Many people remember the ‘80s as the decade when pop culture seemed to be ruled by Madonna’s latest fashion statement, Duran Duran’s early boy band appeal, and the apparently endless list of hair metal bands that, even at the time, seemed impossible to tell apart.
However, there was something else going on in the ‘80s that was a quiet continuation of the alternative scene that broke in England in 1977 with the Sex Pistols and the Clash. There were plenty of kids who felt the same frustration and outright boredom that Johnny Rotten and Joe Strummer spoke about so well. America had its own underground scene going, most noticeably in Southern California and New York City. However, there were also bands in the rest of America that spoke even more effectively to kids trying to ignore what the mass of pop culture was throwing at them. Many of these bands, fueled on cheap beer and a general disdain for “The American Dream”, looked to Paul Westerberg and The Replacements for their inspiration.
The Goo Goo Dolls were such a band. Formed in 1986 in the crumbling rust belt city of Buffalo, New York, the band was probably started for no better reason than to kill time, make some music, and hopefully get a few free beers from the clubs where they were lucky enough to get a gig.
And then, as lead singer/guitarist John Rzeznik says, “Somewhere in there we sort of figured out how to write songs.” The band’s third album, Hold Me Up, released in 1990, showcased the sound of the band that would later be refined on their next two releases, Superstar Carwash and A Boy Named Goo. It was the latter of these two releases that landed the band their first hit song with “Name” in 1995. A Boy Named Goo went on to sell over two million copies, and the band toured extensively around the world to support their newfound success.
But it was in 1998 that the Goo Goo Dolls proved that they were not destined to be a “one hit wonder”. In that year Rzeznik penned “Iris”, which originally appeared on the City of Angels soundtrack, and was also included on the band’s sixth album, Dizzy Up The Girl. “Iris” spent almost a year on the Billboard charts, including a phenomenal 18 weeks at Number One.
And that, as it turned out, was just the beginning. Dizzy Up The Girl also contained the hits “Slide”, “Black Balloon” and “Broadway”, all of which were Top Ten hits on the Billboard charts. The band spent the next two years touring relentlessly all around the world, building a loyal following that most bands can only dream of. It became clear that the Goo Goo Dolls were not going away anytime soon.
The band has continued to build momentum. Gutterflower’s release in 2002 included such hits as “Here is Gone” and “Sympathy”. In 2004 a live DVD was released featuring an incredible July 4th show performed in the band’s hometown. Let Love In was released in 2006, and featured “Better Days” and a chart-topping cover of Supertramp’s “Give a Little Bit”. And the whole time the band has been racking up an impressive list of achievements to say the least: four Grammy nominations, thirteen consecutive Top Ten multi-format hit songs, and over ten million albums sold. Rzeznik has also been the recipient of the Hal David Starlight Songwriter Award.
In 2010, it has been 24 years since founding members John Rzeznik and Robby Takac first starting playing music together. Joined for the past fifteen years by drummer Mike Malinin, the Goo Goo Dolls will be touring in support of their ninth studio album, Something for The Rest of Us. Written and recorded over the past couple of years, the album delivers another dose of great Goo songs such as “Sweetest Lie”, “One Night”, and “Soldier”. With his songwriting, Rzeznik confronts some of the issues that have become part of many people’s everyday lives. “I wanted some of the material on this album to address the disillusionment of the difficult period we live in; I wanted to give a voice to the emotional uncertainty that accompanies hard times. So many people are struggling to keep it together through tough economic conditions and two wars that seem to have no end in sight. The ones who bear the brunt of these burdens are everyday people. That’s who I want to speak to.”
The recording of the album took place in various studios in Los Angeles as well as the band’s studio in Buffalo, and during the course of events the band worked with a wide range of engineers and producers including Tim Palmer, John Fields, and Butch Vig. The result showcases more of the well-crafted songs and timeless lyrics that have been such an integral part of the Goo Goo Dolls’ continuing success
Most bands that were around in 1986 have come and gone. A lot of trends came and went. But through it all the Goo Goo Dolls have been able to survive and stay relevant. They have grown beyond their influences, and have spent their lives creating and performing great songs. And at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about - songs. So as the trends come and go, or when the world gets caught up in the latest celebrity gossip, there will always be people hungry for songs that speak to them. And those are the people the Goo Goo Dolls are talking to - The Rest of Us.