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"I was a bartender, a hot-dog vendor, a cook, sold magazine subscriptions," recounted a sleepy-voiced John Rzeznik during a recent telephone interview, "and if I wasn't doing this, I'd probably be finishing my degree in sociology."

Rzeznik was not tired because of any day job, but from late nights put in as front man for The Goo Goo Dolls. The Buffalo, N.Y., trio, which will perform tonight at Starz nightclub in Allentown, is in the midst of a tour in support of "A Boy Named Goo" (Metal Blade/Warner Bros.), its latest disc.

"A Boy Named Goo," the nine-year-old group's fifth full-length offering, is climbing the Billboard charts (it's No. 49 after seven weeks), thanks largely to the ballad "Name" (which sits at No. 19 after two weeks on the singles chart). The video of the song is getting heavy rotation as an MTV "Buzzclip."

The single's success took Rzeznik by surprise. "I didn't even think it would be the single. I put it in the middle of the record where I thought no one would find it. Usually albums are frontloaded with singles."

The song is something of a contrast to the sound normally associated with The Goo Goo Dolls. "It's one component of what we do, but usually we're a lot harder. I wouldn't start writing songs like `Name' all the time just because I thought that's what people wanted to hear. I'll write a song in the same vein because it's what I want to write.

"If you really write from your heart and don't try to contrive it, it'll stand on it's own integrity, progress on it's own."

The help of MTV does not go unappreciated, however. "At its best, MTV puts a face to the names, if you know what I mean. I think if you can take the expression of a song much farther, that's great. And it's one of the only outlets there is for artistic filmmaking. But it's a double-edged sword. At it's worst, MTV is just a lot of TV commercials for songs."

One way or the other, the video breakthrough of "Name" represents a solid foundation for Rzeznik and his band mates to build their non-day-job futures on. "I get the feeling this is what I was put here to do," Rzeznik summed up. "Because every time I want to try to get myself a `real life,' something happens to keep me playing music."

And it probably beats selling hot dogs, too.

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The Goo Goo Dolls will perform at an all-ages show tonight at Starz, 410 Allentown Drive, Allentown. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and Aztec Trip will open the show at 9 p.m. Universal Honey also will perform. Information: 435-4389.

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