Weezer and Toto: the inside story of music’s unlikely love-in

The two bands have released reciprocal covers of each other’s hits, Hash Pipe and Africa. Toto’s guitarist, Steve Porcaro, reveals how it happened

It is surely the weirdest musical love-in of the year. Geeky emo/power-pop kingpins Weezer covered Toto’s 80s megahit Africa, a love story about the continent, and, in return, the west coast rock veterans have covered Weezer’s 2001 hit Hash Pipe, a song about a transvestite sex worker.

This improbable meeting of minds began in May, after 15-year-old Mary Klym had spent months spamming Weezer on social media, begging them to cover the Toto smash. “Eventually, they trolled the girl back,” Toto’s keyboard player, Steve Porcaro, chuckles, “by covering our song Rosanna instead of Africa.”

Toto’s Africa
Toto’s Africa Photograph: PR Company Handout

However, a week later, Weezer’s Africa duly appeared and the band invited Porcaro to play keyboards when they performed it on Jimmy Kimmel Live!. “Such sweet guys,” he says. When Weezer’s respectful cover gave Toto their first Billboard Hot 100 hit in eight years and introduced them to a different audience, Porcaro wanted to “return the favour”.

The initial plan was to cover the song Beverly Hills, which “lent itself to a Toto vibe”, before Porcaro’s neighbour, a Weezer superfan, suggested some alternatives. “He talked me through their hits,” Porcaro explains. “Then he looked up with a little gleam in his eye and said something about driving down the freeway with Hash Pipe cranked up, and that really stuck with me.”

At first, Toto’s singer, Joseph Williams, needed convincing to record the much harder-rocking song, but Porcaro reminded him that Toto weren’t “a bunch of studio guys distorting their amplifiers for the first time. We started off as a garage band who played a lot of rock’n’roll.”

This just left the contentious issue of the lyrics, with fans and lyric websites divided over whether they are: “I got my eyes wide” or, ahem, “I got my ass wide”. “I heard it as ‘ass wide’ myself for a long time,” Porcaro says, “but Joseph corrected me. He said: ‘It’s a much better lyric than you’d think.’ Despite the title, it’s not about partying. It’s actually quite dark.”

Nevertheless, when Toto debuted the cover in Vancouver, the guitarist, Steve Lukather, quipped that the song suited the band because “we were smoking hash since before they [Weezer] were born”. The two songs now feature in both groups’ setlists. As Porcaro explains: “Now we’ll both probably have to play Hash Pipe and Africa for the rest of our entire lives.”

Contributor

Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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