Walking round this dirty town
Drinking up till we fall down
Don't want to live forever this way
But it's gonna have to do for today
I'm addicted as I want to be

"I'm Addicted", First Release


In 1985, Johnny Rzeznik, Robby Takac and George Tutuska -- three young punk fans in Buffalo, New York -- decided to honor and imitate their favorite band, the Replacements (circa Sorry, Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash), wrote a few of their own songs, and called themselves the Sex Maggots. Fortunately for all concerned, they renamed themselves the Goo Goo Dolls (from an ad seen in True Detective magazine) when they were spotted and asked to sign with a record label. (The band has since said that that name was probably the greatest thing holding them back in these early years.)

Their first self-titled recording, later reissued with the title First Release, came out on Mercenary Records on a $750 budget. They performed. college radio played their songs, and kids in general liked them. A second album titled Jed came out on a different label, Death Records, to the same general praise. So far, so good.


It's a beautiful night, I guess everybody's right
This day belongs to all of us
Even still I like mine with a chill
That ain't so obvious

"We Are The Normal", Superstar Car Wash


Before long the band and their first two albums were signed to a larger company, Metal Blade Records, for a multi-album contract. College radio still liked them, local fans still came to see them, and each of the band members held down other part-time jobs while they played. The band still wasn't a hit, even in Buffalo, but they were doing well enough for Metal Blade. Their third CD, Hold Me Up, kept them there, but things started to change in 1993 following their fourth -- the single "We Are The Normal" from Superstar Car Wash started appearing on rock stations across the United States, to the band's mild surprise.

That punk rock song, as well as "Fallin' Down", paved the way for generous sales of Superstar Car Wash and their next Metal Blade album, A Boy Named Goo. And here's where everything started to change, because of three major events in the band's life: massive airplay for the new single "Name", their drummer was fired and they sued their own label for breach of contract.


And I'll do anything you ever dreamed to be complete
Little pieces of the nothing that fall

"Slide", Dizzy Up The Girl


The departure of drummer George Tutuska wasn't a friendly one, and his own assertion (the other band members remained silent on the matter) was that it was over royalty payments -- specifically, the fact that he wasn't getting any. According to him, as quoted in Rolling Stone, the royalty payments for radio play of "Fallin' Down" were going directly into John Rzeznik's pocket instead of being distributed among the three band members equally. Tutuska demanded an equal split; Rzeznik fired him, after they'd finished recording A Boy Named Goo but before its release. Mike Malinin replaced him, and Tutuska continues to receive royalty checks for the songs he co-wrote and co-recorded with the band. He currently works in a home improvement company back in Buffalo while not drumming for a newer band there, Bobo.

Things still weren't all that great on the money front, though. The multi-album contract the young band had signed with Metal Blade turned out to be more than a little exploitive; A Boy Named Goo sold two million copies by 1996 but each band member was still only pocketing $6,000 for it. After seeking legal advice, they sued Metal Blade for breach of contract; Metal Blade and their parent company, Warner Bros., filed their own suits in response. After nine months they won liberation from their contract and signed a new one with Warner Bros. directly.


You grew up way too fast and now there's nothing to believe
And reruns all become our history
A tired song keeps playing on a tired radio
And I won't tell no one your name

"Name", A Boy Named Goo


"Name", a comparatively mellow love ballad which suited Rzeznik's voice perfectly, was an obvious (and sometimes hated) break from the band's punk-alternative roots. But people liked it, and so did the record companies. They were nudged into writing and recording another ballad, "Iris", which appeared on the soundtrack to the motion picture City of Angels as well as their first Warner Bros. album, Dizzy Up The Girl. If "Name" was a hit, "Iris" was a phenomenon, enjoying eighteen weeks at the number one spot on Billboard's weekly airplay charts and three nominations for the 1999 Grammy Awards -- Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Pop Performance (Group).

Note that the band was now officially classified as "pop", or pop rock anyways. Their albums continued to hold on to their original punk sound, but it was watered down a fair bit. In response, Warner Bros. issued a CD compilation three years after Dizzy Up The Girl while the band was on an extensive tour. This compilation was titled What I Learned About Art, Ego, Opinion & Commerce (or the shorter Art, Ego, Opinion & Commerce when released internationally) and spotlighted their punk-influenced songs from their pre-Goo albums, including "Fallin' Down" and "We Are The Normal". Ironic, actually -- since what the band learned about those things is evidenced in their pop-rock albums rather than their earlier punk-rock ones.

Gutterflower, their sixth album, was released in early 2002, with pretty much the same sound as the two which preceded it. Hey, whatever sells.


Discography (through 2002):

Members:

  • Johnny Rzeznik (guitars/vocals)
  • Robby Takac (bass/vocals)
  • George Tutuska (drums, former member)
  • Mike Malinin (replaced George Tutuska in 1995)

Sources:

  • All Music Guide biography by Steve Huey (http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=Bkxk9ikc6bb79~C)
  • Matt's Music Page (http://www.mattsmusicpage.com/goobio.htm)
  • RollingStone.com (http://search.rollingstone.com/bin/search/?st=music&section=&query=goo+goo+dolls)
  • Goo Goo Dolls FAQ v4.03 (http://www.musicfanclubs.org/googoodolls/misc/faq.htm)

And all I can taste is this moment
And all I can breathe is your life
Cuz sooner or later it's over
I just don't want to miss you tonight
            --Iris, off Dizzy Up The Girl

The musings of Johnny Rzeznik have carried the three boys from Buffalo, himself (lead vocals and guitar), Robby Takac (backup vocals and bass), and Mike Malinin (drums) into the limelight from their early punk rock beginnings. It is a transition that critics claim have robbed them of their gritty garage band sound. From their roots in upstate New York, Rzeznik, Takac, and original drummer George Tutuska, the Sex Maggots (as they were then called) started as a cover band in 1986. That same year, a local promoter "strongly advised" an identity change; shortly thereafter, The Goo Goo Dolls were born in their current form. The name came from a True Detective magazine in which was advertised a Goo Goo Doll. The band would later come to regret the name, seeing it as a potential hindrance to record sales. In the words of frontman Rzeznik in an ASCAP interview, times were bleak:
... in Buffalo you headline Saturday night at The Continental, and that's it, really. We had to get real and just pick up. We got this record deal. It was like for fifteen hundred bucks (...) and that's what we had to make the record. The record was with a company called Celluloid which doesn't even exist anymore. We made that record, and then we said, 'We've got to get out of here, and hit the road.' So, we borrowed our friends van, and we were like, 'Well, we're either going to do it, or we're going to starve to death." It was really just a sink or swim situation...


In 1986, the Goo's also released their first album; the aptly titled First Release, it was later self-titled. The LP cost the band a borrowed $750, and was a baby step into what would become stardom. Their 14-song disk is a raw and uncut look at their teenage beginnings in Buffalo, and did as well as any opening garage-band LP could expect.

A year later, their disc was picked up by Metal Blade records as part of a ten-record deal that would ultimately last for over a decade. The disc was self-titled under the new release, but otherwise remained the same. In the wake of the deal, Rzeznik and company were, in his words, "blinded" by the dream of a multi-record deal, and naively signed into what would later unfold as an unfair record deal with Metal Blade.

The deal lasted through a steady release stream of records, one every other year, Jed in 1989, Hold Me Up in 1991, and Superstar Car Wash in 1993. By the third release under their label, they were starting to receive good press and increasing their fan base. The year 1995 was a big one for the band. In January (on New Years), original drummer George Tutuska was asked to leave the group under less than friendly circumstances. The audition for a new percussionist began.

George was eventually replaced by Washington DC and South Florida native Mike Malinin original in 1995 under contract, and was a contributor on A Boy Named Goo. He had played drums since High School, and went through several bands in Texas. Mike was a huge fan of the band before joining, already having owned all of their records. He played with them for the next few years, becoming an "official" Goo in 1998.

The band saw their first large success from 1995's release of A Boy Named Goo, named after the Johnny Cash's song, "A Boy Named Sue". For the first time, they saw a top five single in "Name", a departure from their punk/garage staple. The album would go on to sell over two million copies (double platinum), however the three weren't seeing the riches that they'd expected. A lawsuit was filed against Metal Blade records, citing an unfair contract, and that they "haven't received a penny" from their hit album. The financial devastation was so great, VH1 named them one of the top ten "Riches to Rags" stories of modern music.

The litigation dragged on and eventually involved Warner Brothers, the distributor of Metal Blade. A California law, (the Olivia DeHaviland law) was cited that states that contracts are not enforceable past 7 years in the state; the Goo Goo Dolls had worked under the same contract for eight already. All parties settled out of court for an undisclosed sum, but the major result was that they were signed directly to Warner. There was also no word as to whether original drummer George Tutuska received any payment from the settlement, as he did not contribute to the hit album. He did continue to receive songwriting royalties.

Drained and experiencing writer's block, Rzeznik and the band did quite a few soundtracks including Twister, Batman & Robin, Tommy Boy, and Ace Ventura II. They had nominal success, until their song Iris, for the City of Angels soundtrack. Johnny had a bit of inspiration from watching the movie and tried to write the song from the standpoint of Nicholas Cage's character. It stayed at number 1 on the Billboard charts for three weeks, and was in the Top 100 for a total of 18. The song went on to bring three Grammy nominations.

With Rzeznik out of counseling for his writer's block, and with a renewed attitude and vigor, the band continued to make albums with a compilation CD in 2001, and with Gutterflower in 2002. They have had consistent success in contemporary adult markets, and have enjoyed the prosperity that comes with the limelight of a main stream band.

The music is that of any popular adult band, a power guitar and bass melody, with definite rock influences. They have showed it's staying power with repeat performances on the airplay charts, and on tour with such varied bands as No Doubt and The Rolling Stones. While not as hard hitting as a lot of their earlier songs, they tend to find success with ballads and basic staple contemporary sounds. Their rock background is solid, but none of their recent music is too risky. They've said numerous times in interviews that they play for the crowd and for what sounds good. There isn't much of a hard hitting message in anything they play, mostly what they like and what would get airplay. "I don't try to peddle my agenda to people that come to see us" says Rzeznik. They are have weighed in on such issues as gun control and are active in community service ranging from food drives to the benefit concert for September 11th.

Many people are critical of the band as a Replacements clone (their favorite band, and a heavy influence), or as selling out, and in a way they have. In many interviews, they've chalked it up to maturity, but after the troubles they've had on bankruptcy's door, I can't say that I blame them. Playing what you want to play, and playing what people want to hear is the goal of any performer, as well as being part of being a musician:
I think that you should do whatever feels good. That thing that makes the hair on the back of your neck standup, that's all. That's always the thing to follow. I mean, there is nothing wrong with having an eclectic kind of thing. (ASCAP)


If you like them, you may be interested in other similar contemporary bands such as Matchbox 20,Collective Soul, and Soul Asylum, or older bands that may have influenced them such as The Ramones, or The Replacements.

    Works used:
  • VH1 BTM 5th Anniversary: Riches to Rags
  • http://azlyrics.com
  • http://www.rockonthenet.com/artists-g/googoodolls_main.htm
  • http://www.insidecx.com/interviews/archive/googoodolls.html
  • http://www.ascap.com/musicbiz/rzeznik.html
  • http://www.azlyrics.com/g/googoodolls.html
  • http://www.musicfanclubs.org/googoodolls/misc/faq.htm
  • http://www.rollingstone.com/news/newsarticle.asp?nid=3308&cf=210
  • http://artistinfo.spinner.com/cg/x.dll?UID=2:50:59|AM&p=netscape&sql=1:4384~C

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