I WON’T TELL ‘EM YOUR NAME: Formerly known as the Sex Maggots, this trio from Buffalo, New York changed their name to the much more sophisticated Goo Goo Dolls (?!!?) and eventually found massive success.

By Metal Dave

I’ll go to my grave defending the Goo Goo Dolls – and not just cuz they shared their beer!

In 1995, the unknown band was the first group to ever invite me onboard their tour bus. That was a biggie and I’ll never forget it. Oddly enough, I can thank Merle Haggard (at least partially). Why? When “The Hag” cancelled a gig in Houston, the Houston Press was suddenly desperate for a replacement feature to fill that week’s music pages. As an aspiring writer trying to make a name for myself, I’d been pestering the Press for a shot at a byline when The Hag’s cancellation turned my latest pitch into a hit (don’t tell the Goos). In short order, the Press rolled the dice on their newest freelance writer, I tracked down Goo Goo singer Johnny Rzeznik for an interview and my full-page feature was on its way.

PUNK & DISORDERLY: Before they were MTV heartthrobs, the Goo Goo Dolls were signed to Metal Blade Records and released the 1989 sophomore album, ‘Jed,’ which featured such cuddly songs as ‘Up Yours’ and ‘Sex Maggot.’

When I caught up with the Dolls at their gig in Houston, they were stoked to have such prominent coverage so far away from their home in New York. It also didn’t hurt that I knew their punk-ish 1989 sophomore album, “Jed,” inside-out and upside-down (thanks again, Danny Hoekstra!). From the Dolls’ perspective, I may as well have been Santa Claus with a sack full of showgirls and a no-limit bar tab. I was king!

You wouldn’t know it from their mid-90s blockbuster ballads and pretty-boy videos, but the Goo Goo Dolls got their start as a bunch of snotty, drunk punks called Sex Maggots. Yep! “Jed” was my gateway to the Goos, but it was follow-up albums, “Hold Me Up” and “Superstar Car Wash” that proved to have more staying power. Punk + Pop = Perfection. I can still listen to both those records on a daily basis.

SWAPPING SINGERS: Third album “Hold Me Up” saw guitarist Johnny Rzeznik emerging as the band’s primary vocalist after those duties were largely relinquished by bassist Robb Takac.

Following is a recap of the ’95 tour-bus encounter as it published in the San Antonio Express-News on Sept. 8, 2006. It appeared as a sidebar alongside my 2006 interview with Goo Goo bassist Robby Takac, which ran as the featured centerpiece and follows below.

FAN’S DREAM: ON THE BUS WITH GOO GOOS

They say you always remember your first, and in the context of music journalism/fandom that means a seat on a favorite band’s tour bus.

In 1995 outside a Houston dive called Iggy’s Ice House, the unknown Goo Goo Dolls were passing around a Houston Press interview I had conducted with singer Johnny Rzeznik like it was the Super Bowl trophy. Appreciative and victorious, the giddy Goos marveled at the full-page press coverage as bassist Robby Takac raved about Ace Frehley’s 1978 solo album and Rzeznik strummed an acoustic guitar.

As Shiner Bocks welcomed the Buffalo boys to Texas, no one onboard could have imagined that six months later, the band that won my loyalty with the scrappy punk albums “Jed,” “Hold Me Up” and the must-have “Superstar Car Wash” would land on top of the world with the album “A Boy Named Goo” and its breakthrough single, “Name.” — David Glessner

For my Goo Goo Dolls, 2002 Houston Press blurb, click here.

NEW YORK GROOVE: Bassist Robby Takac was the first guy to ever invite me onboard a band tour bus where we discussed our love of KISS and the Ramones over Shiner Bock beers in Houston.

GOO GOO DOLLS KNOW WHAT’S IN A NAME
San Antonio Express-News publish date Sept. 8, 2006

By David Glessner
Special to the Express-News

Even when the shoes fit, Robby Takac refuses to wear them.

“I split my big toe right up the middle yesterday,” says the barefooted 41-year-old Goo Goo Dolls bassist/vocalist. “I’m looking at it right now. Somebody put a fan onstage where there normally wasn’t one and I came ripping around the corner and split my toe open on it. I’ve cut myself and hurt myself over the years, but I’m more superstitious than I am afraid. I’ve been doing this for 20 years.”

SUPER GOOD: My favorite Goo Goo Dolls album, 1993’s “Superstar Car Wash,” is the perfect blend of the band’s punk roots and garage-pop excellence. It remains in heavy rotation at 2Fast2Die headquarters.

Curious rituals notwithstanding, Takac gets back on his feet tonight when the Goo Goo Dolls take the stage at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater to deliver pop-rock mega-hits such as “Iris,” “Name,” “Slide,” “Black Balloon” and “Here Is Gone.” Takac is joined by vocalist/guitarist Johnny Rzeznik and drummer Mike Malinin as they promote the band’s eighth album, “Let Love In.” Counting Crows tops the bill.

“When we recorded our last record, ‘Gutterflower,’ the process had begun and then Sept. 11 happened,” Takac says. “We were in the middle of writing lyrics and putting the record together, and all of a sudden the world went haywire. Quite honestly, (the record) didn’t seem all that important. … We finished the record, but the tone is so confused and so dark and so telltale of the times.”

By contrast, Takac says, “Let Love In” shimmers with hope and humanity. It’s an overall vibe that lent itself nicely to the included reworking of Supertramp’s 1977 hit, “Give a Little Bit.”

ALIVE!: Rzeznik rakes his KISS guitar while channeling his garage-punk heroes, The Replacements and Husker Du.

“I think this record has a much more cautiously optimistic tone,” Takac says. “At some point, all the antibacterial soap and fake MySpace friends and everything else that keeps you separate from real human beings … you’ve got to let go of some of that and let some people into your life. It’s, like, you can’t trust anybody, but you’ve got to trust somebody, ya know?”

Formed in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1986, the oddly named Goo Goo Dolls actually upgraded their moniker from the doomed-to-fail name Sex Maggots. In hindsight, the goofy Goo Goo redo may have been a stroke of misguided genius.

“We always hated the name, but I try not to question it too much because people remember it,” Takac admits while citing other odd band names. “Smashing Pumpkins is a cool name. Nine Inch Nails is a cool name.”

BOY WONDER: In a colossal case of bad timing, original drummer George Tutuska left the Goo Goo Dolls just months before “A Boy Named Goo” exploded with the mega-hit, “Name.”

Renamed, but going nowhere fast while emulating ragtag rockers like the Replacements, the Clash and Husker Du, the Dolls were more barroom brawl than prom-night power ballad. All that changed in 1995 as Takac slowly relinquished lead vocal duties to Rzeznik and an acoustic ballad named “Name” skyrocketed the band to superstardom.

As the world learned the Dolls’ “Name,” a follow-up ballad, “Iris,” from the “City of Angels” soundtrack and the subsequent, multiplatinum album, “Dizzy Up the Girl,” became an even bigger blockbuster when it spent a record 18 weeks near the top of the charts in 1998. The Dolls knew there was no turning back to the scrappy sounds of early albums such as “Jed,” “Hold Me Up” and the excellent punk-meets-polish of “Superstar Car Wash.”

“Honest to God, I can tell you the exact moment,” Takac says of the band’s turning point. “John will tell you the same thing. If we were on different continents and you asked us this question completely independently of each other, we would answer the same way. We were doing the ‘City of Angels’ (‘Iris’) and we had hashed it out as a three piece. Then we walked into the studio to record it and there was a full (freaking) orchestra set up. We looked around the room and said, ‘What is going on?’ John looked at me and said, ‘Rob, there’s no going back.'”

“It wasn’t a feeling of disappointment,” Takac said. “It was more like, ‘Wow, we can do anything we want now.’ At that moment, it was a very freeing thing for us. I’d love for all the Soul Asylum fans to still dig us, but we’ve got things to do and places to go and worlds to conquer.”

 

  1. Pat idle says:

    Jed and hold me up are still in my collection. I think superstar car wash is lingering around somewhere too. They fall in to the soul asylum category with me. Soul asylum was a different band at one time ala the replacements. But all those bands hold a place for me with their boozy barroom swagger. Hey can’t hold it against them makin money. I know I don’t have the same taste as flight attendants and secretaries…..

    • metal dave says:

      Yeah, they definitely turned into something else, but I can’t stand it when people don’t educate themselves about the band’s roots. Sex Maggots? Metal Blade Records (for 5 albums, no less)? Clearly, they were not the band that got the girls swooning in the 90s. That said, I still think they are good songwriters and, like you, can’t fault them for trying something new and making money after 5 albums in the world’s shittiest dives. At that point, it’s tough to fault anyone who wants to play music and not paint houses

    • Mike Chaos says:

      those 1st 3 albums—ROCKED!!! A little more polished by Hold Me Up, but still great songs—some of the fastest pop song ever! Punk/hadcore speeds–with hooks abound. But great slower stuff too….James Dean…I still laugh every time! Covers….they destroyed. Saw them live a few times back then….GREAT LIVE band!! Punk/hardcore energy. Nice guys too. Lost me on Superstar. Does Robbie even sing anymore? They really don’t “rock” anymore but song writing is still there. Sappy crap. Don’t like, don’t listen. But someday I know I’ll see them play Up Yours Again! Hope so, a million steps (units sold) back for them. Or maybe my band will havtta cover it.

      • admin says:

        Thanks for reading and posting Mike. You pretty much nailed it. Yeah, Robby still sings but usually only a song or two per album. You definitely know when it’s him!