‘The dream came true’: Boasting a new Top 20 album, Steve Lukather remembers days as a sideman

Steve Lukather, once one of the busiest sidemen in pop history, has seen his new solo album chart in the Top 20 in seven different countries. Transition is the guitarist’s seventh project away from Toto, the band he co-founded in the 1970s.

Issued last month by Mascot, the record debuted at No. 20 in Finland, No. 22 in Sweden, No. 24 in Norway, No. 25 in Switzerland, No. 26 in Holland, No. 28 in Austria and No. 29 in Germany. Other Top 40 entries for Transition included a No. 32 spot in Denmark, and No. 35 on England’s indie charts.

Of course, over the years, even people who didn’t know Lukather’s work in and out of Toto couldn’t help but become familiar with his distinctive guitar. Lukather has been, beginning in 1977, a part of literally hundreds of albums as a first-call sessions ace.

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: ‘Transition’ is a triumph for Toto co-founder Steve Lukather, an album that includes as many incendiary guitar licks as it does fiery, and very personal, lyrics.]

“In the heyday of it, it was fantastic,” Lukather says, in a new interview with Toazted. “You go to work, and in the afternoon I’d play with Aretha Franklin, then at night I’d play with Alice Cooper. Here I am doing this diverse, crazy stuff with legendary artists, and I’m learning from them and I’m giving of myself and collaborating. That’s insane. When I was a little kid, if you would have told me that, I would have said: ‘Wow, that’s an unattainable dream.’ The dream came true.”

Signature albums that featured Lukather on guitar include Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Boz Scaggs’ Middle Man, Al Jarreau’s Breaking Away, Don Henley’s I Can’t Stand Still, Hall and Oates’ Along the Red Ledge, Paul McCartney’s Give My Regards to Broadstreet, Earth Wind and Fire’s I Am, Cheap Trick’s Dream Police, Lionel Richie’s Can’t Slow Down and Dancing on the Ceiling, Eric Clapton’s Behind the Sun, Richard Marx’s Repeat Offender, Olivia Newton-John’s Physical, Chicago 16 and 18, and Stevie Nicks’ The Wild Heart, among many, many others.

“I worked very hard at it, and became good at it,” Lukather adds. “It’s not something you can really learn. You have to be able to have the mentality. It’s not just learning the chops, you know, or learning how to play. It’s adaptability, being able to change under pressure, being so creative that you have to throw out 10 ideas to get one. Most people, if you don’t like their original idea, they fall apart. They don’t have anything else to bring. It’s more than just playing the instrument, you know?”

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