Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time
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.
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.
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 September 2014, a week after his 63rd birthday. I’ll leave you with this clip of Jamison performing “High On You” with the reunited Survivor a couple of months earlier, so you can marvel at the strength of his voice more than a quarter of a century after it was first recorded.