A chat with the AOR song writing legend that is Jim Peterik.
Jim has been playing in bands since the late 60's and is still going as strong as ever today. From the Ides Of March to a string of hits with Survivor, to his behind the scenes song writing with 38 Special, David Carl, Captive Heart and Fergie Frederiksen, to his new solo project World Stage, Jim has without doubt achieved legend status.
Find out what Jim had to say when I spoke with him by phone a short time ago...
So Jim, I will take you back a couple of years if you don't mind.
The band was obviously at the top of it's game in the early to mid 80's and suddenly your lead vocalist Dave leaves. That was a tough break..
Ell it was. Dave was the original singer and we loved Dave. Still do. He has a great voice. He obviously sung our biggest hit, eye of the tiger and a lot of the early days in Chicago when we were building the following up and playing a lot of the clubs, Dave was the man.
In fact the rumour is that Sylvester Stallone heard 'Poor Mans Son' and that's what got him interested in Survivor.
That was Dave - he has a really tough streak, a raw sound and a great guy and great singer.
So when he has to leave - he was having throat problems. He had to have an operation to remove throat nodules. He needed more time off that we had time to give him. He needed between and year and 2 years off to recover his voice.
He bowed out at that time and we were left in the lurch.
We started doing auditions and that was a tough time.
Had that come in the early 90's, you could have taken 2 years break easily!
Well yeah, but we were at our hot peak and at the time it didn't seem like something we could do.
In stepped Jimi Jamison. For better or worse I guess - better at the time at least.
How did you find him?
Well, through a friend named Frank Rand who worked for Epic Records. He told me about a band name Cobra and a lead singer who is really good and sounds a little like Dave.
So we auditioned him and probably about 4 or 5 singers all up in 1983 and he joined in early 1984.
Any big names in there - surprises that you auditioned?
The only one you would probably recognize was Kevin Chalfant. From 707 and The Storm.
Well he did great. We were almost going to go with Kevin and Jimi came along and blew everybody away.
They were both great, but we went with Jimi.
Well it worked, because you continued to have success with Jimi. He took the band in a more smoother/AOR style didn't he?
He voice kind of made Frankie and I write in a more pop vein. I don't think we knew it at the time, at least I wasn't aware of it, because of the smoothness of his voice, we started writing a little less gritty and a little more pop.
You turned that back around a little on Too Hot To Sleep.
Well Too Hot to Sleep we went back to more the harder edge.
That was a really really good overlooked Survivor record. It really crushed us when that didn't make it.
We blamed the record company - of course all bands blame their record company - but it really was a bad time for Scotti Bros because they were going through distribution changes.
I think ours was there last record through Epic. They just didn't promote it.
There are some songs I particularity like on that album.
My favourite is probably 'Desperate Dreams'.
Sure, that is a pretty moody track.
Very moody! Also Didn't Know It Was Love. We loved that record and it was a big blow when it didn't happen.
Was that the point when things started to deteriorate?
I think so. Jimi Jamison was the first to say, well I a going to go solo. And blew everybody's mind with that. Frankie and I looked at each other and said 'well what do we do now?'
We just kind of took some time off to re-group and figure out what we were going to do.
Then Jamisons' album came out and didn't do much.
Well with no disrespect to Jimi - it wasn't a great record .
It wan't no, and I think he wouldn't disagree with that. It didn't really have the songs and I don't think his vocal performances were real strong.
But apparently it was something that he wanted to do and it caused a lot of bad feelings.
And it fell apart from there?
Well we did, but to be real honest we tried to re group with him back in late 92 and at first he said he was gonna do it then all of a sudden we couldn't get him on the phone - he went underground.
That's when we called our buddy Dave Bickler who was alive and well and doing great and said 'hey - lets do this thing again'.
We went out in 1993 and toured Germany extensively and Switzerland and Europe and I was still with the band then.
I left in July of '96.
Had a real good run there.
I didn't even know you had left the band! There was no publicity around it.
Well I am sure not going to go to press with something like that. If Survivor wants to talk about that, that's fine. It was just time to move on for me.
In '96 I told the guys I wasn't going to be continuing.
And they are still with Dave now.
Yeah the original guys are back there also.
At what time did Jimi Jamison start touring as Survivor also?
Well that was pretty early. Very soon after he jumped ship in '92 early '93, he started very discreetly going out as Jimi Jamison, but the promoters, who have no scruples as you know, started advertising it as Jimi Jamison & Survivor. And it wasn't a big jump before it became just survivor.
That is when Frankie and I mounted a law suit, trying to get an injunction against Jimi. We were not granted that injunction, which was a case of some very bad legal maneuvering on our lawyers part.
I heard that it was in court, but I never heard the result.
Well we never got that injunction and of course I am no longer with the band, but the battle with the trademark is still going on.
Yeah, Frankie and Dave will win, but it's a real drag.
Was that whole legal challenge a hard thing to do? I heard it got pretty bitter.
Very hard. I don't have to go into it. Any lawsuit brings out the worst in people.
Did that lead you to say, enough, I am out of here?
Well it certainly didn't help matters any.
Really it was just time to move on.
And now Jimi Jamison has a record deal under Survivor.
Well that is very upsetting and he truly doesn't deserve the name.
To me that is not right.
Even though I am no longer a member of Survivor I feel that it is not right that Jamison is trying to use the name Survivor and hopefully the trademark courts will put an end to that soon.
That's really the way I feel about it.
I think eventually it will work out.
What did you do upon leaving Survivor?
I started getting involved in songwriting, as above everything else I am a songwriter.
Down in Nashville it is very hot for writers right now and it's not all country.
There is a cross section of music.
So I was visiting Nashville and getting involved in the click of songwriters there.
Just finally after 2 years, I am starting to do very well there.
I am not a country songwriter, but a lot of the country nowadays is like 80's pop, so I fit right in.
So I started making inroads there.
And I did some more production, I am producing a blues act from Chicago called the Anthony Gomes band, they have a record that is just coming out - I did that. And I started performing solo, which was a lot of fun.
I always wanted to do that.
So with Survivor we had lead singers and didn't need me on lead vocals, which was fine, but when I left Survivor I was really hanging out to sing.
I started opening up for various bands. REO Speedwagon called me up and asked if I would like to open for them. And I did that with just an acoustic guitar and did really well. I opened for Credence Clearwater Revival and the Beach Boys - about 6 months worth.
Great for my head!
Did you record any of these shows?
Not professionally, just on DAT for my own use.
I would do the hits in very stripped down fashion, Eye Of The Tiger and Search Is Over and some of the songs I wrote with .38 Special like Hold On Loosely and Caught Up You and some new solo songs.
It was received well and gave me a lot of confidence and that confidence kept growing.
Aren't you are still writing with 38 Special?
And I had 10 songs with .38 Special on their recent Resolution album.
I am working with them again this year now that CMC have picked them up.
I have 5 tracks on the album so far.
So I am working on this real hard and until the ink is dry I can't mention any labels, but it is an international deal.
When I left Survivor, another one of the things I did was get my original band back together - The Ides Of March.
At that point we had done a few concerts here and there.
But after Survivor I got the original 6 guys together, right back from when we started in '64 and we put it back together and it was a real thrill.
God that long ago!!
Yeah, our big hit was in '70 with Vehicle - we disbanded in '73 and just recently got back together again.
Sure, Joe Lynn Turner did a cover recently.
Yeah, he sure did and I am still waiting to get paid from that! Hahaha.
So that was me at age 19 - I wrote and played lead on that and that was my band.
And you work with the MTM label a bit...
Yeah, I have an album out with them right now - the David Carl Band.
Yeah, from memory I rated that somewhere in the 80's.
Well that's nice. You know I produced it, co-wrote a lot of the stuff. David's just a great guy.
Great sound. Great singing.
And of course it doesn't go anywhere without great songs and I guess that is where you step in?
Well thank you. There is a song on there I particularly like, I am very soft on ballads, it's called the Arms Of Love, (Jim sings the chorus!) .I love that ballad.
Me too! That was actually one of the more Survivor sounding tracks on the album.
Very much! Haha
It sounded like it could have come off Too Hot To Sleep or something?
Did you know that Uriah Heep just cut 'Across The Miles' from Too Hot To Sleep?
I didn't know that! That's one of my favourite tunes.
Between you and me, they didn't beat Survivor but they did a nice job. Haha.
With your production deal you also worked on the Captive Heart record
Yes, I am working on another band, the spin off from Captive Heart. The singer Rick Trotter has a new band called Lincoln Field.
We just finished 10 songs on that - it is tremendous stuff. Very melodic, strong and I am very excited about that.
How about Joe Vana then? How did you get involved with his project?
Well the funny thing about Joe - I have known him since he was about 13 years old. He used to come by the house on his bicycle and I knew right away this kid was a good kid, he wasn't one of these pests. He knew when to leave, you know.
But I would always play him the new acetate by Survivor. This was in the heyday of Survivor - I remember acetates of Caught in the Game, Eye Of The Tiger and Vital Signs.
So every time he came over, I played him the new thing.
And we became really good buddies. And through the years we became best friends.
He actually has turned into a really good writer and guitarist. He hid that talent from me until just recently.
I was writing for the new Fergie Frederiksen record Equilibrium and The Truth Is Good Enough.
Joe finally said I write a little music. And I go really? I was kinda afraid to listen, because if it was terrible I was going to have to tell him, but I was really knocked out. We actually wrote a song together - the two of us with Ricky. It didn't make the album because it wasn't really in the direction of the rest of the album.
So have you written together for his album?
Starting to yeah. He actually sounds a lot like Richard Page. Great singer.
Oh yeah, I admire his work a lot.
Oh yeah, he could sing the phone book! Hahaha.
So how is this solo project shaping up now?
It's going well - I am calling it World Stage featuring Jim Peterik and friends.
I am including a lot of people that I have worked with over the years. People that I wrote with, like Don Barnes from .38 Special, Henry Paul from the Outlaws, Kevin Cronin from REO Speedwagon. Kevin will sing on a tracks and Richard Marx and Tom Kiefer from Cinderella have expressed great interest in it.
Basically it is an album of duets with great singers I have known or worked with.
I just saw Night Ranger here in Chicago. I asked them to join me on my record and Jack and Kelly said yes.
Jack's a riot, he is the best PR guy there could ever be. There is just so much energy in him and on stage he's wild! He is one of the best performers ever.
The album should come out in June.
Well I will look forward to that big time. Thanks Jim for your time and for speaking with me. No probems Andrew.