly went out the window when they hired a lead singer to front the band.)  I figured they had had their moment ... and now it was on to other things ... boy, was I wrong!
I will be the first to admit that I have underestimated just how big and how popular Survivor really were ... eight Billboard Top 40 Hits including five Top Ten's and a #1 Single ("Eye Of The Tiger") that won over millions and millions and millions of music fans ... and has become a part of the DNA of every person born since 1982.  When you read Jim's story of the band's world travels (and immense popularity in foreign countries), their regular rotation on MTV with all their "big hair" videos and their in-demand compositions for OTHER films after "Rocky III" pushed them over the top, you, too, will truly be amazed at the wild ride these guys enjoyed (and endured).
You'll also get a real close look of what it's like when a band is tearing itself apart from the inside ... Peterik, a world-class, accomplished guitar player was delegated to play keyboards instead in the band HE founded so that Frankie Sullivan could be the shining focal point on guitar.
Jim has worked with SO many great artists along the way ... not the least of which include .38 Special and Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys ... plus some of the biggest names in rock have partaken in his World Stage Concert Events, all sharing the stage equally for the good of presenting some great, live music.  Jim proficiently plays ALL genres of music and fits in with ease no matter what the occasion.  (Over the years we've seen him entertain with his own band, a stage full of music superstars, or as a solo act with just an acoustic guitar in a radio studio, in a book store at a book signing or at a company Christmas party ... he just loves ... and LIVES ... to entertain.)  He's written and published over a thousand songs ... and even wrote the definitive book on the subject ... "Songwriting For Dummies", part of the immensely popular Dummies "How To" book series. 
The book is full of "life lessons" he learned along the way (both professional and otherwise) ... humorous anecdotes regarding the stories behind some of his most popular and best-known songs ... as well as his down-to-earth efforts to retain some sense of normalcy with his family.  (Well, as normal as one can be anyway, at age of 64 with knee-high boots and purple hair!)  Without giving any more away, I'm going to suggest that you pick up a copy of "Through The Eye Of The Tiger" and read it for yourself ... with the advance promise that you WILL enjoy it.  (A couple more reviews follow mine ... as well as a link to a GREAT interview Jim just did with Carl Wiser of Songfacts ... you'll want to be sure to check that out, too!)
Our FH Buddy David Salidor attended a book launch party for the new Jim Peterik biography "Through The Eye Of The Tiger" a couple of weeks ago and had a great time visiting with the Chicagoland legend. (He even sent along a few photos of the all-star event!)
CARMINE  APPICE at last week's launch party for the JIM PETRIK book 
'THROUGH THE EYE OF THE TIGER' (Benbella Books) at The Cutting Room in NYC.
  (Photo by Lynne Peters)   
 at the New York Launch Party for Jim's new book THROUGH THE EYE OF THE TIGER.
 (Photo by Lynne Peters)
David also sent us a link to a review of the party that was published on the Times Square Gossip website, written by G.H. Harding:

Below, you'll also find his review of the book:

I just finished the Jim Peterik book (Through The Eye Of The Tiger / BenBella Books) and just loved it … and I’ve been reading most of them, from the Tommy James book to the Sammy Hagar book ... and loving them all. 
I first heard “Vehicle” when it came out in 1970 and it was an instant attraction between us. Those horns … (I can hear them in my head like it was yesterday) just pulled me in. And those lyrics ... just killer!  It was kick to hear how Peterik wrote that song about driving his then girl-friend (and, now his wife) around everywhere. 
You can hear it in the lyrics: I’ll take you anywhere you want to go.
I also loved that some his early records appeared on the Epitome Label … which he said every pronounced at Epi-Tome. He’s got a great way of telling these stories. Just loved it.
They certainly don't write ‘em like that anymore and when I recently went to relive the song again, I was knocked out by how well it held up.
From The Ides Of March, Jim went onto to form Survivor. I sort of knew their story, but in vivid and sometimes heartbreakingly detail, he describes what the band was all about, and I was amazed to learn that he segued so successfully from guitar to keyboards for the band.
The whole “Eye Of Tiger” story is pretty revelatory, too; and so was working with the legendary Scotti  Brothers. I was at Atlantic for a bit myself back in the day, so I met the brothers on many occasions. 
I also dug the band’s follow up hit “Burning Heart,” which was earmarked for a follow up Rocky-film.
His travails with the band are the stuff of legend and while what happened wasn’t anything I hadn’t heard before, still, you feel for the guy.
I think the one thing that I got more than anything else out of the book, is how serious he takes his craft; taking a Sony-recorder with him everywhere. Songwriting is, or, used to be a highly valued profession and I’ve always had the utmost respect for purveyors of the craft.
You have to be in it, to win in could well be the motto of the book, too.
His post-Survivor activities, with Pride Of Lions and even The Beach Boys is pretty terrific, too. Imagine my surprise opening up that last Beach Boys album and seeing Jim’s name on it.
I think if you’re a survivor (!!!) in this business, you’ll just love this one. I met Jim for a few at a book launch in New York his week and he was exactly as I’d imagine; sharp, savvy and taking care of business.
A must-read for sure.
-- David Salidor

One more from our FH Buddy Carl Wiser who brings us the always-interesting website ...
He not only sent us a review of Jim's book ... but also a link to a brand new, exclusive interview he did with Peterik, now up on his site:      

It's hard to write a compelling rock n' roll memoir when your Led Zeppelin story is about declining an invitation to party with the band. Jim is courteous, responsible, unfailingly polite, a believer in moderation, and still married to his high school sweetheart. The conflict comes from his relationship with Frankie Sullivan, his creative partner in Survivor and also his nemesis.
As Jim tells it, he acquiesced to Sullivan's demands for the sake of harmony, and these demands were questionable: refusing to use Rocky III footage in the "Eye of the Tiger" video and skipping the Grammy Awards when they were nominated for the song. You keep waiting for fistfights and smashed guitars (a-la the Eagles), but it just kind of fizzles out, which is really how so many relationships end.  
It's also the story of getting that one big shot, and answering the bell with a knockout. That call came from Sylvester Stallone, and the knockout punch was "Eye of the Tiger."  
I found Jim's story compelling, as so much of it is about striving for success, then confronting the challenges that come with it. 
-- Carl Wiser / Songfacts 
Meanwhile, here's our interview with Jim Peterik: