During an appearance on The Jay Jay French Connection podcast, hosted by Twisted Sister’s Jay Jay French, Lukather looked back at his long career. When the subject of Toto’s breakthrough single “Hold the Line” came up, French noted how heavy the song sounded.
“The first time I heard ‘Hold the Line’ was at David [Paich’s] apartment in Westwood,” Lukather detailed. “He goes, ‘I came up with this riff. I was inspired by ‘Hot Fun in the Summertime’ by Sly [Stone]. So I’m gonna write something, but I want to rock it up a little bit.”
Paich then played the now-famous piano part to “Hold the Line” and sang its chorus. Lukather knew he was onto something.
Watch Toto’s ‘Hold the Line’ Video
“Oh, this is a home run!” he recalled thinking, noting he could add some “crunchy guitar” to the song. “And when we cut the track, you knew that there was something [special] there.”
“Hold the Line” became a Top 5 hit for Toto in 1978. As the band’s debut single, Lukather believed it was the perfect introduction for his band. He wasn’t so thrilled with the way Toto was steered after that.
READ MORE: 78 Things That Defined the Summer of 1978
“We wanted to come out rocking,” the guitarist explained. “We were a rock band. But then [the label] started putting out all the ballads and everything and they put us in the pussy band category.”
Steve Lukather Didn’t Think ‘Africa’ Would Be a Hit
Toto’s self-titled debut album scored multiplatinum sales, launching the band as a top-tier act. Follow-up albums Hydra (1979) and Turn Back (1981) failed to match that commercial success, but Toto came roaring back in 1984 with their massively successful Toto IV LP.
A pair of singles from Toto IV became hits: “Rosanna” and “Africa.” While Lukather believed “Rosanna” was the album’s “golden carrot,” he thought the latter track – which has since become an often-covered classic – was a “weird little tune.”
“When the lyrics came in I started laughing,” the guitarist confessed. “I go, ‘Dave. ‘I bless the rains in Africa’? Are you serious? We’re from North Hollywood!”
Toto Albums Ranked Worst to Best
Countless high school buddies have started their own bands, but few achieved the level of enduring success enjoyed by the guys in Toto.