Originally written in 2012...
It's hard to believe that it's been twenty-two years since the passing of Jeff Porcaro. The news shocked everyone in the music world and was definitely a "remember where you were" moment for me.
1992 - I was living in Texas and had just finished a rehearsal with my band before we all went to Jack-In-The-Box for dinner. By chance, "Hold The Line" came over the restaurant speakers as we were finishing so I suggested that we go to Stu The Keyboardist's place to watch his "Toto: Past to Present" VHS. In case you haven't seen it, this was the video companion to the CD and was a must have for every hardcore Toto fan. It had all the hit and not-so-hit videos... but it also a way for me to dissect and absorb every move Jeff made on screen.
Remember that YouTube was a billion years away and we never saw footage of him outside of the official videos on MTV, Night Tracks, or Friday Night Videos. At the time, the only live footage I knew about was the very-hard-to-find 1990 VHS Le Zenith Paris concert and it was the Toto Holy Grail... and priced as such at record conventions!
Ok... back to Stu's apartment: The Toto: Past to Present credits finished rolling and the VCR stopped to auto-rewind the tape. As all 80's kids know, a VCR immediately switches to the television broadcast signal when that happens...
AND suddenly... Toto's Rosanna video was on the screen. In those few seconds, my very tiny 23-year old brain tried to make the connection:
Then we heard the voiceover:
"The drummer for the Grammy-winning rock band Toto suffered a heart attack and died Wednesday night after a possible allergic reaction to a pesticide he was spraying in the yard at his Hidden Hills home, authorities said."
We all just sat there.
Kevin The Vocalist blurted out something but I immediately gave him the Han Solo Finger-In-The-Air...
I needed to hear every word because maybe they would say... "Just kidding... wakka wakka!!!"
April Fools Day had only been a couple of days before.
"Porcaro had just returned from a family vacation in Florida and the band was scheduled to begin rehearsals for a concert tour supporting its new album."
It was true.
Jeff Porcaro was dead.
I had been in full swing of my Porcaro phase having just taken off my Neil Peart goggles. His last studio CD with Toto, Kingdom of Desire, had completely taken over my life (I still feel like it was some of his best work) and I couldn't believe that there would be no more... I mean that's it.... no more Porcaro drum tracks! Unbelievable.
On the long drive back home, I listened to Toto's Past to Present cassette but now every note seemed to weigh 100 pounds as it came through the speakers. I thought about some of the topics my bandmates and I talked about before I had taken off... 'what would happen to Toto?" 'will Mike Porcaro stay in the band?' 'will there be any more news about this or do I have to wait a few weeks for a buried article Rolling Stone Magazine?' Luckily, the early predecessor of TMZ, Entertainment Tonight, had the scoop.... with a twist.
8/2020 EDIT: YouTube has taken down the original announcement video that he had passed but had a follow-up video addressing the speculation...
Since moving to Nashville and working for Pearl, I went on to hear some great personal stories from his drummer buddies, co-workers, and friends. I even had the fantastic opportunity to have a one-on-one front porch conversation with Mike Porcaro at a party. (Just for the record we talked about everything except music). Now the Holy Grail 1990 live Toto concert is only one of many performances I have of Jeff have a framed autographed drumhead from his tribute concert. BTW, both the drumhead and Toto party invitation were completely because of the kindness and generosity of Mr. Shane Hollowman of whom I will always be grateful. None of this is lost on the early 20-year old part of my brain as I still get a jolt when I get to hear a new Jeff story or hear an undiscovered Jeff track for the first time.
What else can you really say about his drumming and influence on the music world that hasn't already been said? It makes me happy that I can still find lessons and new meaning in his music as the years go on. There is even one song of his that (to me) is the embodiment of an 'emotionally honest drum part' that is so married with the lyrics and music that can move me to tears every single time I hear it. To you non-drummers or musicians, I understand that saying a drum part is moving sounds crazy but it's the truth... and I'm glad to have found it. Even if Jeff's music isn't your thing... that's completely ok but I hope you have something that can move you in that way.
It's unfortunate that we'll never get to hear how his style would've progressed as an artist and as a producer. Thankfully, his discography is deep enough that you could collect every published track he performed on and there would still be triple that to discover.
Wrapping it up... Jeff was and will always be one the kings to me... groove on!
8.6.12 UPDATE: Talking with a fellow JP admirer and he turned me on to this song which I had never heard... get ready for the super-extendo-drum break after the second chorus.
EDIT: YouTube has taken down the video.. looking for a replacement.
8.5.2013 UPDATE: To hear some fantastic insight straight form The Man himself, go to Robyn Flans' page and get the JP interviews.
11.30.18 UPDATE: You can here Jeff on two tracks (Devil's Tower and Fearful Heart) on the new TOTO 'ALL IN' limited-edition box set which features the following TOTO albums on seventeen LP’s and thirteen CD’s:
Toto, Hydra, Turn Back, IV, Isolation, Fahrenheit, The Seventh One, Kingdom Of Desire (Double LP set), Tambu (Double LP set), Mindfields (Double LP set), Toto XX (Double LP set). Two Blu-Ray’s are also included: Toto IV in 5.1 surround sound along with a Live in Paris 1990 Concert. The set also includes a previously unreleased 'Live In Tokyo' EP from their 1980 tour, along with an album titled OLD IS NEW.
The OLD IS NEW LP features ten tracks, seven are previously unreleased along with “Spanish Sea,” “Alone” and “Struck By Lighting” which are featured on the band’s most recent greatest hits collection 40 Trips Around The Sun.
8.5.2020 UPDATE: Robyn Flans has a book coming out in September 2020...
8/5/2013 02:47:09 pm
I was working at Pearl when Drew Wiseman gave me the news. I was devastated. My hero was gone! Some folks idolized athletes, but I idolized (& still do) Jeff's playing. I remember when I was in high school hearing Hold the Line, the song I now unashamedly call the most perfect rock drum track ever cut, and thinking, "man, I don't know who that drummer is, but he's got ahold of that beat the way a pit bull would have ahold of a Pomeranian in a dog fight." The first time I heard Rosanna on cd, it changed my life. Period. From that moment on I was a Porcaro disciple. I can listen to Toto now (through the Kingdom of Desire album) and I have to remind myself of when these records were made....no digital editing of any kind. Just Jeff. I took Jeff's death personally because he still is my musical hero, but I am so glad that I probably will be dead myself before I run out of music Jeff was involved in from which I can learn.
8/7/2013 12:26:03 pm
I still have that copy of kingdom of desire that you gave me (at least I think it was you ) when we both worked in the warehouse. Thanks for the spidey sweater btw!
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