Monday, August 20, 2012
Sheepish Musical Pleasures: Toto, "Rosanna"
Back in the olden days when the wooly mammoths walked the earth in the late 1970s and early 1980s, there were many very successful rock groups whose use of abstract symbols on their album covers spoke of their anonymity. Journey, Styx, Kansas, Asia and the like lacked charismatic, Jagger-like frontmen, and preferred muso chops to the kind of raw feeling spewing forth from the punk scene at the time.
No band better exemplified this brand of highly competent corporate rock than Toto, a group made up of relatively faceless LA studio musicians. Casual music fans would know their songs, but yet would be hard-pressed to name any member of the band. Their magnum opus came in the form of 1982's "Rosanna."
Most pop music is completely dynamically flat, with few ups and downs. However, "Rosanna" bursts with drama, from the building up to the majestic horns that announce the "meet you all the way" chorus to the dropping out of all the instruments so that the only thing the listener hears is singer Steve Porcaro's mezzo piano voice and fingers snapping. Throw in the most gratuitous synthesizer solo ever to grace the Top 40 balanced by some truly righteous guitar shredding, and you have a range of sounds worthy of a symphony orchestra.
And what a video to go with it! There's a ballerina twirling amidst faux urban decay, sharks vs. jets choreographed gang fighting featuring a young Patrick Swayze, and more bad 80s aviator sunglasses than you can shake a stick at. All in all, it's pretty damn impressive for a tune merely intended to woo Rosanna Arquette.