99
by Toto

Album: Hydra (1979)
Charted: 26
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Songfacts®:

  • Toto keyboard player David Paich wrote this song, which is inspired by the 1971 movie THX-1138, the first full-length film directed by George Lucas of Star Wars fame. Writes Paich: "This movie is set in the 25th-century in a totalitarian state where mankind is stripped of any individuality. People are numbered drones, and a government-enforced program of sedation controls the populace. Lucas used THX as the name for his movie theater sound system."
  • "99" was the first single and biggest hit from Toto's second album, Hydra. The song holds a special meaning for the band; their first official website was at toto99.com.
  • Interestingly, the song's release coincided with the major-league debut seasons of two famous North American athletes who wore #99 as their jersey number: controversial NFL defensive lineman Mark Gastineau and legendary NHL superstar Wayne Gretzky (although Gretzky had played in a different professional hockey league during the previous season). >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Joshua - Twin Cities, MN

Comments: 27

  • Lj from DenverIt’s not true Luke hated that song, and they did played it in live shows, it’s actually included in their live albums “Absolutely Live” and “Toto Live in Tokio”. I also heard Steve Lukather in an interview saying that 99 was their first single released in the US and that song was very special for all the band members.
  • Bohnzye from Elephant IslandThis is Nurse Chapel, you all are to report to the infirmary for your medications and electro shock therapy.! "All orderlies to the dsy room, "All orderlies to the day room stat!
  • Maaldizykel from OhioIt's about a robot. Should be the theme song for 2022.
  • Rnmorton from West Chester PaDitto on Barbara Feldon. I'd like to believe it's about that beautiful woman even if the writer says it's not.
  • AnonymousI thought I heard Casey Kasem say on American Top that this was a reference to agent 99 on the TV show "Get Smart". This was back when the song was on the charts.
  • Russwest from VancouverI'm with the Get Smart - Barbara Feldon camp. To me it always seemed like a love song to that beautiful, slightly more mature woman.
  • 99? from EarthIt's possible, more like probable that Lucas knew about the hidden hand behind Hollywood. The fetus that was removed from THX's love interest was number 66691. Nobody in the film was number 99. But according to occult lore, 99 is a evil number. 9+9 is 18, and 1 + 8 is 9, 999 is an upside down 666.
  • 98 from 3rd Rock From The SunI've read in several different places that this song is about the movie THX-1138, but no one can explain where the number 99 comes from. Has anyone seen this film? If so, is the number 99 significant in the movie?
  • Trickertreat66 from Ala-freaking-bamaI swear I heard on American Top 40 that this song was officially about a dystopian society where people are numbers, but unofficially a love song to Barbara Feldon, whom one of the members of Toto was romantically involved with. Of course, I was about 14 at the time so I could be wrong, but given the poularity of Get Smart it seems unlikely they just chose the number 99 at random. It's still a great song either way.
  • Seventhmist from 7th HeavenI had never thought of the idea of connecting this song to the legendary agents 86 and 99, but from now on, I will.
  • Riipsnortinroy from South CarolinaI still say this is a love song from Get Smart's Maxwell Smart, aka Agent 86, to his sweetheart, Agent 99. Really? What else could it be?
  • Mrvain from Spokane WaI heard it was about California highway 99 and it seems like I heard that from Casey Kasem, the Dave Meltzer of pop music (not a compliment)
  • Mike from Salt Lake CityI really like this song too, then I read that they rarely play it in concert because one of the band members (Steve Lukather) doesn't like it. Are you kidding me? He doesn't like to play the song that helped them sell 15 million albums? What a selfish prima donna. Guess what? There are parts of my job I don't like too but I do them anyway. These guys' jobs are to write music, record that music and then play that music for their money paying fans. Get over yourself and do your effing job!
  • Jennifer from IndianaMy all-time favourite Toto song. Haunting key signature, Paich's acoustic piano, Luke's impassioned vocal (despite one interview in which he said he disliked the song), the white-on-white video that subtly directs the viewer to the music, Jeff's kit (talk about transparency!), and last but not least, the long version with the extended coda. I'm left longing for more.
  • Joseph from HereJust like most of the comments here, for the longest time, since I was 12, I thought this about Agent 99 in Get Smart. The lyrics almost sounded about her. It's cool it was inspired from a movie though. I love this song.
  • Mark from Salt Lake City, Utah.I always thought it was about Barbara Feldon from Get Smart, agent "99".
  • Vb from Honolulu, HiBefore reading what inspired the song (above), I thought it was "99" because he was not 100 percent into the relationship, or into her. He was 99%, and therefore always hurting her.
  • Markantney from BiloxeMay 2015, 99 is a great cut of their's but how is that listed but not Georgy Porgy?

    It's one of their best songs; they're best song IMHO.
  • Fred from Laurel, MdI guess the most charming thing about this song is the name of the title character.
    Lots of songwriters would sweat and fret over *just* the right name, to capture the essence of the one who's the object of the song -- these guys realized, hey! - it's all in the lyrics & tune & the feeling you put into the performance -- we can just use a freakin' number for her name, and it'll still work! They didn't even spell the number out, fer cryin out loud!
    Personally, I love that. Kudos, Toto!
  • Fred from Laurel, MdI guess I always knew, or suspected, that this *couldn't* be about Agent 99 from Get Smart, but I still can't hear the song without thinking of Barbara Feldon. Also because she's a co-alumna of mine (even though long gone by the time I arrived there!).
  • Cc from Rio Grande, NjEven though I had my doubts this song was about Get Smart, I am somewhat disappointed it is not . Thanks for the info. I always wanted to know what this song was about.
  • Thog from Paris, TxThe video (embedded above) reflects the sterile, white THX-1138-inspired environment referred to in the band's description of the song.

    As much as I liked the Get Smart character 99, that's just not the connection.
  • Aphid from Atlanta, GaI seriously doubt the song has a reference to Barbara Feldon's character.

    The "Get Smart" episode where 99 decides to retire from CONTROL, she reveals to Maxwell that her real name is Susan Hilton.
  • Mikey from Boston, MaIf it were about the 'Get Smart' character it would make no sense at all. Thanks Dave for setting things straight.
  • Joshua from Twin Cities, MnHmmm... if that's the case, then I stand corrected. FWIW, the Wikipedia page for the Hydra album now contains a note to that effect (including a link to that page) that wasn't there a couple of months ago when I submitted the item about Agent 99. That was based upon a lead I found elsewhere and pursued from there. I never thought to look for their official Website simply because (judging from the lack of airplay of any of their post-1980s material on XM's Deep Tracks channel, which is usually the last radio refuge for rock musicians who have otherwise dropped off the radar), I had no idea Toto was still active as a group. Learn something new and amazing every day, I guess...
  • Dave from Onalaska, WiAccording to Toto's official web site, the song was inspired by George Lucas's film "THX1138". The film depicted a "utopian" society in which we were all numbers, not names. If you've seen the movie and seen the video for the song, you'd see the connection immediately. There's no mention of Barbara Feldon's character.
  • Ralph from Newton, MaI remember at an 8th grade dance when this song was popular talking with a friend about wtf the 99 stuff was about. He said "maybe his girl is 99% perfect." It was hilarious because he was one of those guys who everything he said was funny and you were never sure if he was joking or serious.

    Now almost 30 years later, I know. Thanks.
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