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Hold The Line by Toto
Album: TotoReleased: 1978Charted:
This pop nugget was the first single by Toto, a group made up of six very talented session musicians who had backed up artists like Boz Scaggs, Aretha Franklin, Barbra Streisand and Jackson Browne. Written by their keyboard man David Paich with lead vocals by Bobby Kimball, it deals with the mysteries of love. It proved that a slick pop song created by top players could succeed without a great deal of hype or a charismatic lead singer. Toto was a Top 40 staple in the '80s, releasing nine hit songs, including the #1 "Africa
"Hold the line" is an expression meaning to maintain your existing position, which in this case is the singer telling a girl to be patient and stay with their relationship.
The saying also has a more literal meaning, however, which is how David Paich came up with the title. "Hold the line" is what you tell someone on the phone if you want to put them on hold while you're taking another call. This is typical in workplaces, but in the days before cell phones, some households (especially ones with teenagers) also had multiple phone lines coming in and could put callers on hold. Paich lived in one such household.
In our 2015 interview, Paich told us: "When I was in high school, all of a sudden the phone started ringing off the hook, and I had a situation where I was at the dinner table and I had three girls all call at the same time, so all the lights were flashing. I was kind of juggling girlfriends, and that's how that came about."
This song used a single-note piano percussion that was a popular technique at the time - Jefferson Starship also used it on "Jane
." Toto drummer Jeff Porcaro explained: "'Hold the Line' was a perfect example of what people will describe as your heavy metal chord guitar licks and your great triple A-notes on the piano. It was taking the Sly Stone groove and meshing it with a harder rock caveman approach."
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.
By 2008, guitarist Steve Lukather was the only original member still with the band when he decided to call it quits. He made this statement on the band's official website: "Honestly I have just had enough. This is NOT a break. It is over. I really can't go out and play 'Hold the Line' with a straight face anymore. I was 19 when we cut the record. I am 50 now."
Lukather, Paich, Steve Porcaro and Joseph Williams would revive the band in 2014 and release the album Toto XIV the following year. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
Toto was one of the few American bands to make music videos in the years before MTV went on the air. For "Hold The Line," they produced a simple performance video featuring Steve Lukather wearing some sweet suspenders. They moved on to concept videos in the '80s and became one of the most popular artists on early MTV. That low budget video for "Hold The Line" ended up getting millions of views on YouTube.