Growing up in Buffalo, the Goo Goo Dolls are almost Canadian

Goo Goo Dolls At The 26Th Annual American Music Awards At The Shrine Auditor


By Steve Newton

“Kick him in the throat!” isn’t quite the phrase you expect to hear from a guy who’s just exchanged wedding vows, but that’s what my brother-in-law Cam was yelling scant hours after tying the knot on a beach in Powell River last month. You see, his wedding took place on the same day as Game 6 of the Stanley Cup playoffs, so the hard-core hockey fans were sneaking away from the reception to catch a bit of the game at a bar across the street.

It was sudden-death overtime, and Dallas—the team almost everyone was cheering for—just couldn’t get the puck past Buffalo goalie Dominick Hasek. One of the bridesmaids was trying to drag Cam back to the union hall so he could throw the garter, but his best man kept pushing him to stay till the period was over. That’s when the normally peace-loving groom, torn between ceremonial obligations and male bonding, started calling for desperate measures—like a skate to the jugular—to be taken against Hasek.

Of course, no one sliced the Dominator, and the game carried on until the tip of the third overtime period, when the Golden Jet’s kid put his foot in the crease and the puck in the net, plunging the city of Buffalo into deep, dark despair. Goo Goo Dolls bassist-vocalist Robby Takac was one of the Buffalo natives perturbed by the game’s outcome. In fact, when he calls the Straight from L.A. before taping a performance on The Tonight Show, he’s still smarting from that controversial Cup winner.

“Oww, come on,” he reacts to my rubbing it in. “Thanks a lot for that, man, thanks a lot. Hey, I know you were cheerin’ for the Sabres, even though we mussed up y’all’s Maple Leafs and all. No big deal, right?”

Touché! Well, I gotta admit that the Leafs deserved to lose to Buffalo in their semifinal round; at least they didn’t get knocked out on a cheat goal. And it turns out that Takac isn’t one of those glowing puck–loving Yankee flag-wavers anyway. When I ask him if his favourite hockey star of all time is fleet-footed Sabre Gilbert Perrault, he informs me that, no, his childhood hero was actually the Leafs’ rough ’n’ tumble Tim Horton.

“We’re almost Canadians,” he points out proudly. “Growing up in Buffalo, we’re probably the closest things to being Canadians you’ll find in America. I mean, I could drive a golf ball to Canada from my house. So we grew up with all the Canadian television networks, and most of my summers were spent up in Fort Erie or Thunder Bay. And I’ve seen most of Canada, so it was nice to have that knowledge. I’ve gazed longingly at a moose in the Rockies, you know, the whole thing, man.”

While Takac may feel he’s tasted the true Canuck life, his group has also managed to live the American dream, hitting the big time in ’96 with a breakthrough CD, A Boy Named Goo, and smash single, “Name”. But with its latest album, Dizzy Up the Girl, the band makes a slight return to its harder-edged roots, as heard on albums like 1989’s Jed and ’91’s Hold Me Up. The Goo Goo Dolls started developing that sound after Takac met guitarist-vocalist John Rzeznik in 1985.

“He went to the state college and I went to a smaller college,” says Takac, “but my college didn’t have a pub and his did, so that’s where I met him. And at first I think we really needed each other around to complete our sentences, you know. John wasn’t singing at all, or writing any lyrics, but he was writing an awful lot of music. I would say that he probably wrote 80 percent of the music, and I wrote 80 percent of the lyrics, to begin with.”

Takac wrote the music and lyrics for four tracks on Dizzy, and sings lead on all of them, but you have to be a pretty keen follower of the band to pick out which ones are his. “I sang pretty much the whole first record,” he notes, “and all but a couple of songs on the second record, so my current stuff is probably a bit more like our earlier material. When John started writing, things took a very different turn, and we just started to discover there were so many different things we could do, so many different styles we could work with.”

It was Rzeznik who penned “Name”, as well as Dizzy Up the Girl’s “Iris”, which was a hit when it was released on the soundtrack for City of Angels. The wealth and fame the band accumulated through Rzeznik’s knack for poppy gems allowed them to take a different approach to recording Dizzy, which was produced by Rob Cavallo (Green Day, Alanis Morissette) and is the first album with current drummer Mike Malinin.

“The process for going in and working on the record was like, ‘Look, we have no boundaries now, we can do whatever we feel is within the realm of taste.’ We learned that you don’t necessarily have to use everything that you put down on tape, and that was somethin’ new for us. We never really had the money to go in and think about that; it was generally just go in and get finished as quickly as you can.

“But having that room for experimentation allowed us to try an awful lot of things that we wouldn’t really have thought of before. Like bringing in a B-3 [organ] player—in fact, bringing in probably the best B-3 player in the world, Benmont Tench, from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. We brought him in, had a couple of beers, and just played some music with him, and when it was done, there was B-3 on everything.

“And we did the same thing with a mandolin guy that we know named Tim Pierce, who’s also real notable. We just hung out with him one night and jammed for a while. And same thing with this guy Luis Conté, who’s a percussionist, or Jamie Muhoberac, piano player. One by one we’d bring them in and just kinda listen and see what sort of things were available for our songs.”

When the Goo Goo Dolls play GM Place on Saturday (July 24), backed up by Sugar Ray and Fastball, most of those in the crowd will likely know songs from Goo and Dizzy, but there’ll be some who didn’t even know the Goo Goo Dolls existed before their “Name” became widely known. Takac is aware of that, but claims it doesn’t really bother him.

“Music takes up a pretty big part of my day,” he says, “but for a lot of people music is that 18 minutes they spend in their car between work and home. It’s the only time they ever hear music—or if it’s on the soundtrack for Dawson’s Creek, and they happen to be watching TV. That’s where most people get their music.

“People have said to me before, ‘Are you guys bummed that most of the big hits you have are, like, ballads or quieter songs, not the heavier stuff that you do?’ and I’m like, ‘Well, it only makes sense that it would be that way, because those songs have the most mainstream appeal.’ So I can’t really hold it against someone for not seeking out our earlier records or whatever.”


To hear the full audio of my 1995 interview with Goo Goo Dolls frontman John Rzeznick subscribe to my Patreon page, where you can eavesdrop on over 250 of my uncut, one-on-one conversations with:

Tommy Stinson from the Replacements, 1993
Brian Blush of the Refreshments, 1997
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Melissa Etheridge, 1990
Joe Jackson, 2003
Pepper Keenan of Corrosion of Conformity, 2001
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Todd Kerns, 2016
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Robbin Crosby of Ratt, 1989
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Alejandro Escovedo, 1997
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Dave Martone, 2020
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Jack Blades of Night Ranger, 1984
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Colin James, 1995
Kim Simmonds of Savoy Brown, 1998
Tom Cochrane of Red Rider, 1983
Ed Roland of Collective Soul, 1995
Taj Mahal, 2001
Tom Wilson of Junkhouse, 1995
Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, 2003
David Lindley, 2002
Marty Friedman of Megadeth, 1991
John Hiatt, 2010
Nancy Wilson of Heart, 2006
Jeff Golub, 1989
Moe Berg of the Pursuit of Happiness, 1990
Todd Rundgren, 2006
Chad Kroeger of Nickelback, 2001
Steve Earle, 1987
Gabby Gaborno of the Cadillac Tramps, 1991
Terry Bozzio, 2003
Roger Glover, 1985
Matthew Sweet, 1995
Jim McCarty of the Yardbirds, 2003
Luther Dickinson of North Mississippi Allstars, 2001
John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls, 1995
Steve Hackett from Genesis, 1993
Grace Potter, 2008
Buddy Guy, 1993
Steve Lynch of Autograph, 1985
Don Wilson of the Ventures, 1997
Gordie Johnson of Big Sugar, 1998
Trevor Rabin of Yes, 1984
Albert Lee, 1986
Yngwie Malmsteen, 1985
Robert Cray, 1996
Tony Carey, 1984
Ian Hunter, 1988
Kate Bush, 1985
David Gilmour from Pink Floyd, 1984
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Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1996
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Colin Linden, 1993
Kenny Wayne Shepherd, 1995
Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, 1986
Elliot Easton from the Cars, 1996
Wayne Kramer from the MC5, 2004
Bob Rock, 1992
Nick Gilder, 1985
Klaus Meine of Scorpions, 1988
Jason Bonham, 1989
Tom Johnston of the Doobie Brothers, 1991
Joey Spampinato of NRBQ, 1985
Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers, 2003
Andy Powell of Wishbone Ash, 2003
Steve Kilbey of the Church, 1990
Edgar Winter, 2005
Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde, 1990
Randy Hansen, 2001
Dan McCafferty of Nazareth, 1984
Davy Knowles of Back Door Slam, 2007
Jimmy Barnes from Cold Chisel, 1986
Steve Stevens of Atomic Playboys, 1989
Billy Idol, 1984
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Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule, 1998
John Bell of Widespread Panic, 1992
Robben Ford, 1993
Barry Hay of Golden Earring, 1984
Jason Isbell, 2007
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Vernon Reid of Living Colour, 1988
Brad Delp of Boston, 1988
Zakk Wylde of Pride & Glory, 1994
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Lars Ulrich of Metallica, 1985
John Doe, 1990
Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, 1992
Myles Goodwyn of April Wine, 2001
John Mellencamp, 1999
Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1999
Kenny Aronoff, 1999
Doyle Bramhall II, 2001
Jon Bon Jovi, 1986
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1992
Randy Bachman, 2001
Little Steven, 1987
Stevie Salas, 1990
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Joe Bonamassa, 2011
Tommy Emmanuel, 1994
Rob Baker of the Tragically Hip, 1997
John Petrucci of Dream Theater, 2010
Eric Johnson, 2001
Stu Hamm, 1991
Gene Simmons of Kiss, 1992
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Allan Holdsworth, 1983
John Mayall of the Bluesbreakers, 1988
Steve Vai, 1990
Tony Iommi of Heaven and Hell, 2007
Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1996
Geoff Tate of Queensryche, 1991
James Hetfield of Metallica, 1986
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1990
Rick Richards of the Georgia Satellites, 1988
Andy McCoy and Sam Yaffa of Hanoi Rocks, 1984
Steve Morse, 1991
Slash of Guns N’ Roses, 1994
Brian May from Queen, 1993
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1991
Jake E. Lee of Badlands, 1992
Rickey Medlocke of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1997
John Fogerty, 1997
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 1987
Rick Derringer, 1999
Robin Trower, 1990
Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, 1994
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Geddy Lee of Rush, 2002
Buck Dharma of Blue Oyster Cult, 1997
Michael Schenker, 1992
Vince Neil of Motley Crue, 1991
Vinnie Paul of Pantera, 1992
Joan Jett, 1992
Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, 1988
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Rob Halford of Judas Priest, 1984
Bill Henderson of Chilliwack, 1999
Paul Rodgers, 1997
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Guthrie Govan of the Aristocrats, 2015
Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe, 1985
Carlos Santana, 2011
Walter Trout, 2003
Rudy Sarzo of Quiet Riot, 1983
Rob Hirst of Midnight Oil, 2001
Tommy Aldridge, 2001
Donald “Duck” Dunn, 1985
Mark Farner of Grand Funk, 1991
Chris Robinson of Black Crowes, 1990
Jennifer Batten, 2002
Mike Fraser, 2014
Leo Kottke, 2002
Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead, 2002
David Gogo, 1991
Booker T. Jones, 2016
Link Wray, 1997
James Reyne from Australian Crawl, 1988
Mike Rutherford of Genesis, 1983
Buddy Guy, 1991
Country Dick Montana of the Beat Farmers, 1990
Mike Cooley of the Drive-By Truckers, 2016
Gary Rossington of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1986
Lindsay Mitchell of Prism, 1988
Buddy Miles, 2001
Eddie Money, 1988
Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith, 1983
Gaye Delorme, 1990
Dave Murray of Iron Maiden, 1984
Graham Bonnet of Alcatrazz, 1984
Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac, 2016
Doc Neeson of Angel City, 1985
Rik Emmett of Triumph, 1985
Sonny Landreth, 2016
Tosin Abasi of Animals as Leaders, 2016
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Johnny Ramone of the Ramones, 1992
Peter Frampton, 1987
Otis Rush, 1997
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1989
Leslie West of Mountain, 2002
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Greg Lake of ELP, 1992
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Malcolm Young and Brian Johnson of AC/DC, 1983
Warren Zevon, 1992
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Alex Lifeson of Rush, 1992
Ann Wilson of Heart, 1985
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Chris Cornell, 2008
Long John Baldry, 1985
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Kim Mitchell, 1984
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Susan Tedeschi, 1998
Joe Satriani, 2018
B.B. King, 1984
Albert Collins, 1985
Ronnie James Dio, 1985
Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, 1984
Dick Dale, 2000
Greg Allman, 1998
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….with hundreds more to come

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