To many Eighties music fans, Jim Peterik will always be the maestro behind classic songs like “Eye of the Tiger,” “I Can’t Hold Back” and “Burning Heart."
But prior to launching Survivor in 1978, Peterik was the front man for another successful group—the Ides of March—whose signature 1970 song, “Vehicle,” is still played regularly on the radio and in TV shows and films.
This year, the Ides of March are celebrating their 50th anniversary. In honor of the occasion, Peterik and company have released a new five-disc set, Last Band Standing: The Definitive 50-Year Anniversary Collection.
The box set includes four Ides albums: Vehicle,Common Bond,World Woven and Midnight Oil. Also included are early singles like “You Wouldn’t Listen” and “Like It or Lump It,” plus random tracks the group recorded after reforming in the Nineties, not to mention three brand-new songs.
The fifth disc is a DVD that features a 2014 Ides show from the House of Blues in the band’s native Chicago. It features songs that span the band’s career, plus re-arranged versions of Survivor songs and hits Peterik wrote with 38 Special and Sammy Hagar.
I recently spoke with Peterik about the Ides of March's 50th anniversary box set, his new project with Marc Scherer and more.
GUITAR WORLD: When it dawns on you that this is the 50th anniversary of the Ides of March, what comes to mind?
There are so many thoughts. We always used to think we had an identity crisis. I remember we started out as a British invasion wannabe band, emulating bands like the Kinks, Zombies and Beatles. Then we got enamored with brass and started a Memphis/soul thing.
Then the big moment came when we had the whole brass section and went in and cut “Vehicle” and toured the country with groups like Cold Blood and Janis Joplin. We threw out all of these different incarnations. When I listen to it now as a whole, it all hangs together. There’s a group personality and a positivity that really shines through the music.
Where did the idea for the 50th anniversary box set begin?
It was time. The number “50” is a landmark, so we thought, what can we do? I’ve always respected the format of a box set and really like the solidity of it. It’s like a block of granite. But it was also lot of work. A lot of the RCA material had never been transferred from analog to digital. So they had to get these big, special ovens in just so the oxide wouldn’t flake off. To hear the original masters again the way they sounded in the studio was a revelation.
What else can you tell me about the set?
When you listen to the songs on this set, including the three new ones, it’s like traveling down memory lane. When we were compiling songs for the collection, some of them we hadn’t heard since the day we recorded them. But if you listen to the songs back to back, the development of the band is just amazing.
One of the treasures on the collection is the DVD of the Ides playing the House of Blues in Chicago. What was it like performing in that room?
That’s one of my favorite venues, and this was one our first headline show there. We selected it because of the vibe of the room. It’s built to be like an old theater. It’s the real deal, and we knew it was going to be the right choice.
When you wrote “Vehicle,” did you have any idea of how big it would be?
We never saw it as a single. To us, it was just a song people liked to dance to. I remember we put it as the fourth song on a demo we sent to Warner Brothers. They listened to it, and the first three songs they passed on, but they told us the fourth one was going to be a smash. We just couldn’t believe they thought it would be this big record. But as soon as we heard it on the radio, we said, “Holy shit! They were right" [laughs].
With the Ides you got to tour with a bunch of great groups in their early years. Did any of them stand out to you as special?
We saw something special in a lot of bands, one of them being the Allman Brothers. After “Vehicle,” we were on stage with them many times. Once was in New Orleans where we opened for them and I got to know Duane. I remember watching him and just couldn’t believe what he could do with the slide. But the thing we were most astounded about were the jams. They always had a structure, but every night it was something totally different. It was amazing to watch.
What can you tell me about Risk Everything, your new project with vocalist Marc Scherer?
I had been dancing around with Marc for about 20 years. I remember being in the studio with Survivor once and heard him singing in another studio with this band called H.P. Lovecraft. Another time I was with the Ides of March when he was in the studio next door. Both times I got his number and lost it. Then two years ago, I bumped into him again in the studio and knew it was finally time to do something together. This is a special album.
A song from the new album, "Cold Blooded,” has a special cameo appearance. Can you tell me how that came about?
“Cold Blooded” is probably the most “Survivor”-esque song I’ve written since I left the band in 1996. It has that “Broken Promises” kind of toughness to it. I remember when it came time to make the video, I had the idea of getting in touch with Lee Ann Marie, who was the girl from our “I Can’t Hold Back” video in 1984. I found her, and she still looks the same as when she stepped on to that L train. I asked her if she’d like to reprise the role and she said, “Absolutely!” It was a great full-circle moment.
How would you like Jim Peterik to be remembered?
For my spirit of positivity. I always look at the glass as being half-full instead of half-empty. I’d also like to be remembered for passing the torch. I like to pass along some of what I’ve learned to young musicians to give them shortcuts on how to avoid some of the pitfalls I’ve seen and lived.
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.