Legendary guitar virtuoso Steve Lukather reflected on some of the criticism his band Toto received over the years. Speaking to Vicki Abelson in a recently released interview, Lukather discussed how difficult it was for the band to be taken seriously by different audiences.
“I wanted to be in that band more than anything in the world because of how much I revered Jeff [Porcaro] and David [Paich], and the music David was writing, that whole sound, the whole LA thing,” said Lukather while looking back on the band’s formative years.
Back in the day, all of them were session musicians or so-called “hired guns.” They were highly respected for their work, and Lukather himself worked with some of the greatest pop and rock artists of his time, including Michael Jackson, Kenny Loggins, Aretha Franklin, and many others.
But Toto was their thing. And these fine session musicians wanted to do something of their own. However, their original music was received poorly by a certain portion of rock ‘n’ roll fans.
“They make fun of it now — ‘yacht rock’ or whatever the f*ck it is,” he continued. “But all it was is that era of us, all doing sessions. That was the music put in front of us, and we made those records.”
“Now some smarmy asshole says something about that. There’s a movie coming out about it that Chris[topher] Cross’ daughter made, which we’re all in. It’s just pretty kind of like, ‘No man, let me tell you where this is really at.’ It beats ‘soft rock’ — I mean, that sounds like a limp-d*cked bunch of losers at that point. I don’t know why everybody has to put labels on everything.”
To prove his point further, Lukather also added that he feels like there are too many subgenre divisions in rock music these days:
“Music is music, people are people, like what you like, don’t like what you don’t like. How many sub-genres of metal are there now? It’s insane. Rock and roll used to mean, ‘What that was?’ Now it is, ‘What does that mean?'”
When the interviewer reminded him that Toto received a lot of criticism back in the day, Lukather said:
“I mean, like a lot of sh*t. They would make up stories about how we were put together in a boardroom. We were high school buddies, what the f*ck?”
“Because we were good at a young age, they found flaw. Being a student musician was a deficit? You mean being a good musician is a bad thing? Would you like to have a punk rock doctor working on your brain tumor? ‘Damn, I don’t know how the fuck to do this, give me a f*cking soldering iron! We’ll get this thing out here. Just a barnacle on your brain, man.'”
“So they have been against us for many years, but now I’m proud of being a studio musician. I mean, I don’t really do it anymore. Unless it’s a favor.”
During the interview, Lukather was also reminded of how he met Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page. And Page himself told Lukather that he shouldn’t ever worry about any of these issues.
Being a session musician isn’t in any way a bad thing. But to some people back in the 1980s, it was so un-rock ‘n’ roll to be one. However, Page, who’s considered to be one of the “rock gods,” was also a session musician before starting Led Zeppelin.
“We went to this thing at Guitar Center of honoring Jimmy Page,” Lukather recalled. “And I went with Eddie Van Halen and somebody else because Ed and I were dear friends. It was a private event that Marshall was putting on.”
Going more into it, Lukather recalled how Page pulled him on the side:
“He goes, ‘Hey, man!’ I’m like, ‘Jimmy, what? You’re my hero! So nice to meet you! What can I say?'”
“And he goes, ‘No, I just want to say something to you. I read an article where you said that being a studio musician may have hurt your career in some way and the fact that people don’t take you seriously as a musician. That’s not true. I was a studio musician. All those guys in there, they don’t know what that is.'”
“And I was like, ‘Are you serious? Are you telling me this for real?’ ‘Yeah, I’m telling you this for real.’ I gave him a big hug.”
“And I look and him and go, ‘Can I tell people you said this?’ And he says, ‘Yes’ [Laughs] I never really mention it — I might have said something in the book and I walk around with a t-shirt on about it. I really haven’t seen him since, but getting a thumbs up from somebody like that changed my whole attitude about all that because I was trying to compete with all the rockers at the time, whatever.”
“It was a terribly insecure time in my life. I was happy that I was successful, but because I was playing with so many other kinds of records, I found that I was losing rock credibility.
“Which… What the f*ck does that mean? I was a working musician. How lucky was I?”