Chapter Nine:
Toto the Dog Takes a Bite Out of Toto the Band

Poor Toto the dog. First Miss Almira Gulch of Kansas tried to have him euthanized. He escaped her clutches only to find himself transported via tornado to fucking Munchkinland, where he had to elude the Wicked Witch of the West.

You would think that being catapulted from sepia-toned Kansas to the technicolor Land of Oz would be enough trauma for any mutt. But no. Fast forward approximately 40 years. And guess what? Poor Toto is the victim of identity theft! Seems a bunch of slick L.A. studio musicians decided to swipe his name and turn him into a MOR punch line! Guaranteeing he’d never be able to show his hairy mug in the dog park ever again!

This latest calamity was enough to lead poor Toto to the bottle. But not only has he sobered up, he’s touring the country to tout his brand new tell-all autobiography, The Name Is Toto, Damn It! I recently caught up with him at a Barnes & Noble in Newark, Delaware, and he was glad to share his views on what he likes to call “that band of pricks who dragged my good name through the mud.”

So Toto; when did you first hear Toto?

I was in my Lamborghini. I wasn’t too thrilled with the instant fame The Wizard of Oz got me, but it paid for one bad-ass pussywagon. To say nothing of a pad in Brentwood. Anyway, “Hold the Line” came on the radio, and I thought, “What a cretinous bowl of suck.” In hindsight it’s not such a bad song. But I was listening to a lot of Captain Beefheart at the time, and I thought most everything on the radio sucked. Afterwards the DJ said it was by a band called Toto, and I lost my shit. I pulled to the berm of the Hollywood Freeway, got out of my car, and threw up.

You literally threw up?

Right. About 200 yards from the exit to Cahuenga Boulevard. It was a bad moment. What if YOU heard a really shitty song on the radio and the DJ said it was by Michael Little? I’ve always been very picky about my commercial endorsements. A dog food company offered me big money to put my name on their dry chow and I said no way. The stuff tasted like it came out of a Yeti’s ass. Same thing happened with a wine cooler company. I was drinking about nine bottles of Thunderbird a day at the time, and that swill still tasted like nutria piss.

And then?

I got on the horn to my lawyer. I was going to sue the bastards back to the Middle Ages. I wanted to make sure they spent the rest of their lives back where they started–doing sessions work for Sonny & Cher and Seals and Crofts. But he informed me I couldn’t sue because get this–I’m a dog, and I don’t have human rights!

Lassie told me the same thing in an interview.

Lassie’s a punk. Anyway, it got bad after that. Everywhere I went people would shout, “Hold the line!” Or “Georgy Porgy!” I was afraid to leave the house. And I couldn’t turn on the radio because those fucktards the Porcaro brothers and that shitty David Paitch were all over the FM. I mean, I know the early eighties were devoid of both spiritual and musical values unless you threw yourself into hardcore which is what I basically did, but Toto–and I hate to even attach MY NAME to them because it still hurts like a swift kick to the poochnuts–blew even by the vapid standards of those Duran Duran-haunted times.

They were obviously very accomplished musicians.

Well, duh. The best musicians Steely Fucking Dan could buy! But talk about your complete lack of inspiration; Toto make Pablo Cruise look like the Beatles. I mean, what is it studio musicians do? They sit around doing blow until some brighter somebody comes in with an actual bunch of songs to give ‘em orders. They don’t get paid to think. Ask THEM to write the songs, and you get Toto. They’d have made a great backing band for somebody with some real ideas, but David Paich only came up with one great idea in his life.

And the thing that still amazes me is the world ate it up. Maybe I should have put my name on that shitty wine cooler; given the fetid taste of the American listening public, they’d have lapped that bongwater up.

Toto IV must have been a bad moment for you.

No shit. Six Grammy awards! Including Album of the Year! How did THAT happen? Sure, “Rosanna” has a certain slinky appeal, and the guys play real good. I like the guitar solo on that one a lot, so hats off to you, Steve Lukather. And “Africa,” well, even I love it, although I loathed it at the time. I like to talk trash about Steve “Porky” Porcaro because I hate his El Lay guts, but his drumming on “Africa” is really nice. And that chorus? Unbeatable really, in hindsight. No, it’s good campy fun, and if it didn’t have my name attached to it I’d be back in L.A. singing it on Karaoke Night at the Melody Lounge in Chinatown with my close personal friend Gillian Cornelius. Hi Gillian!

What do you think about the rest of the album?

What the hell do you want, a song-by-song rundown? Do people come up to you and ask you to provide a blow-by-blow account of the darkest hour of your life?

Let’s see, “Make Believe” has that big sax running through it and sounds like bad Michael McDonald. It’s got about as much soul as Andrew Gold. But you know what? I kinda like it. “I Won’t Hold You Back” is a lame ballad and the kind of Mr. Sensitive horseshit that makes my ears puke. I betcha it even makes Chicago cringe.

“Good for You” is all sound and fury signifying nothing–I stole that from Shakespeare by the way–but Porcaro’s drumming is good. That said, the horn fanfare drives me nuts. Sounds like Henry VIII walked into the studio. I would blame the producer but Toto produced the album themselves so screw ‘em. “It’s a Feeling” is the worst Steely Dan song you’ve ever heard. Ask Donald Fagen to squeeze a song out of his sphincter and you’d have this unfeeling turd rocker.

“Afraid of Love” is a generic rocker but a welcome change of pace. It’s got a giant riff and those big dumb drums and sounds like it sleazed its way off the Flashdance soundtrack and on to this record. Have you ever seen Bruce Springsteen dance? He can’t. But this is the song he’s dancing to.

“Lovers in the Night” is every bit as bad as its title. It’s another AOR rocker for people who consider “Eye of the Tiger” the high-water mark of Western Civilization. And compared to “Lovers in the Night” “Eye of the Tiger” IS the high-water mark of Western Civilization. I hate the keyboards. David Paich is a showoff and somebody in the band should have told him to sit. But Lukather really lets rip on guitar at the end. Makes you wonder what might have been had somebody grabbed these boys by the balls and ordered them to cut loose.

What about “We Made It”?

Jesus. What a horrorshow. I can’t tell you who’s singing, but he sounds like Chicago’s Peter Cetera begging for a pat on the head. On the plus side, I detect a kind of Elton John undercurrent running through the thing. Listen closely and you’ll hear “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” in there. It’s not enough to save the song, mind you, but it’s interesting.

“Waiting for Your Love” is more gutter Steely Dan. Imagine if somebody gave Becker and Fagen matching lobotomies. This is Yacht Rock, but the yacht is sinking. And you can’t even begin to imagine the size of the rats leaving the ship.

So what grade would you give Toto IV?

Ask me again.

What grade would you give it?

Are you fucking insane? I’d give it an F! This piece of shit has dogged me for years! I can’t walk into a bar without some smirking moron saying, “Hey Toto. I really loved Toto IV.” And without having some other lunkhead play “Love Has the Power” on the jukebox. Talk about leaving a joint with your tail between your legs. Except in my case the tail is real.

But you know what? Sometimes in my dreams, and I’m not talking about those dreams where I’m chasing a squirrel and can never catch him, I find myself on stage, singing “Africa.” And the really messed up thing is they’re GOOD dreams. I’m happy. So who knows. Maybe I wouldn’t give it an F. Maybe I’d give it a–

Graded on a Curve:
D+

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