This is a big year for Toto–it’s their 40th anniversary–and the group is making sure fans get a to share in the moment.
Earlier this year, the group released a best-of album, 40 Trips Around the Sun, that included hits, album tracks and more.
Coming soon is a box set, All In, which includes Toto’s first 10 studio albums on vinyl and CD, a hardcover book on the group’s history, a Blu-ray of a 1990 Paris concert and a disc of 10 vintage unreleased songs (including three included on 40 Trips Around the Sun). Part of the process of putting this limited-edition set together involved a remastering of the original Toto albums, which allowed the band members to reflect on their formative years.
“We went back to the early days and we did it in a way, we did it from the first track onward,” guitarist Steve Lukather recalled during a recent phone interview. “We sat in a room for a week and we told stories. We laughed, we cried, we f***ing went through the whole trip, through our whole lives. We had never, ever in the history of the band sat down and listened from the first track to the last track in running order, in chronological order, and we really just kind of tripped out on the fact of ‘I forgot we did that song’ or ‘Oh my God, those lyrics were s**t’ or ‘You know, that was a really good track. How come nobody ever got on to that one?’ Or ‘Oh, wow, we fixed the sound on that. It sounds so much better. Look at all those parts you can hear now,’ stuff like that. And then we told funny stories about s**t we did when we were young. Somebody should have filmed that whole thing.”
Actually, Lukather has done something akin to filming that week of studio story swapping. He wrote a memoir, The Gospel According to Luke, which just arrived in digital and retail outlets.
The Toto story began in the mid-1970s, when Lukather was attending Grant High School in Van Nuys, California. It was there that he, siblings Jeff and Steve Porcaro and good friend David Paich formed Toto.
By the time the group’s self-titled debut album arrived in 1978, the musicians had already shown signs of defying the odds and making it in music. Jeff Porcaro (who was quickly gaining a reputation as a world-class drummer) had been playing in Steely Dan for nearly three years, while guitarist Lukather and keyboardist Paich were writing, touring and recording with Boz Scaggs.
Toto enjoyed immediate success, and Lukather became an in-demand studio guitarist. To date, he has played on more than 1,500 albums at the behest of a who’s-who of music royalty, including the King of Pop. Lukather was a major musical contributor to one of the biggest albums of all time, Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
Though Toto enjoyed a string of its own platinum-selling albums (and hit singles like “Hold The Line,” “Rosanna” and “Africa”), the group had its share of rough patches, too. In 1992, Jeff Porcaro died of heart failure while doing yard work. Mike Porcaro was sidelined from the music business by ALS disease in 2007. There were also personnel changes, including four different vocalists. From 2005-’07, Paich did only a handful of performances while he dealt with family issues. Paich is also missing the U.S. leg of the 40th anniversary tour because of a health issue. (“Nothing serious, but he’s got to deal with it and then he’ll be right back,” Lukather said.)
And there was a point, in early 2008, when Lukather disbanded Toto.
“It just wasn’t Toto anymore,” Lukather explained. “There was nobody on the stage but me that was in the band when we started the band. We just became a really great cover band.”
That might have closed the book on Toto right then. Ironically, it was Mike Porcaro’s ALS illness that gave the band new life. In 2010, Paich called Lukather, telling him the bassist needed money for his ALS battle. With Joseph Williams (the group’s singer from 1986-’89) and keyboardist Steve Porcaro joining the two founding members, Toto reunited for a tour of Europe to raise money for their stricken bassist, who succumbed to the disease in 2015, to everyone’s sorrow.
That tour turned into a full-fledged reunion. Toto has been going strong ever since. Now it’s time to celebrate their the 40th anniversary celebration, which has already included an extensive run through Europe. Lukather said Toto will play a generous two-hour set in the States.
“We do stuff from all the records. We do the hits people want to hear,” he said. “But we also do some stuff, we try to take a ride through the whole career without it being boring to people. We do songs where [people say] ‘I didn’t realize you guys did that song.’ We get that a lot from people that just know, the casual fans that think, ‘Oh, it’s the ‘Africa’ band.’ But we have a lot more hits than that.”