There was no denying the presence of rock band Toto when the band released its fourth album, “Toto IV,” in 1982. First there was the release of the album’s lead track, “Rosanna.”
The song which features guitarist Steve “Luke” Lukather on vocals and a horn line with the great Tom Scott and Chicago’s Jimmy Pankow, went to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. It eclipsed the band’s 1978 hit, “Hold The Line,” which went to No. 5 on the charts.
But the band’s biggest hit was still on the horizon.
“Africa” was released in September 1982 but it became Toto’s first No. 1 hit in January 1983. And 35 years later, “Africa” has become embedded in pop culture. The song, which was written and sung by keyboardist David Paich and features Timothy B. Schmit (Eagles) on background vocals, has been featured in episodes of “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon” and in a video by Kristen Bell and her husband, Dax Shephard.
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“Africa” is only a small part of the Toto mythology. The band has suffered through the deaths of founding member and drummer Jeff Pocaro and his brother Mike Pocaro, who replaced original bassist David Hungate shortly after the recording of “Toto IV.” It also has seen lead singer Bobby Kimball come and go as well as many other personnel changes.
But the band continues not only to survive but also to thrive by selling out shows across the globe — Toto is a huge draw in Europe and Asia — and releasing new music. The band released its latest album “ Toto XIV” in 2015.
On Saturday, original members Luke, Paich and keyboardist Steve Pocaro and longtime vocalist Joseph Williams, return to Biloxi for an 8 p.m. show at the Hard Rock Live. Tickets start at $39 and can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com.
In an interview with the Sun Herald, Luke talks about Toto’s legacy and longevity and gives the last word on his contributions to a historic Michael Jackson song.
I did pay attention to what was going on the last 40 years. Believe me, the door has been slammed in our face at every turn, but we’ve quietly sole 40 million records with hard work. (Toto is) sort of on the upswing right now and God knows we’ll take it.
Q: The guitar world suffered some pretty big losses this year, first of all there was Chuck Berry.
A: Chuck Berry. He was an interesting cat. He invented rock ’n’ roll guitar — he made it mainstream. He was great. He left us a treasure trove of classics. I met him once many years ago. It was pretty rough, man, but he was Chuck —what are you going to say? He was holding up the show waiting to get paid. Everything you’ve read about him was true. I watched it go down backstage in Japan with the promoters.
Q: You were also a a big fan of Alan Holdsworth’s, correct?
A: He was one of the best, man. There was him and no one else. Alan was a sweet man and a mind-boggling musician.
Q: How’s your “day job” in Ringo (Starr’s) All-Starr Band some five years later?
A: It’s stronger than ever. We’re going out in the fall and I wrote two songs for his new album and Paul McCartney played bass on both of them. I have fulfilled my Beatles fantasy, dude. It was a thrill for me. Ringo’s become a dear friend to me. We hang out outside the gig. It’s a real honor for me. The Beatles is my classical music. You can say, “It was a ‘Beatlesy’ thing” and people know what that means. Every generation loves The Beatles. To us, when The Beatles hit, it was like aliens landed in the backyard. There was nothing like that before and there’s been nothing like it since. We’re all chasing that brass ring and I don’t even know if it’s obtainable.
Q: Let’s talk about 40 years of Toto. There’s going to be some new music released. Do you know when that’s going to happen?
A: Sometime in the first quarter of next year. We’ve remastered all of our albums from the raw tape. We’ve made everything sound amazing. There’s a box set and two-year world tour. I’ve renegotiated a deal with Sony. We’ve taken our career back in our own hands. It’s working out well for us. I did pay attention to what was going on the last 40 years. Believe me, the door has been slammed in our face at every turn, but we’ve quietly sold 40 million records with hard work. We’re sort of on the upswing right now and God knows we’ll take it. We’re 60 years old, and we still push each other and we really like each other. I’m having more fun than ever. We see it as a blessing to still be doing this after 40 years. I’m very lucky to be able to do this at this point in my life.
Q: So put it to rest forever — you played guitar on Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” I know this is fact, yet there’s still some debate from Eddie Van Halen fans.
A: I played bass, too. I played every guitar part except for the solo, which was Eddie. That song was me and Jeff Pocaro and some sound effects by Steve Pocaro. I don’t know why it’s so hard for people to believe. If you listen to the solo, it doesn’t sound like the other guitars. Some rock critics can’t get past that we had something to do with the biggest album in history. “Human Nature” was written by Toto and the band recorded it with Michael Jackson — Steve Pocaro. No one mentions us when it comes to “Thriller.” I really don’t get it. I had worked with Q (producer Quincy Jones) on a bunch of stuff. We did a lot of great records together like “The Dude” and “Back on The Block.”
Q: I also love “Turn Your Love Around,” which you wrote with Bill Champlin and Jay Graydon.
A: Thanks, man. We wrote that in about 15 minutes. My dear friend Jay Graydon was producing an album for George Benson and he needed song and he called me up and I sat down and we wrote it and Bill Champlin came over and finished the lyrics and it won a Grammy. It was staggering. We were up against Stevie Wonder.
Q: And you co-wrote “She’s a Beauty” for The Tubes with David Foster, who produced it. You played that monster riff on it and Bobby Kimball (Toto) and Bill Champlin sang the background vocals.
A: The first song I wrote for them was “Talk to You Later” and the rest of the band refused to play on it because Foster brought me in to write it. It’s cool, now. I was a Tubes fan in high school. These guys are a little bit more than punk. Those guys are good musicians. They were just trying to find a hit song and Foster had the golden pen back then.
If you go
Hard Rock Live at 777 Beach Blvd. in Biloxi
8 p.m. on Saturday, July 3
Tickets start at $39.99 and are available at Ticketmaster.com.