‘I was actually the ringer’: Bill Champlin on how Chicago, Toto helped the Tubes hit it big

“She’s a Beauty” arrived as part of the Tubes’ album Outside Inside on March 14, 1983, becoming not just their biggest hit but also an intriguing intersection between Chicago and Toto. Wait, Chicago and Toto?

Turns out, that No. 10 hit was co-written with Toto’s Steve Lukather, and included a singing contribution from one Toto’s original singers, Bobby Kimball. Also featured on background vocals was Bill Champlin, a member of Chicago from 1981 until 2009.

“The chorus on ‘She’s a Beauty’ was almost all Bobby,” Champlin told us, in an exclusive SER Sitdown. “In order to keep peace in the family, they had [Tubes guitarist] Bill Spooner redo the bottom parts. I did all the inside stuff — ‘step inside your mind.’ I was actually the ringer for two Tubes albums.”

Of course, in truth, only the venue for this particular combining of Chicago and Toto was a surprise. After all, Champlin had already worked with all six future participants in Toto on Single. That David Foster-produced 1978 solo debut featured key composing contributions from Lukather, David Paich, Jeff Porcaro and David Hungate.

“A lot of people say my first solo record was actually the first Toto album,” Champlin said. “There were four songs with Jeff, Hungate, Paich and Steve Lukather. They did half of my first solo album. Ray Parker Jr.’s band did the other half, the more R&B songs. They were awesome, too. Ray Parker’s skank guitar playing is as good as it gets.” [Stream it!: Bill Champlin's 'What Good Is Love,' from Single.]
The 1981 Champlin-penned George Benson hit “Turn Your Love Around,” another Lukather collaboration, also included drum programming from Porcaro.

Champlin worked with Lukather on the title track to his second solo effort, and on his most recent studio project, 2009′s No Place Left To Fall, as well. More recently, Champlin has toured with Joseph Williams, Toto’s current Toto frontman.

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Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.