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HOLD THE LINE

Hold the Line

“Hold the Line” is a song by the American rock band Toto. The song was written by the band’s keyboardist David Paich, and the lead vocals were performed by Bobby Kimball. The song was released as the band’s debut single in the music industry, and was featured on their debut 1978 eponymous album. The song was a huge success; it reached #5 in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart during the winter of 1978–79.

Jeff Porcaro, the band’s drummer, gave a definition for 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.”

Background and writing

David Paich about writing the song:

“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.”

Jeff Porcaro on “Hold the Line”, in a 1988 interview with Modern Drummer:

“That was me trying to play like Sly Stone’s original drummer, Greg Errico, who played drums on “Hot Fun In The Summertime.” The hi-hat is doing triplets, the snare drum is playing 2 and 4 backbeats, and the bass drum is on 1 and the & of 2. That 8th note on the second beat is an 8th-note triplet feel, pushed. When we did the tune, I said, “Gee, this is going to be a heavy four-on-the-floor rocker, but we want a Sly groove.” The triplet groove of the tune was David’s writing. It was taking the Sly groove and meshing it with a harder rock caveman approach.”

Several of the band members recall hearing “Hold the Line” for the first time on the radio:

“I flipped the first time I heard myself on the radio. My mom called me up and said, “Turn on KLOS.” It was the song “Hold the Line,” and I started running around the house in my underwear, screaming, “I’m on the radio!” My wife was cracking up. It was just a thrill.” (Steve Lukather, Guitar Player magazine, April 1984)

Bobby Kimball had a similar experience when he heard Toto for the very first time on the radio: “I was asleep, I had my alarm clock set for noon because we were gonna do something in the studio, some promo and when the alarm came on there was the radio and “Hold The Line” was playing. And my room was totally black and I was looking for the telephone and I called Paich and I heard him scream, he was living over there with his girlfriend and he was screaming around and falling over trying to get to the radio.”