Last month, Rocky III, and it’s mega-hit theme song “Eye of the Tiger” by the band Survivor, both turned 38 years old. Originally released in late May of 1982, they’ve each endured the test of time in their own respective rights, with the latter remaining one of the biggest arena anthems and classic radio staples of all time to this day. Recently, I was able to speak with Survivor guitarist Frankie Sullivan (who was taking a stroll around his neighborhood at the time) via phone about just what the song’s legacy means to him, as well as what’s in store for the band in the near future.
Sullivan co-wrote said track “Eye of the Tiger” along with former Survivor member Jim Peterik (the duo co-penned the majority of the band’s material together), and is literally the lone ‘survivor’ of the band’s original lineup. One of the first things I asked Sullivan was whether or not he felt the song would go down as the one he’s most remembered for. He says; “Well, I don’t really think any one song can define character. It defines a moment in somebody’s life, maybe, but not the person themselves. But some really great relationships came out of that whole thing, though.”
I wanted to know if Sullivan still felt the same he did when performing live not only songs like “Tiger…,” but many of the band’s other classics such as “The Search is Over” or “I Can’t Hold Back” as he once did when those songs were all still brand new. He tells me; “The first couple notes, that’s when the magic happens, and you can really see it in people! It’s all awesome!”
I also asked what Sullivan’s been keeping himself busy doing with all of his recent down time, and he tells me,”Interviews! I don’t normally do a lot of them, but I said ‘I’m gonna do this,’ and it turned out to be a lot of great fun. Usually we’d be out on the road working right now, but I think people are paying more attention to what’s going on in the country right now than what bands are doing.”
With the passing of former lead singer Jimi Jamison in 2014, and, more recently former bassist Stephan Ellis in 2019, I asked what he wanted people to remember them for; “I think they remember exactly what they saw of them. Sometimes it was energy, sometimes presence. I think the world already knows that. If they don’t, then they’re not thinking about them enough, anyway. That’s why I don’t always comment much on the guys who have passed.”
I was also curious if Frankie kept in touch with any other former members, such as original lead singer Dave Bickler, and former drummer Marc Droubay. He tells me; “Well, I don’t keep in touch with Dave, but that’s not unusual. We’ve never really kept in touch from day one. I’ve known Marc since around ’75 though, and he’s a great drummer, man. Marc always followed the guitar riffs and ignored the bass, but that’s a whole other thing. It was kind of like how Jimmy Page felt about John Bonham.” And as far as having his own son (current Survivor drummer Ryan Sullivan) in the band with him now, Frankie says, “As long as he’s a good drummer, it’s great! He was Marc’s tech before he was in the band, too, so he always called him Uncle Marc.”
And when asked if Survivor has any plans for new music in the works, Sullivan simply states; “If it happens, it happens. but Survivor has such a rich catalogue of original material and stuff people haven’t even heard yet. We have demos from sessions that I don’t think some of the guys who have been in the band have ever even heard. But at this time with what’s going on in the world and country right now, I haven’t even considered going and recording new music.”
Sullivan left with this sentiment; “I was young when I started, and was recording during the best years of music history; analog tape recording. After that it was all digital, and before that it wasn’t ready for prime time. These days kids can make records in their bedrooms, and God bless them for it. But I came from a different school, and like the stuff that came before all that. I lived through the greatest years in recording history…and it’s still the best!”
One thought on “Interview with Survivor Guitarist Frankie Sullivan By Jesse Striewski”
Thank you for this interview! I loved Survivor, even though I didn’t know their name, the first time I heard “Eye of the Tiger” on radio (that’s my memory and I am sticking with it!). I had to find out their name somehow (no thanks to radio stations who often fail to mention song names and band names). I became a lifelong fan and collector of their music though I have yet to hear or see them in concert. I almost traveled from BC to Ontario to see them but it didn’t work out. I’m a Canadian fan of America’s “Survivor” rock band!