It's hard to believe that it's been twenty-two years since the passing of Jeff Porcaro. The news shocked everyone in the music world and was definitely a "remember where you were" moment for me.
1992 - I was living in Texas and had just finished a rehearsal with my band before we all went to a Jack-In-The-Box for dinner. By chance, "Hold The Line" came over the restaurant speakers as we were finishing so I suggested that we go to Stu the keyboardist's place to watch his "Toto: Past to Present" VHS. In case you haven't seen it, this was the video companion to the CD and was a must have for every hardcore Toto fan. It had all the hit and not-so-hit videos but it was also a way for me to dissect and absorb every move Jeff made onscreen.
Remember that YouTube was a billion years away and we didn't see footage of him outside of programs like MTV, Night Tracks, or Friday Night Videos. The only live footage I knew about at the time was the 1990 Le Zenith Paris concert and it was the Holy Grail... and priced as such at record conventions!
Ok... back to Stu's apartment: The Past to Present credits finished rolling and the VCR stopped to rewind the tape. As everyone knows, when a VCR stops, the broadcast signal from the television signal kicks in...
BUT when that happened... Toto's Rosanna video was in progress. In those few seconds, my tiny 23-year old mind tried to make the connection:
Then we heard:
"The drummer for the Grammy-winning rock band Toto suffered a heart attack and died Wednesday night after a possible allergic reaction to a pesticide he was spraying in the yard at his Hidden Hills home, authorities said."
We all just sat there.
Kevin the vocalist blurted out something but I immediately gave him the Han Solo Finger-Up...
I needed to hear every word because maybe they would say... "Just kidding... wakka wakka wakka!!!" I mean April Fools Day had only been a couple of days before.
"Porcaro had just returned from a family vacation in Florida and the band was scheduled to begin rehearsals for a concert tour supporting its new album."
It was true.
Jeff Porcaro was dead.
I had been in full swing of my Porcaro phase having just taken off my Neil Peart goggles. His last studio CD with Toto, Kingdom of Desire, had completely taken over my life (I still feel like it was some of his best work) and I couldn't believe that there would be no more... I mean that's it.... no more Porcaro drum tracks! Unbelievable. Fortunately, his discography is deep enough that you could collect every published track he performed on and there would still be triple that to discover.
On the long drive back home, I listened to... you guessed it... Toto's Past to Present cassette but now every note seemed to weigh 100 pounds as it came through the speakers. I thought about some of the topics my bandmates and I talked about before I had taken off... 'what would happen to Toto?" 'will Mike Porcaro stay in the band?' 'will there be any more news about this or do I have to wait a few weeks for Rolling Stone Magazine to talk about it?' Luckily, the early predessecor of TMZ, Entertainment Tonight, had the scoop.... with a twist.
Whoa... I didn't know that about him. But even being a naive small town drummer, I couldn't care less about what extracurricular activities he took part in... I only cared about the music.
Since moving to Nashville and working for Pearl, I went on to hear some great personal stories from his drummer buddies, co-workers, and friends. I even had the fantastic opportunity to have a one-on-one front porch conversation with Mike Porcaro at a party. (Just for the record we talked about everything except music). The Holy Grail 1990 live Toto concert is one of many many 'off the radar' performances I have of Jeff and I actually have one of the framed drumheads from his tribute concert. BTW, both the drumhead and party invitation were completely because of the kindness and generosity of Mr. Shane Hollowman of whom I will always be grateful. None of this is lost on the 'early twenties' part of my brain as I still get a jolt when I get to hear a new Jeff story or hear an undiscovered Jeff track for the first time.
What else can you really say about his drumming and influence on the music world that hasn't already been said? It makes me happy that I can still find lessons and new meaning in his music as the years go on. There is even one song of his (to be unnamed in this blog and to your face) that (to me) is the embodiment of an 'emotionally honest drum part' that is so married with the lyrics and music that can move me to tears every single time I hear it. To you non-drummers or musicians, I understand that saying a drum part is moving sounds crazy but it's the truth... and I'm glad to have found it. Even if Jeff's music isn't your thing... that's completely ok but I hope you have something that can move you in that way.
It's unfortunate that we'll never get to hear how his style would've progressed as an artist. I'm not saying that he would've gone on to be the greatest of all and would've paved the way for all things groove to come then and forever and ever and ever!! I personally would've loved to have seen where his drumming would've gone.
Wrapping it up... Jeff was and will always be one the kings to me... groove on!
8.6.12 UPDATE: Talking with a fellow JP admirer and he turned me on to this song which I had never heard... get ready for the super-extendo-drum break after the second chorus.
8.5.2013 UPDATE: To hear some fantastic insight straight form The Man himself, go to Robyn Flans' page and get the JP interviews.