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Number: 9
Volume: 4
By: John Duke


The Goo Goo Dolls are three very young chaps from Buffalo, New York state, who with the release of their second almighty crossover album “Jed” know what they have managed to achieve. This in itself is special. Originally called “Sex Maggot” the band took their present name from the back of a cheap detective novel. It's just a tag that has stuck, five minutes more and they would probably have been called something else. A random, instinctive selection that came together by pure chance, and in many ways the method reflects the nature of the music that they make. And what's that? Well, whenever I read something about The Goo Goo Dolls someone is always mentioning The Ramone's in the same footed breath, locking the two together into the garage band scenario. I don't see that at all. What The Goo Goo Dolls play is Sixties rooted rock and roll with an Eighties metallic kick up the ass. It's heavenly power chords that have melody wrapped round them like some saintly halo. I mention as much to the three guys, Johnny guitar, Robbie bass/vocals, and George drums, who are chatting to me from a recording studio somewhere in Buffalo.

John: That’s it man, that’s a good way of putting it. What we play is relevant rock and roll, we take it and give it a bloody good kick up the backside, call it metal, call it punk, call it energy, call it what you will. I mean I listen to the lame shit on the radio and it's so boring and monotonous. We don't want to be predictable - ever. Like a lot of metal is planned and it's obsolete from that moment, once anything is pigeon holed it's predictable. The name of the game is spontaneity. We went in and did all the tracks for 'Jed' in two and a half days!"

George: "John and myself we listen to punk a lot and Robbie has a bit more of a metal background, but we refuse to work with hooks or formulas from either medium. I mean the crossover style going round today is mechandised; hard-core/thrash is so easy to do, to fall into as an avenue, but the BIG crossover hasn't happened yet. It's time to move into something different, to capture the intensity of say a Metallica and apply it to MUSIC, with melodies, hooks and SONGS! And shit its got to be happy too, I don't want to listen to music that depresses me, I want to listen to stuff and get high! And that's the way we play it as a band. Music should run through your head, your hands and your balls. You can't afford to miss any one of them out!"

Not a pretty essential trio I would have thought! Quintessentially the Goo Goo Dolls have an American sound but I hear a lot of influences that remind me of British bands. On some tracks, especially the instrumental 'Fourth Of Last Month', the guitar is reminiscent of something Townsend might have done in the late Sixties, with the reverb and harmonies. And of course both cover versions, Credence’s "Down On The Corner' and The Stones 'Gimme Shelter' are Sixties too.

Robbie: Fourth Of Last Month' has a weird story to it. I first visualized that number in a dream, woke up and tried to immediately capture what I'd heard on the guitar. Usually when we write that's how it happens. All of us will have something and we'll throw the lot together, fight over it for a while, and then come up with something. I agree with what you said about the guitar. As a group we love the philosophy of just recreating that sound, of jacking your guitar into a Marshall stack and cranking it out. I mean we all love Townsend’s playing and The Who. I'd rather play a single note and make it count whereas others will play ten and you can't even discern one! We are making the intensity of metal more accessible with our almost pop melodies, and this type of crossover, as George said, will become huge. The band did The Stones 'Gimme Shelter' as a direct rebuttal to The Sisters Of Mercy version which was terrible, slow, grungy and totally depressed one of the most vibrant tracks ever! As for 'Down On The Corner' we got this black sixty five year old guy in, Lance Diamond, to sing and he is totally amazing. When we play gigs we get him on stage to do the number and like we have an audience of teenage Mohawks and there is this black guy in a three piece suit, trilby, and he blows them away! Man that's cross-over!

The cover of “Jed” is a picture of an ignorant red neck, with his beer belly and cheap brown bag ensconcing even cheaper brandy/ whisky bottle; a hunting moron, an ignorant bastard who causes trouble wherever he puts his size twelve’s. Am I right and is this the sort of bigot who gets the group motivated lyrically?

John: That was actually a self-portrait done by one of the nicest and most liberal people we know!"

Mass laughter.

John: "No, in a sense you are right because it's a caricature, he was taking a very sarcastic look at himself and, yes, poking fun at a red necked way of life. A lot of our songs do revolve around that sort of philosophy. 'James Dean', (a lone acoustic number that finishes the album off in pretty much the same forlorn manner as 'Jane Says' from the last Jane's Addiction offering) is about Jed thinking how terribly boring his life is and wanting to be different and glamorous, wanting to be James Dean. Yet when someone tells him that Dean was gay his prejudice and ignorance come out and he refutes the man totally. We did it tongue in cheek but it's a sad song because Jed is a sad person in his attitudes and values. Most of our material deals with everyday life, our songs grope for answers just like real people do, but there is a fun element to, it's like a light hearted look at desperate situations.

Talking of which the group in a very short career haven't exactly had an easy time of it. Johnny had a bad car accident in the summer of '87 and in October a few bouncers decided to run roughshod over George's face. Perhaps the worst setback of all was the total fiasco surrounding the release of their self titled debut album which the track 'Humble Me' on the new album deals with.

Robbie: Yes, that song itself is just a series of randomly spoken phrases, supposed to be ironic I guess, but that was a very depressing time for the band. Everyone thanks the Almighty that we finally got ourselves out of that deal. The group have never seen one red cent from that album (Goo Goo Dolls, Mercenary records who obviously lived up to their name) and that company was like a bad bitching girlfriend you were stuck with. Like we had only been together a month and a half before we went into the recording studio, none of the group really knew each other, and man they were cheap bastards! Like we were working on free time, so it was unearthly hours, and believe it or not we didn't even know that we were cutting a record! The band was under the assumption that we were just laying out a series of demos! None of the engineers we had working with us were real engineers, they were just interns trying it out for the first time! The record wasn't even mixed before it came out and then they released it on CD! Not a good start but thankfully things have picked up since then!

Unfortunately at the moment The Goo Goo Dolls are not touring, a projected outing with Stiff Little Fingers having fallen through, but they have done one major tour with Gang Green across Canada and North America. The band are in no way negative about the future because they know it's about to happen, they know that cross-over bands like themselves and Government Issue are producing the sort of rock and roll that truly moves people and will ultimately shift standards.
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