Toto, “99” from Hydra (1979) Toto Tuesdays

Share this:

There is so much awesomeness in the song “99” that it’s almost impossible to conceive the song wasn’t Toto’s biggest hit to that point.

Sure, at No. 26 on the Billboard singles charts, “99” outperformed the stellar “St. George and the Dragon” — and the, ah, less than stellar “All Us Boys” — but after the success of Toto’s self-titled debut album’s singles, the band and the record company had high hopes for “99” and the album Hydra.

Part of the reason may deal with lyrics which are not standard pop music fare. Toto’s “99,” a David Paich composition, continues this project’s progressive rock theme with a tale of a forbidden love set in a future society where one’s indentity has been reduced to a number. Written as a tribute to the film THX 1138, “99” also illustrates the contrast of Toto.

The song has a decidedly soulful feel, with perhaps some of the funkiest bass player on a Toto album coming from the band’s secret weapon, bassist David Hungate. Jeff Porcaro weaves in elements of Motown and a Jim Keltner feel to accompany Hungate. Steve Lukather, Toto’s master of the ballad, provides a mournful lead vocal like only he can, but almost outshines himself with jazzy electric guitar solos.

<<< BACKWARD (“St. George”) ||| ONWARD (“Lorraine”) >>>

As if these elements were not enough, composer David Paich’s classically based piano intro and descending piano fills and Steve Porcaro’s effectively retained prog synthesizer solos push the song to levels well beyond what was heard on AOR radio at the time.

“99” finds Toto at the top of their game on Hydra. Three songs into the album, and you may wonder how could they top songs like the title track, “St. George and the Dragon” and “99.” Unfortunately, maybe they can’t — at least not on this album.

Next time, Perplexio examines the song “Lorraine.”

Toto Tuesdays is a song-by-song feature that explores the rich musical history of Toto. The group returned in 2015 with ‘Toto XIV,’ their first album since 2006.

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier is a bass-playing lawyer living in Atlanta. His first Steely Dan exposure was with an eight-track cassette of 'Pretzel Logic.' He can be reached at [email protected]; follow him on Twitter: @slangofages. Contact Something Else! at [email protected]
Preston Frazier
Share this: