KamerTunesBlog

Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time

HIGH ON YOU – More Hooks Than A Tackle Box

Is Survivor’s 1984 Top 10 hit single, “High On You,” the greatest song of all time? Probably not. Was it one of the best melodic rock songs of the ‘80s? Quite possibly. Does it have more musical hooks than any song I’ve ever heard? That’s the hypothesis of this post.

The world at large first took notice of Survivor in 1982 thanks to the massive success of Eye Of The Tiger, both the platinum-selling album and the single of the same name that was featured in the movie Rocky III. Two years later, after replacing beret-wearing lead singer Dave Bickler with the golden-throated Jimi Jamison, the band returned to the upper reaches of the Pop charts with the album Vital Signs. Although the power ballad “The Search Is Over” was a slightly bigger hit, I’ve always preferred the Top 10 smash “High On You.”

The songwriting duo of Jim Peterik and Frankie Sullivan co-wrote just about every song in the Survivor discography, always combining strong melodies, memorable lyrics and at least one killer hook to draw in listeners. With “High On You” they outdid themselves, filling every second of its 4+ minutes with a parade of hooks that most artists struggle to achieve on an entire album. Here’s a list of those gems:
♪  The opening keyboard figure. This only-in-the-‘80s sound, which soon blends perfectly with crunchy power chords, introduces a melody heard later in the chorus.
♪  The brief lead guitar lick right before the vocals come in, which pops up a few more times throughout the song.
♪  The verse, especially at “Let me tell you ‘bout the girl I met last night.”
♪  The pre-chorus: “Now I’m higher than a kite, I know I’m getting hooked on your love…”
♪  The chorus: “I can’t stop thinkin’ ‘bout you girl…”
♪  The tease of the title (“I’m so high on you”) after the first chorus, which we’ll soon learn is only half a chorus.
♪  Changing “the girl I met last night” to “the girl I had last night.”
♪  The extended choruses throughout the rest of the song, ending with the exuberant “Such complete intoxication…I’m high on you.”
♪  The brief melodic guitar solo, with nary a wasted note, which is repeated through the outro.

Survivor - High On You

Sure, the pop charts have been filled with brilliant verse-chorus-bridge-solo-chorus songs for decades, and I’m not trying to convince anyone that “High On You” is in the pantheon of all-time-great pop songs. Then again, maybe it is. While countless classics by The Beatles, The Beach Boys, numerous Motown artists and so many others have wowed us with melodies that will forever be etched in our brains (and hearts), I honestly can’t think of another song with so many non-stop, world-class hooks. I invite you to listen to this song with fresh ears and wonder why songwriting classes aren’t being taught around its wall-to-wall melodic greatness, and I ask you to share any songs that are similarly hook-filled (with no dull moments) in the Comments section below. I also apologize if you have the song stuck in your head for the next couple of days.

Survivor - Vital Signs

I want to dedicate this post not just to the aforementioned songwriting team of Peterik & Sullivan, but also to the late Jimi Jamison who passed away in August 2014, a week after his 63rd birthday. I’ll leave you with this clip of Jamison performing “High On You” with his band in 2010, so you can marvel at the strength of his voice more than a quarter of a century after it was first recorded.

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28 comments on “HIGH ON YOU – More Hooks Than A Tackle Box

  1. deKE
    December 10, 2015

    The only Survivor tune i actually owned on 45 years ago Rich. This was a great flashback to simpler times…..

    Like

  2. deKE
    December 10, 2015

    Also must note that for some reason Aldo Nova’s Fantasy has a great hook and a real catchy piano line that drives the tune. Of course Aldo throws down a huge power chord solo as well….

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree about Aldo Nova’s “Fantasy.” Killer hook and I love the guitar tone on that record. As I mentioned in the post, I really think “High On You” is at another level. Every single hook would be the main selling point of most artists’ songs. It’s an embarrassment of riches.

      Like

  3. DanicaPiche
    December 10, 2015

    What a voice. I especially like, “I let the wheel of fortune spin” — altogether great songwriting.

    Like

    • Glad you agree about his voice, Danica. It’s one of many reasons I love this song. I barely touched on the lyrics in this post but they’re really good…and uplifting. I wonder if anyone used this as a prom song in the ’80s. Come to think of it, my prom was in 1984, but I don’t recall if this song was played that night.

      Liked by 1 person

      • DanicaPiche
        December 10, 2015

        It would make a good cruising/road trip song today. Great songs are timeless. The lyrics alone would make an intriguing post. But hooks are an excellent subject matter too. 🙂

        Like

      • I’ve used “High On You” many times in chats with fellow musicians & music lovers as an example of how to overload a song with hooks, and felt like this was a good time to put it in writing. Most readers will probably scratch their heads but it seems like a good conversation starter.

        Liked by 2 people

      • DanicaPiche
        December 10, 2015

        There is no time like the present. You did an excellent job of highlighting the hooks so I’m sure all readers will enjoy them.

        Like

      • Thanks, Danica. At the very least I want everyone to have this song stuck in their heads for a while. I love it whenever that happens to me.

        Liked by 1 person

      • DanicaPiche
        December 10, 2015

        I was happy to listen to it…I played it a couple of times. It’s as memorable as it is catchy.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Such complete intoxication, eh?

        Liked by 1 person

      • DanicaPiche
        December 10, 2015

        Haha — Now I’m higher than a kite 🙂

        Like

      • Hank
        December 11, 2015

        I’m guessing not. War on Drugs and all…

        Like

      • Haha. Great point, Hank.

        Like

  4. 80smetalman
    December 11, 2015

    I remember that song and the album very well. I will be visiting it when I eventually get ti 1984. What the album proved to me was that Survivor didn’t need Rock to prove they were a good band.

    Like

    • Looking forward to you covering 1984, which will probably be next year, right? My favorite album of the ’80s (and one of my favorites of all time) was released that year. I’ll be curious to find out if you liked it as well. As for Survivor’s Vital Signs, they still rocked on several songs but with a voice like Jimi Jamison’s they needed to head in a more melodic direction.

      Like

  5. Daddydinorawk
    December 11, 2015

    I appreciate what you are saying here Rich, and I agree;High On You is a very hooky song if nothing else, but, I would love to point you and other readers to an earlier song, equally filled with hooks and, quite possibly a much better song. Yes, its by Survivor.

    Peterik also helped write some great songs, always withan ear for the radio, such tracks as Caught Up In You and Hold On Loosley for .38 Special.

    My two other favorite hook laden songs are Stranger In Town by Toto and Voices of Babylon by the Outfield…feast your ears…

    Like

    • I love a lot of Survivor songs, and “Caught In The Game” is definitely one of their best. The thing that separates “High On You” from many other songs is the sheer number of hooks, most of which would be the best hook in another artist’s song, and the fact that they effortlessly jump from one to the next. There’s not a wasted note on that record.

      I had forgotten that Peterik was involved in those .38 Special songs, which are also jam-packed with hooks. He really should be more highly regarded as a songwriter, although I’m sure his bank account is pretty full from all those royalties.

      As you might remember from my Toto series, “Stranger In Town” is one of my favorites, and they have plenty of great hooks in their discography. I was never much of an Outfield song but I know a lot of people who like(d) them and I can’t deny they released some insanely catchy songs. Thanks for sharing those clips. Hopefully others will click those links & enjoy some more melodic goodness.

      Like

    • galley99
      December 11, 2015

      The “Caught In The Game” album also has a killer closing track in “Santa Ana Winds”.

      Like

      • Thanks for pointing me in the direction of “Santa Ana Winds.” I only own a couple of Survivor albums on vinyl (Caught In The Game isn’t one of them) and the Ultimate Survivor CD, so this track had eluded me until now. Epic stuff.

        Like

  6. stephen1001
    December 11, 2015

    Neat post Rich – at first listen, I’d imagine some listeners might dismiss the song as just another 80s pop tune. But upon closer inspection, there’s a lot to it – I especially like songs like this with the subtle lyric modifications as the song progresses.
    The Refreshments Buy American was another like that, with the nice modified ‘axe to grind’ in the 2nd verse.

    Like

    • Thanks for reminding me about that Refreshments song, Geoff. I haven’t played “The Bottle And Fresh Horses” in a while so it’s always a pleasure to be reminded of how good it is (even if it never had the same impact on me as its predecessor).

      I’m glad you feel the same way about subtle lyric modifications. Those can be just as effective as melodic hooks. The only thing Survivor failed to include in “High On You” was that trick of stopping the music for a few beats while the singer continues singing (something Aerosmith has made their own).

      Liked by 1 person

  7. J.
    December 11, 2015

    Nice post, Rich. Eye Of The Tiger was the only Survivor tune I knew prior to today. You’re right about this one – hooks galore!

    Like

    • Thanks, J. Survivor has a bunch of great tunes. It’s a shame they’re mostly known for “Eye Of The Tiger,” which is a great song but only scratches the surface of their songwriting abilities. Glad you enjoyed “High On You.” Cheers.
      Rich

      Like

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