The Story of Toto’s “Hold the Line”

Toto - Hold the Line1Each and every song has a specific background story and is surrounded by numerous interesting facts and details that led to its existence. I don’t know about you guys, but one of my favorite past time activities is digging out information and finding out more about my favorite songs. That’s why these types of publications – “the story of…” are so frequent on my blog. I mean, if a particular song means a lot to you and you love it with all your heart and soul, you should at least know some basic data about it – who wrote it, when was it released or does it have a special hidden meaning…? I’m not sure how many of you guys I’m sharing favorite songs with, however I do try to choose ultimate rock classics, known by everyone. The goal of such publications is to not only learn a little bit more about some of rock music’s greatest songs but to also remind ourselves of a forgotten song – you’d be surprised to know that for many people it may have been ages since they last played Toto, for instance…Also, I love interpreting the meaning behind the lyrics…

Anyhow, for today I decided to focus on another fantastic rock song from the late 70s by the American rock band Toto. Since the moment they released their debut album, Toto have been enjoying enormous success within the mainstream audience, especially from the 70s till the 80s. To date, they have sold more than 40 million copies worldwide and are proud owners of numerous awards, including Grammys. Throughout the years, the band had numerous line-up changes but they still warm up our hearts with awesome songs such as “Hold the Line”, “Rosanna” and “Africa”. Among all songs from their lengthy career and huge catalog, I have to say that “Hold the Line” is indeed my favorite song of theirs. In addition to the brilliant lyrics, I have to say the guitar backing is beyond remarkable and influential. The piano intro, the drums and the guitar are just too sweet and striking…

 

Toto2“Hold the Line” was released back in 1978 as the band’s first single EVER and also featured in their debut self-titled album. Not many artists had the opportunity to leave such an outstanding first impression the moment they stepped into the cutthroat world of music industry. However, Toto did it with this song – it immediately reached top positions in the USA, Swedish, South African, Canadian and Australian charts. It’s also RIAA certified as “GOLD”.
The song was written by the keyboardist of the band – David Paich and the lead vocals are performed by the incredibly talented Bobby Kimball. I am absolutely inlove with his voice…and how can I not be – his timbre penetrates your soul and mind without any effort or whatsoever.

The song features a single-note piano percussion, which was a quite popular technique at that time. In addition, in my opinion, the song’s biggest asset would be the elegant but vigorous “creamy” guitar riff. The song simply proved that six talented session musicians, who used to back up other famous artists can actually make magic on their own from the first try!

 

“It started out with the piano riff that is in the intro. I started playing this riff and I just couldn’t stop playing it. I played it for days, and I started singing, “Hold the line, love isn’t always on time.” It was a phrase that just came into my head. . . . it was a blessing. (The words) came to me in the night, and then I went to the verse. I wrote it in 2 hours. Sometimes songs come quickly like that, and sometimes I spend 2 years trying to finish a song,” said David Paich about the writing of the song.

 

“Hold the Line’ was a perfect example of what people will describe as your heavy metal chord guitar licks, your great triplet A-notes on the piano, your ‘Sly’-hot-fun-in-the-summertime groove, all mishmashed together with a boy from New Orleans singing… and it really crossed over a lot of lines,” said Jeff Porcaro, the band’s drummer.

 

TOTO3Now, I wish to say a few words about the lyrics of the song, which are very metaphorical but quite easy to construe and relate with. Basically, the song is about love and relationships – nothing new, right? The phrase “hold the line” is an expression we use when we want someone to remain at their current position and simply don’t go anywhere. In the context of the song – the man tells his girl to be patient and stay with their relationship. Love, just like many things in this world is sometimes all about the perfect timing – for some people love might not come instantly or they might need some time to truly devote themselves to another person and truly fall inlove with him/her. Despite all that, love will come. I believe that the tone of the song is quite inspirational and motivational. Love will show its face when the time is right – simple as that! Till that time comes, we need to be willing to endure, stay calm and don’t settle for something that’s not real.

 

Most of this song’s lyrics start with the words, “It’s not.” According to David Paich, once he came up with the title, he started writing lines about what love isn’t: “It’s not in the way you say you’re mine,” “It’s not in the way you say you care.”
Through process of elimination, he’s trying to figure out what love is.


(extract retrieved from http://www.songfacts.com/)

 

It’s essential to know that Toto was one of the first rock musicians to release a music video at that time. As we all know, MTV hit the air in 1981 so for them to record a MV years before its launch was quite challenging and even risky.
Basically, it’s one of those trendy obligatory performance music videos which each and every band of that time used to film. The budget was obviously quite low, however I do enjoy their fashion – especially the Steve Lukather’s suspenders and wicked hairstyles.
Check out the original music video:

 

 LYRICS:

 

“Hold The Line”

It’s not in the way that you hold me
It’s not in the way you say you care
It’s not in the way you’ve been treating my friends
It’s not in the way that you’ll stay till the end
It’s not in the way you look or the things that you say that you do Hold the line
Love isn’t always on time It’s not in the words that you told me
It’s not in the way you say you’re mine
It’s not in the way that you came back to me
It’s not in the way that your love set me free
It’s not in the way you look or the things that you say that you do Hold the line
Love isn’t always on time It’s not in the words that you told me
It’s not in the way you say you’re mine
It’s not in the way that you came back to me
It’s not in the way that your love set me free
It’s not in the way you look or the things that you say that you do

Hold the line
Love isn’t always on time

It’s not in the way that you hold me
It’s not in the way that you make me feel
You see
It’s all about the way you do the things you do
The way you do it
You’ve got to hold it
Hold it

Hold the line
Love isn’t always on time

~~~

 

 

Well, this is it for now – I hope you guys got reminded of or learned something new and interesting about this brilliant classic rock song. Despite being released almost 40 years ago, it will forever remain one of my personal favorites. I don’t know about you guys, but I truly consider this song to be one of the earliest signs of the upcoming change in mainstream rock music. The 80s was even sweeter for Toto. Now it’s the time to check your old CD/Vinyl or Cassette collection or go through your music library – Toto will hold the line for you…

Cheers.


 

 References:
Toto Lyrics, retrieved from http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/toto/holdtheline.html
TOTO – “Hold the Line”, retrieved from http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=12396
P.S. I don’t own any audio or visual material used in this publication. All the credits and rights go to the owners and/or publishers.

 

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