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Classic Mix

Eye Of The Tiger

by Survivor

One of the truisms of radio–targeted production is that you’d better hook your listener in early on or they’ll switch stations, and many producers basically translate this into ‘hit them with the vocal hook within the first half minute’. However, this smash hit demonstrates how you can just as effectively hook ‘em with the band arrangement instead, by virtue of an iconic intro which also happens to feature one of my all–time favourite rhythmic stunts (and the bane of air–guitarists the world over): the way the chords in the riff’s third bar at 0:12 are delayed by an additional eighth note when they repeat four bars later at 0:21.

The guitar powerchord texture is classic rock, with all–but–identical sounds panned hard left and right to give a wide and well–balanced stereo picture. This scheme also tolerates one–sided listening well, although there’s a big level loss and a slightly chorusey texture in mono — not that anyone minded a bit of extra chorus in the ’80s! If you’re after this sound, though, bear in mind that the piano appears to be subtly shadowing the guitar chords most of the time, acting as a surreptitious harmonic sweetener.

When the lead vocal does finally strut up around the 50–second mark, it’s totally worth the wait. On a purely technical level it’s astounding how Dave Bickler nails that super–high top ‘C’ again and again with such purity and accuracy, while never compromising on the alpha–male swagger. His high register also plays into the hands of the mix engineer, because it cuts through the backing at a reasonably conservative level, improving the illusion of power from the band instruments by comparison.

This drum sound has aged a lot better than many of the same era — yes, there’s a fair amount of bright reverb hissing away in there, particularly on the snare, but otherwise the kit itself still feels like a fairly cohesive instrument, rather than a set of overdubs/samples swimming through digitally generated soup. Notice how the bass guitar is actually providing much of the perceived weight of the kick beats, because of the way the two instruments play together throughout — with the sole exception, I think, of the last hit before the second chorus, which gives a glimpse of what the unsupported kick–drum might sound like.

All those good things notwithstanding, though, it has always bugged me that the guitar–picking double-tracks keep drifting out of sync during the first four bars. In the days before Pro Tools…