In late 2018, Toto lead guitarist Steve Lukather released his autobiography which is entitled The Gospel According to Luke. A 2014 post on this blog, “Legendary Drummer Only Person to Play With All Four Ex-Beatles”, detailed how Hal Blaine was the only musician to play with all four ex-Beatles. Well, Steve Lukather has played with three of the four ex-Beatles – Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison.
The musicians in Toto – Steve Lukather, Jeff Porcaro, Steve Porcaro, Dave Paich and Mike Porcaro- are among the most recorded musicians in rock history. They have backed up countless musicians and groups in the studio on zillions of albums, some of which were the top albums of all-time such as Michael Jackson’s Thriller. In fact, before forming Toto and going out on their own, the members of Toto were the backing band for Boz Scaggs’ 1976 Silk Degrees album and tour. The artists with whom Steve Lukather have played are staggering, but right now we will concentrate on his collaborations with ex-Beatles.
In 1982, the musicians in Toto were hired to help out on Thriller and appeared on most of the songs on the album. In fact, not only did keyboardist Steve Porcaro provide synthesizer work on tracks, but he also wrote the album’s hit song “Human Nature”. Steve Lukather provided lead guitar on the first song released from the album, the Michael Jackson/Paul McCartney duet “The Girl Is Mine”, which reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100, while Jeff Porcaro handled the drumming chores on the track.
Lukather wrote in his autobiography about meeting and working with McCartney:
“I was tripping as this would be the first Beatle I would meet – they were my reason for playing music. I was nervous and wanted to play really well that day, and hoped that Paul and Michael would have a good time, and we knew that Quincy was counting on us, so we gave it all we had …. the amount of security that day at Westlake was insane. This was less than two years since John Lennon had been shot and according to Quincy, McCartney was very nervous about meeting new people ……. As much as anything, it made Paul feel more comfortable. He was visibly relaxed after that, as if he were reassured that the band was good, and we got right on down to the tracking.”
From his work with the members of Toto on this track with Michael Jackson, McCartney later recruited Steve Lukather and Jeff Porcaro to work with him on the Give My Regards to Broad Street project. Lukather’s autobiography dedicates several pages to the experience. For instance, he wrote:
“When we at last made it onto the set, all of the instruments and amps were plugged in and radio to go. In spite of how ell the date had gone at EMI, I think Paul thought we might put down something else that was interesting and different once the cameras were rolling. Like I said, though, once you have done thirty takes of a track, inevitably the very earliest will prove the best. In total, we spent two weeks working with Paul. During that time, we had lunch almost every day with him, Linda, George and Geoff Emerick. Linda, in particular, was lovely, laughed freely and could not have been nicer.”
As for George Harrison, Lukather has always credited the “Quiet Beatle” for getting him started in music with guitar when he was still in grade school. Many years later, the Toto lead guitarist became friends with Harrison and was able to tell him about the inspiration the Beatles legend gave him from an early age. While Harrison and Lukather did not record together, they jammed together in private, mostly at Jeff Lynne’s house. In fact, the world famous website Ultimate Classic Rock published an article in 2015 entitled “Toto’s Steve Lukather Credits George Harrison with Inspiring Him to Play Guitar”.
In The Gospel According to Luke, he wrote about Harrison:
“George had a cassette he wanted to play me. It was the final mix of ‘Free as a Bird’ that Paul, Ringo and he had just done with Jeff Lynne. I was honored that he shared it with me. It blew my mind right away. Here I was sitting with George Harrison listening to what would be the new Beatles single. First one out since 1970 and I got to hear it with George. Beyond cool. And I loved it. Jeff Lynne and Paul did a killer job putting it together………..George also got me into transcendental meditation. For an uptight person such as me, this sounded particularly appealing. “
As is well known, Lukather has toured in a few configurations of Ringo’s All-Starr Band in recent years, including 2018 and the upcoming 2019 tour. In a February 2017 interview with Backstageaxxess.com, the Toto guitarist discussed his work with three of the four Beatles. Lukather both played on the 2017 Ringo album Give More Love and co-wrote two songs on the album: “Show Me the Way” and “We’re on the Road Again” were co-written by Steve Lukather and Richard Starkey.
Steve Lukather’s best known song that he wrote for Toto is the hit “I Won’t Hold You Back”, off of the 1982 multi-Grammy winning album Toto IV. The number of songs he has written outside of Toto is staggering. One song he co-wrote was “Talk to Ya Later”, on which he also played lead guitar, for The Tubes; this 1981 song, which is a staple of classic rock stations, was co-written by Lukather with David Foster and Tubes’ frontman Fee Waybill. Lukather played both guitar and bass tracks, most notably the screaming lead. “Talk to Ya Later” coincidentally was released around the same time that MTV launched on August 1, 1981, and the song benefited from the new music channel playing its video in heavy rotation.
Another Tubes hit co-written by Lukather is “She’s A Beauty”, a 1983 top ten hit of which the video also received heavy airplay when it was released in the early days of MTV. Once again, he co-wrote the song with David Foster and Fee Waybill. Lukather played lead guitar on this song while Toto band mate Bobby Kimball was the primary background vocalist. One other Lukather composition that scored high on the charts is “Turn Your Love Around”, a hit for George Benson which in 1982 scored the number five position on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped the soul singles chart. “Turn Your Love Around” was written by Steve Lukather, Bill Champlin, and Jay Graydon. At the 25th Grammy Awards in 1983, Lukather, Champlin and Grayson took home the Grammy for Best R&B Song, which was ironic because Toto itself won seven Grammys that night for categories such as Album of the Year (Toto IV), Song of the Year(“Rosanna”), Producer of the Year (Toto IV), Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocals (“Rosanna”), Best Vocal Arrangement for Two or More Voices (“Rosanna”). In his autobiography, Lukather states that at least one member of Toto played on 50 of the songs that were nominated for the 1983 Grammys.
The Grammy for Best Video of the Year was awarded to Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical”, which was the top song of the 1980s decade with an astounding ten weeks in the number one position, and for which Steve Lukather played lead guitar. The list of hit songs and the list of all songs that Steve Lukather has played on is far too numerous to list. This is a Wikipedia listing of the songs he played on. Also, on 30 August 2018 there was an article in USAToday entitled “Toto’s Steve Lukather Shares His Favorite Collaborations, from Miles Davis to ‘Beat It’”.
While Toto dominated the Grammys in 1983, the following year in 1984 Michael Jackson and his Thriller album totally swept the Grammys. Ironically, members of Toto participated in many tracks on Thriller, with Steve Lukather playing lead guitar on the wildly famous number one hit “Beat It”, as well as “The Girl Is Mine”, and “Human Nature”. Coincidentally, “Human Nature” was written by Toto bandmate Steve Porcaro. Members of Toto were so heavily involved in the making of Thriller that some critics joked it was a Toto album. Also on Grammy night in 1984, Lionel Richie’s Can’t Slow Down album presented the biggest competition to Thriller as every song released as a single from the album scored in the top ten; Steve Lukather and Jeff Porcaro played on the “Running with the Night”, which is noted for the compelling guitar solo that Lukather concocted for the recording session.
In a long and brilliant career, Steve Lukather not only has the incredible distinction of having played with three of the four ex-Beatles, but also to have been part of a phenomenally successful band in addition to being the most widely used session guitarist over the last four decades. It should be noted that the famed guitarist also released seven solo albums between 1989 and 2013, all of which include appearances from some of the biggest names in the recording industry. The albums are Lukather (1989), Candyman (1993), Luke (1997), Sentimental (2003), Ever Changing Times (2008), All’s Well That Ends Well (2010), and Transition (2013).
Steve Lukather’s new biography The Gospel According to Luke is a fascinating read not only for his in-depth accounts of collaborations with Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, but also because it covers the career of one of the most recorded musicians in rock history who recounts his experiences with a seemingly infinite number of famous artists and high-rollers in the rock world over a 42 year career.