Goo Goo Dolls: Pop’s Blue Collar Heroes

Goo Goo Dolls founding members: Robby Takac (second from left) and Johnny Rzeznik (Photo Mark Dellas)

The Goo Goo Dolls may have established a comfortable niche, as a well-respected rock band with pop leanings reflected by the 12 million albums they’ve sold worldwide and much-loved hit singles, like “Iris,” “Slide” and “Name.” But as far as founding member/lead vocalist John Rzeznik is concerned, they’re never too far from their West New York roots. This blue collar mentality continues to be the guiding moral compass for Rzeznik and longtime friend/bassist Robby Takac.

“We’re from Buffalo and we always carried that pride of the hometown that we’re from—and we still do,” Rzeznik said.

With the band ready to hit the road with fellow alt-pop outfit Train, the Goos are preparing to also introduce fans to material from their forthcoming twelfth studio outing, Miracle Pill. It’s a collection of songs Rzeznik was working on just as he and Takac were coming off the road from a string of fall dates last year celebrating the 20th anniversary of Dizzy Up the Girl, the band’s sixth studio album.

“I was already writing songs and collecting material for the record. The title and concept for the album just came to me at once. It hadn’t happened to me in a long time, but I just got hit over the head for Miracle Pill,” Rzeznik recalled. “It was sort of a metaphor for the instant gratification. Are you sad? Take a pill. That’s sort of the culture that we live in. Are you fat? Take a pill. Everybody is looking for some easy, short-cut way to find happiness and fulfillment and there just isn’t. But it’s work. It sucks, it’s hard and it’s consistent. I’ve been working out with this trainer and he said if I can be 70 percent consistently, then I’m going to be further ahead than if I’m 100 percent once in a while. There’s a line in ‘Miracle Pill’ where this guy asks this girl if she can be his miracle pill and I can be somebody else/I’m so sick of living inside of myself. It’s like trying to find something external that will cure you. And we all know that it’s an inside job.”

In hitting the road with Train, Rzeznik admits that beyond the new album’s title cut, he and Takac are going to be giving fans just what they want—well-loved gems from the Goo canon. It’s even more important to do that given how long the duo have wanted to go out on the road with Train.

“We’re going to play the new single when we go out. I don’t know how many other songs we’re going to play from the new album, at least this summer. Because we’re out with Train. You’ve got to play all the hits, when you’re out with a band like that. C’mon Monahan, try writing a crap song or a B-side once in a while,” he said with a laugh. “We’re out there playing all the hits. We’ve got a really bitching light show and we’ve been getting ready for this one. We all had to get back into fighting shape for this tour. It’s going to be a lot of fun, man. I’m really looking forward to it.”

While most music fans might think of the Goo Goo Dolls as being a ’90s alt-pop band thanks to some of those aforementioned hits, the Goos were actually looked at as Replacements Lite (that band’s Paul Westerberg cowrote the 1993 single “We Are the Normal,” off that year’s Superstar Car Wash) and were actually college radio staples up through the early 1990s.

The first decade of the Goo Goo Dolls’ existence found them sharing bills with the Gun Club, Cannibal Corpse, the ‘Mats and a pre-breakthrough Soul Asylum. And while fame eventually came knocking, Rzeznik and Takac were quick to heed the word of an early advisor.

Rzeznik and Takac in their colorful music video for “Miracale Pill” (Photo courtesy of Ed Gregory and Dan Cooper)

“The first little bit of money that we made, was kind of weird. Robbie and I literally had nothing. We had a roommate, so there were three of us living together in an attic in Buffalo. We had nothing. All of a sudden, you get this check in the mail and it’s more money than my dad made in like 10 years,” Rzeznik recalled. “Then, our manager scooped us up and said, ‘Listen. This ain’t gonna last forever. Put the money away, pretend it doesn’t exist, keep your head down and keep working. Forget about being a rock star. Just keep working.’ That stuck with me. Then, there was the rule of [investing]—Don’t’ buy a bar. Don’t buy a restaurant. Don’t buy a Ferrari. We’ve been going for 25 years making a living doing this. This has been my job for 25 years, with no other job. For the 10 years before that, I’d play in the band and be a bartender. I’d play in the band and Robbie was a DJ. We always had odd jobs we had to do when we came home. I was very blessed because the local punk rock club owner would always have my job waiting for me when I came home from a tour. It was really a blessing and he was so proud of us that we were getting out there.”

For the immediate future, the Goo Goo Dolls will be heading down to South America with Bon Jovi after wrapping up their summer jaunt with Train. And while Rzeznik may have tasted multi-platinum success, he’s still grateful for previously untapped opportunities the Goo Goo Dolls are still getting to experience.

“Going to South America with Bon Jovi is so exciting to me. I can’t believe Jon asked us to open for them. We’re doing Rock in Rio and then we’re going to Peru. We’ve never played down there,” he explained. “The last time we toured and opened for those guys, they were so good to us man. It was a cool scene. I’ve got to say that Jon is doing us a real solid because he’s helping us break open a new market that we’ve never been to.”

The Goo Goo Dolls will be appearing with Train on Aug. 3 at Northwell at Jones Beach Theater, 1000 Ocean Pkwy., Wantagh. For more information, visit or call 800-745-3000.

Dave Gil de Rubio
In addition to being editor of theNassau Observer, Dave Gil de Rubio is a regular contributor to Long Island Weekly, specializing in music and sports features. He has won several awards for writing from Press Club of Long Island (PCLI), New York Press Association (NYPA) and Fair Media Council (FMC).

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