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Music / Toto

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Toto, circa 1977 (l-r: Steve Porcaro, Steve Lukather, Bobby Kimball, David Hungate, David Paich, Jeff Porcaro).

Boston and Journey may have arrived on the scene first, but there was no band that defined the AOR boom of the late seventies and early eighties quite like Toto.

The nucleus of the group consisted of school friends David Paich (keyboards, vocals) Steve Porcaro (keyboards, vocals), Jeff Porcaro (drums, percussion) and Steve Lukather (guitars, vocals), all experienced session musicians and aspiring songwriters who had played on hundreds of records between them. They were soon joined by the dynamic lead vocalist Bobby Kimball and bass guitarist David Hungate, who would leave after their fourth album and be replaced by the third Porcaro brother, Mike. They're officially named after the dog from The Wizard of Oz, but stories went around for a long time that Bobby Kimball was actually a Cajun whose real name was Robert Toteaux and the band was named after him.

While the group's music incorporates Hard Rock, Progressive Rock, Soul and Jazz, they are most commonly associated with the Soft Rock and AOR categories. Indeed, they are often noted as the Trope Codifier for the latter genre; their keyboard-driven music combined with Kimball's soaring vocal and Lukather's slashing guitar arguably bridged the gap between Fleetwood Mac and Foreigner.

Their greatest success was 1982's Toto IV, which included the number one hit "Africa" and the number two hit "Rosanna" and won six Grammy awards for the band. Kimball left shortly after and the band's fortunes declined somewhat, but they found a semi-permanent replacement in the form of another school friend named Joseph Williams, son of the prolific film composer John Williams. In spite of Jeff Porcaro's death as a result of heart failure brought on by cocaine use in 1992, his replacement Simon Phillips bowing out in 2014, and Mike Porcaro's death at the hands of ALS in 2015, the remaining four members from the Fahrenheit album lineup still performed as Toto, backed by a cadre of session musicians.

That is, until 2019; when inner band turmoil over a lawsuit by Jeff's widow Susan Goings - along with David Paich no longer physically being able to tour anymore - tore the band apart and pushed them towards a hiatus note . The lawsuit itself was acrimonious enough that a rift between Lukather and Steve Porcaro developed, thus ending the band's run with the Fahrenheit era lineup.

The hiatus was short lived, however, as after a conversation between Lukather, Paich, and Williams, Lukather and Williams felt they wanted to continue performing and touring as Toto. Thus, with Paich's blessing, the band reformed once again with just Lukather and Williams along with a brand new group of session & live musicians, some of which were a part of the last lineup before their 2019 hiatus.

Members (Founding members in bold, current members in italic)

Current Core Members

  • Steve Lukather - guitars, lead and backing vocals (1976-2008, 2010-present)
  • Joseph Williams - lead and backing vocals (1986-88, 1998, 2010-present)

Former Official Members

  • Jeff Porcaro - drums, percussion (1978-92, died 1992)
  • Simon Philips - drums, percussion (1992-2008, 2010-14)
  • Keith Carlock - drums, percussion (2014-15)
  • David Hungate - bass (1976-82, 2014-15)
  • Mike Porcaro - bass (1982-2007, died 2015)
  • Bobby Kimball - lead and backing vocals (1976-84, 1989, 1998-2008)
  • Fergie Frederiksen - lead and backing vocals (1984-86, died 2014)
  • Jean-Michael Byron - lead and backing vocals (1989-90)
  • David Paich - keyboards, synthesizers, lead and backing vocals (1976-2008, 2010-2019)
  • Steve Porcaro note  - keyboards, synthesizers, lead and backing vocals (1976-87, 1998, 2010-2019)
  • Greg Phillinganes note  - keyboards, lead and backing vocals (2003, 2005-08)

Current Touring Members

  • Robert "Sput" Searight - drums, percussion (2020-present)
  • Warren Ham - saxophone, backing vocals (1986-88, 2017-2019, 2020-present)
  • John Pierce - bass (2020-present)
  • Dominique "Xavier" Taplin note  - keyboards, lead and backing vocals (2018-2019, 2020-present)
  • Steve Maggiora - keyboards, backing vocals

Studio discography

  • Toto (1978)
  • Hydra (1979)
  • Turn Back (1981)
  • Toto IV (1982)
  • Isolation (1984)
  • Dune (soundtrack) (1984)
  • Fahrenheit (1986)
  • The Seventh One (1988)
  • Kingdom of Desire (1992)
  • Tambu (1995)
  • Mindfields (1999)
  • Through The Looking Glass (2002)
  • Falling in Between (2006)
  • Toto XIV (2014)
  • Old is New (2018)

"I bless the tropes down in Aaaaaaaaafricaaaaaa..."

  • Alliterative Title: "Girl Goodbye" from Toto; "Gift with a Golden Gun" and "English Eyes" from Turn Back; "Spanish Steps of Rome", "High Price of Hate" and "Last Love" from Mindfields are examples.
  • Antagonist Title: "Blackeye"
  • Artistic License – Geography: "Africa" mentions the Serengeti being at the base of Kilimanjaro. While both of those things are in Tanzania's borders, they're actually over a hundred miles away from each other.
  • Ascended Extra: Steve Lukather would count. While his solos have always been prominent, he only sang two songs on their first album (the Top 50 single "Georgy Porgy" and "Angela") on their first album and only sang lead vocals on one song (the former) on their first tour. He also sang lead vocals on only one song in their second album Hydra (the leadoff single "99"). However, on their third album, the more hard rock based Turn Back, Lukather contributed more, singing lead on three songs and writing songs for the first time. In the following albums, he sang lead on some of their top hits, icnluding "Rosanna", "I Won't Hold You Back", and "I'll Be Over You", as Paich's singing became less prominent and the band entered a carousel of lead singers. After their fourth lead singer was fired in 1990, Lukather became the new lead singer and sang every song on 1992's Kingdom of Desire. Since then, he has been perceived as one of the leaders of the band.
  • The Band Minus the Face: Depending on the perspective of the individual fan, any line-up that lacks Bobby Kimball supplying lead vocals.
    • From 1990 to Kimball's return in 1998, the band had no lead vocalist at all, with lead vocals performed by Luke and the backing singers.
  • Band of Relatives: The three Porcaro Brothers.
  • Break-Up Song: "I'll Be Over You," "Stop Loving You," "Hold The Line," "Pamela," "Without Your Love," and "Straight For The Heart" just to name a few.
    • "Baby He's Your Man" from Tambu is an interesting spin, as the song is a duet from both sides of the relationship.
  • Chronological Album Title: Toto IV, The Seventh One, and Toto XIV are all examples. Subverted with Toto XX, which was actually created for the band's 20th anniversary.
  • Concept Album: Hydra was the band's attempt at creating one of these, but only the first two tracks ("Hydra" and "St. George and the Dragon") ended up following it.
  • Cover Album: Through The Looking Glass covers 11 different songs by many different artists.
  • Cover Version: In 2002, the band released Through the Looking Glass, an album with eleven different cover tracks. In 2018, the band made a cover of "Hash Pipe", done in response to Weezer's cover of "Africa".
  • Darker and Edgier: Kingdom Of Desire, their eighth album and more hard-rock sounding.
  • Demoted to Extra:
    • During the band's "Fahrenheit" tour in 1986, songs that featured Steve Porcaro's keyboards (e.g. "Stranger in Town") were gradually removed from the setlist, and Porcaro quit the band after the tour, but still participated in the Seventh One tour and contributed to most of their following albums. He rejoined the band in 2010.
    • During the 1990 tour, Steve Lukather gradually took more lead vocals while making Jean-Michel Byron basically one of the backing singers.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: In-Universe, The titular murderer in "Stranger in Town", whom the children believe to be Jesus.
"How can a man who's a criminal be a hero to the kids?"
  • Early-Bird Cameo:
    • In their 1979 tour following Toto I, they performed "All Us Boys" which would later be released on their Hydra album (1980).
    • The title track of Kingdom of Desire and "Jake to the Bone" both appear in the Montreux 1991 DVD, a year before they were officially released.
  • Epic Rocking: Many Toto songs lasted over six minutes:
    • Toto: "Girl Goodbye" (6:19)
    • Hydra: "Hydra" (7:31)
    • Turn Back: "English Eyes" (6:11)
    • The Seventh One: "Home of the Brave" (6:51), "The Seventh One" (6:20)
    • Past to Present 1977-1990: "Love Has the Power" (6:32)
    • Kingdom of Desire: "Gypsy Train" (6:45), "Wings of Time" (7:27), "Kingdom of Desire" (7:16), and "Jake to the Bone" (7:05).
    • Tambu: "Gift of Faith" (7:23), "I Will Remember" (6:06), "Drag Him to the Roof" (6:10).
    • Toto XX: "Love is a Man's World" (6:16), "On the Run" (7:01), and a live version of "Africa" (9:51).
    • Mindfields: "After You've Gone" (6:37), "Mindfields" (6:04), "High Price of Hate" (9:22), "Caught in the Balance" (6:21), "Better World" (7:50). Some editions had a longer version of "High Price of Hate" at 9:50.
    • Through the Looking Glass: "Maiden Voyage / Butterfly" (7:33), "Burn Down the Mission" (6:28)
    • Falling in Between: "Dying on My Feet" (6:11), "Bottom of Your Soul" (6:58), "No End in Sight" (6:10)
    • Toto XIV: "21st Century Blues" (6:08), "Great Expectations" (6:48)
  • Fake Shemp: Several tracks on Old Is New included archived recordings of Jeff Porcaro's drums and Mike Porcaro's bass.
  • Genre Roulette:
    • One example is Toto IV, which featured songs distinctly placed in the hard rock, rhythm and blues, pop rock and even world music categories.
    • Another standout is Mindfields which includes diverse styles such as progressive rock ("Better World"), blues ("High Price of Hate"), reggae (the title track), and even country ("No Love" featuring Clint Black)
  • Greatest Hits Album: 24 of these have been released. The ones with original material include Past to Present 1977–1990 (1990), which included four newly recorded tracks, and Toto XX (1998), which included eleven previously recorded but unreleased tracks.
  • Heavy Mithril: "St. George and the Dragon".
  • I Am the Band: Averted with Steve Lukather. When he realized that he was the only active founding member left, he disbanded the group (they later reunited, but that was only because Lukather eventually got more of the old members to return).
  • Instrumental: "Child's Anthem," "Jake to the Bone," and "Dave's Gone Skiing" are some examples.
  • Last-Name Basis: David Hungate (in Steve Lukather's autobiography) due to sharing his first name with more prominent member David Paich. And Steve Lukather is more commonly known as Luke (short for Lukather) because he has the same first name as Steve Porcaro.
  • The Last Title: "If It's the Last Night" from Turn Back, "Last Night" from Toto XX, and "Last Love" from Mindfields are examples.
  • Live Album: The band released eight of these: Absolutely Live (1993), Livefields (1999), 25th Anniversary: Live in Amsterdam (2003), Falling in Between Live (2007), 35th Anniversary: Live in Poland (2014), Live at Montreux 1991 (2016), 40 Tours around the Sun (2019), and With a Little Help from My Friends (2021).
  • Longest Song Goes First: The title track in Hydra (7:31), "Rosanna" in Toto IV (5:31), "Till the End" in Fahrenheit (5:17), "Love Has the Power" in Past to Present: 1977-1990 (6:32), "Gift of Faith" in Tambu (7:23)
  • Longest Song Goes Last:
    • "Home of the Brave" in The Seventh One (6:51), except for the Japanese edition in which that song is followed by the title track (6:20).
    • A live version of "Africa" (9:51) closes out Toto XX.
    • "Great Expectations" (6:48) closes Toto XIV, except for the Japanese edition which adds "Bend" (2:48) to the end of that album.
  • Lyrical Cold Open: "I'll Be Over You" is one example.
  • The Man Behind the Man: As prolific session musicians and songwriters, the band members were involved in some way or another with about half of all the records that came out of California during the late 1970s and early 1980s, and in their own way they defined what American pop music would be like at this time. Jeff Porcaro in particular is lauded for his influence as a drummer, and is considered to be the most recorded drummer in music history.
  • Nerd Glasses: Steve Porcaro (and his brother Jeff) wore these.
  • New Sound Album: In all of their albums, although many of them were AOR based.
    • Hydra saw the band attempting Progressive Rock with the Title Track, but it also included rock tracks like "All Us Boys" and "White Sister", and soul tracks such as "Mama" and "99".
    • Turn Back was strongly influenced by English Hard Rock groups like Queen and Led Zeppelin, and was notable as almost all of the tracks were the same genre.
    • Toto IV included diverse styles world music (Africa), hard rock (Afraid of Love), R&B (Waiting For Your Love)
Kingdom of Desire sounded more like hard rock, and Tambu was much more organic-sounding.
  • Nobody Loves the Bassist: David Hungate. Despite playing on their most successful albums he's less well-known than Mike Porcaro, his successor. It probably did not help that Hungate quit right after the album was finished, so Mike appeared in the "Rosanna" and "Africa" music videos and the following tour. And Hungate only appeared in the background of many of Toto's early music videos such as "99" and "Goodbye Elenore".
    • This was averted, naturally, with Mike Porcaro, who was very well-liked within and outside of the band.
    • Again averted when Hungate came back for one more album and tour after Mike's passing.
  • Noun Verber: "Rockmaker" from the Toto album.
  • One-Man Song: "Jake to the Bone" and "Dave's Gone Skiing", both instrumental tracks from Kingdom of Desire and Tambu respectively. "Georgy Porgy" from the title album, "St. George and the Dragon" from Hydra, "Mr. Friendly" from Isolation, "Blackeye" from Tambu, "Tale of a Man" and "Baba Mnumzane" from Toto XX, "Spiritual Man" and "The Reeferman" from Falling in Between and "Unknown Soldier (For Jeffrey)" from Toto XIV are also examples.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted with Steve Lukather and Steve Porcaro, as well as with David Hungate and David Paich.
  • One-Woman Song: "Rosanna" is their most famous; Steve Porcaro had briefly dated actress Rosanna Arquette and he dedicated the song to her, although David Paich (who wrote the song) insists that it's not really about anyone in particular and Arquette's forename just happened to fit the chorus. They have one of these songs on almost every album:
    • Toto: "Manuela Run", "Angela"
    • Hydra: "Lorraine", "Mama", "White Sister"
    • Turn Back: "Goodbye Elenore"
    • Toto IV: "Rosanna"
    • Isolation: "Carmen", "Holyanna"
    • Fahrenheit: "Lea"
    • The Seventh One: "Pamela", "Anna", "Mushanga"
    • Past to Present 1977-1990: None
    • Kingdom of Desire: None
    • Tambu: None
    • Toto XX: "Mrs. Johnson", "Miss Sun"
    • Mindfields: "Melanie"
    • Falling in Between: None
    • Toto XIV: None
    • Old is New: "Chelsea"
  • One-Word Title: Several of their album titles (Toto, Hydra, Isolation, Fahrenheit, Tambu, and Mindfields), as well as these songs (notice the similarities to One-Woman Song above):
    • Toto: "Rockmaker", "Angela"
    • Hydra: "Lorraine", "Mama", "Hydra"
    • Turn Back: None
    • Toto IV: "Rosanna", "Africa"
    • Isolation: "Carmen", "Lion", "Endless", "Isolation", "Holyanna"
    • Fahrenheit: "Fahrenheit", "Lea"
    • The Seventh One: "Pamela", "Anna", "Mushanga"
    • Past to Present 1977-1990: "Animal"
    • Kingdom of Desire: None
    • Tambu: "Blackeye"
    • Toto XX: None
    • Mindfields: "Selfish", "Melanie", "Cruel", "Mindfields"
    • Falling in Between: "Hooked"
    • Toto XIV: "Burn", "Orphan", "Chinatown", "Fortune", "Bend"
    • Old is New: "Alone", "Chelsea"
  • Power Ballad: "Africa", "I Won't Hold You Back", "I Will Remember", and others.
  • Porn Stache: Bobby Kimball is known for having one.
  • Precision F-Strike: The only example of the word in the band's entire catalog is in "Taint Your World" off of Falling in Between.
  • Revolving Door Band:
    • The band had shifted having 6, 5, and 4 members through their career, with members drifting in and out of the band (along with Jeff Porcaro's tragic death and Mike Porcaro's death to ALS), with only Steve Lukather having stayed with Toto through all of its incarnations. However, Lukather, David Paich, Simon Phillips (until he quit in 2014) and Mike Porcaro (until he was forced to retire due to medical conditions in 2007), were all members of the band for over 20 years.
    • In fact, after David Hungate quit and Bobby Kimball was fired after the first four albums, every single album of new material has been recorded with a different lineup of members. Now, the band current stand at three members: Lukather, David Paich (but only in a non-touring capacity), and vocalist Joseph Williams. This of course doesn't count the sheer number of musicians that have performed live with them (38 in total, at current count) or the even larger number of guests they've had on their albums.
  • Self-Titled Album: Their first album (Toto), their fourth album (Toto IV), their fourteenth album (Toto XIV), and their 20th anniversary compilation album (Toto XX). Aside from these, all of their other albums had individual titles.
  • Something Blues: "21st Century Blues" from Toto XIV.
  • Special Guest: Toto has had many of these over the years, and the more prominent contributions include:
    • Cheryl Lynn contributed the vocal nursery rhyme chant at the end of Toto's "Georgy Porgy"
    • Michael McDonald contributed prominent backing vocals in Fahrenheit's "I'll Be Over You". Miles Davis was featured in "Don't Stop Me Now" off the same album.
    • Linda Ronstadt sang prominent backing vocals on some lines in The Seventh One's "Stay Away".
    • Clint Black played harmonica and sang backing vocals on Mindfields's "No Love".
    • Ian Anderson played flute on Falling in Between's "Hooked".
  • Step Up to the Microphone:
    • Frustrated by their inability to find a consistent lead singer, Steve Lukather took over sole lead vocal duties between 1992 and 1998. Lukather is also the only member to have at least one lead vocal on every album.
    • During their peak popularity, Lukather, Steve Porcaro, and David Paich usually had at least one song on each album that featured them singing lead.
    • Bassist Mike Porcaro sang backing vocals in the Toto IV and Isolation tours.
    • Keyboardist Greg Phillinganes sang lead on some songs in Falling in Between.
    • Steve Porcaro finally got to sing lead vocals live in 2013 when he duetted "It's a Feeling" with Joseph Williams, and in 2015 Porcaro sang "Takin' it Back" solo.
    • The whole band (Kimball, Lukather, Paich, Mike Porcaro, and Simon Phillips) sings backing vocals on "Can't Get Next to You" on Through the Looking Glass.
    • In Tambu, backing vocalist Jenny Douglas-Mc Rae sang lead on the bonus track "Blackeye" and co-lead on "Baby He's Your Man" and "The Turning Point".
    • Drummer Simon Phillips sang backing vocals in "Better World" from Mindfields.
    • His brief successor, Keith Carlock, sang backing vocals in "Burn" from Toto XIV.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Fergie Frederiksen for Bobby Kimball; both were from Louisiana and before joining Toto, Frederiksen had been lead singer in a band (Le Roux) that grew out of the band that Kimball left (The Levee Band) so he could join Toto.
  • Title Track: The only non-compilation and non-self-titled studio albums without a title track were Tambu and Old Is New. Yes, even The Seventh One had a title track (although it was only available in the Japanese edition).
  • Trope Codifier: For Album-Oriented Rock (AOR). Only the aforementioned Boston and Journey beat them to being the Trope Maker.
  • Two First Names: 1990s touring singers Jenny Douglas and John James both count.
  • Uncommon Time: "Jake to the Bone" and "Dave's Gone Skiing" rotate between different time signatures at various parts of the song.
  • Unreplaced Departed:
    • In 1988, After Steve Porcaro (one of the band's two keyboardists) left following the Seventh One tour, he was not replaced and David Paich handled all of the keyboard work.
    • In 1990, lead vocalist Jean-Michel Byron was fired, and lead guitarist Steve Lukather handled lead vocals (alongside several touring singers).