Steve Lukather’s 10 Top Collaborations

By Paul Rigg

It is worth restating that American Steve Lukather, best known as the guitarist and only remaining founding member of Toto, has recorded guitar parts on over 1,500 albums.Specifically, the Ernie Ball Music Man aficionado has been a sideman or guest with well over 100 artists, many of whom are household names. Excluding his ‘Toto only’ collaborations, Guitars Exchange seeks to showcase this incredible diversity in this list of 10:   


10. With Olivia Newton-John
- Physical - Physical (1981)

I laughed when I heard the lyric to this one when her producer, the great John Farrar, played it for me to do a solo, but I went for it and it was a huge '80s single that most people don't know I played on,”
says Lukather. “You know how at the end of the movie Grease Olivia Newton-John transforms from a chaste good girl into a leather-clad vixen? She was definitely in vixen mode for this song, which if you are at all paying attention to the lyrics, is blatantly about sex: ‘There's nothin' left to talk about unless it's horizontally.’"

The song became a huge hit - and also won a Grammy for Video of the Year.

9. With
Alice Cooper - How You Gonna See Me Now - From the Inside (1978)

Penned by Alice Cooper, Bernie Taupin and Dick Wagner, Cooper took this song to number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100. The concept album From the Inside was based on people that Cooper met in a New York asylum because of his alcohol addiction; no record could be found about what the ultra-professional Lukather thought about that.


8. With Boz Scaggs -
Breakdown Dead Ahead - Middle Man (1980)

Scaggs gave Lukather his first break as a teenager and was also a key figure behind Toto, so when the American singer asked Lukather to play on what became a top 15 US Billboard success, the guitarist could not decline. “We did this track in 1979,” he says. “Boz gave me the solo, and it was big hit. I owe a LOT to Boz. He gave me my first big time shot.”

7. With
Chicago - Hard to Say I’m Sorry - Chicago 16 (1982)

Having tasted success, Chicago were in a bad place at the start of the 1980s, having been dropped by Columbia Records, with whom they had formed a long and trusting partnership. Their luck changed however with Hard to Say I'm Sorry, written by Chicago vocalist Peter Cetera and David Foster, which went to number 1 in America and the top 5 in the UK. Unusually, Lukather was not the only member of Toto to play on this track, as he was joined by his colleagues
David Paich and Steve Porcaro. This level of intervention understandably caused some tension within Chicago but, as they say, ‘it got the job done’. 


6. With
Cher - If I Could Turn Back Time - Heart Of Stone (1989)

Lukather turned up once more to play guitar on Cher’s song, which the singer initially rejected but which reached number 3 on the US Billboard chart. The songwriter, Diane Warren, said Cher initially hated the song and had to be pushed into singing it. "I held her leg down during a session," Warren recalled, "and said, 'You have to record it!'" According to Warren, Cher's response was, "Fuck you, bitch! You're hurting my leg!" Once the song was in the can, however, Cher acknowledged the legendary songwriter had been right.  

5. With Michael McDonald
- I Keep Forgetting - If That's What It Takes (1982)

was a member of both the Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan, but was unsure about how he might be received as a solo performer. He need not have worried as I Keep Forgetting, his first single solo release, peaked at No. 4 on the U.S. Billboard chart. “This was a second take from Mike's first solo record,” Lukather revealingly says about his participation. “Back then we never knew what we were gonna play or what style, sometimes not even who we were gonna play for. No rehearsals ever.”


4. With Cheap Trick
- Voices - Dream Police (1979)

This ballad is an unusual love song, as it all takes place within the protagonist’s head. "You hear voices in your head or somebody's just messing with your brain and you hear voices," songwriter
Rick Nielsen explained.

Apart from again showcasing his chops as a guitarist, Lukather shows his class as a human being - as his name was left off the credits, but he shows no bitterness at all; in fact the opposite.
I played most of the guitars on this song, though I was not credited on the album,” he says. “Rick plays his stuff well. Love the band, and I was honoured they asked me.” 

3. With Miles Davis
- Don't Stop Me Now - Fahrenheit (1986)

The diversity of Lukather’s collaborations is illustrated by this song, featuring trumpeter and jazz legend, Miles Davis. Co-written with David Paich, Lukather later saw this song as one of the pinacles of his career.

"Miles wanted to cut the horn at Jeff Porcaro’s studio and we were all over there cutting the Fahrenheit record,”
he explains. “So just in case, we cut the track and left the melody off - we just left open spaces. When Miles got there, we said 'Hey man would you mind just playing the tune? Just blow on it and see what happens?' […So, he got out…] the Harmon mute, and played it down in one take. We're all stood there completely freaked out. At the end, the song just kind of fades out, but he just kept playing the blues. I was sitting there with chicken skin on my arms - it was an unbelievable moment. And that's how we ended the record - with just Miles blowing.”


2. With The Tubes’ Fee Waybill
- She's a Beauty - Outside Inside (1983)

Lukather both co-wrote this top ten hit with Tubes’ frontman Fee Waybill, and played all the guitars on it. Inspired by Waybill’s experiences in San Francisco’s red light district it became the Tubes’ biggest chart hit, ending almost a decade without big time commercial success.

"'She's A Beauty' actually did come from a real experience,”
explains Waybill about the inspiration behind the song’s key lyrics. “I lived in San Francisco, and there was a place called the Tenderloin, and it was where there were seedy clubs, bars, prostitutes... it was the underbelly of San Francisco. I can't remember why I was there - I wasn't going to a massage parlor or anything. But in front of massage parlors and houses of prostitution, they used to have these little kiosks. Out in front of this one massage parlor there was a kiosk that was like a phone booth. It was enclosed, and the sign said, 'PAY A DOLLAR, TALK TO A NAKED GIRL.'”

1. With Michael Jackson
- Beat It -
Thriller (1982)

“I played all the guitars and the bass on this one. Yes,
Eddie Van Halen played the solo, but I did everything else. Not too many know this,” says Lukather of his contribution to this all-time pop classic. The lyrics were a fantasy about street-life and gang battles, something which Jackson had no experience of but, like David Bowie, he had the extraordinary ability to take a small idea and turn it into gold. Beat It represented another level in Jackson's rise to superstardom and, again, Mr Steven Lukather was there to play a key role in it.