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Dateline: Buffalo, New York
Emerging from five weeks of studio sessions on their new album are the Goo Goo Dolls, who regain their stage presence as headliners on a five-band bill Saturday in the Country Club Skyroom. In the audience will be Janiss Garza, an editor at RIP Magazine, who's preparing a pictorial spread on the band for a future issue. She became a fan of the group a year ago Saturday, her birthday when she saw them play at Bogart's in Los Angles, and she decided to celebrate with them again this year. This little item, which ran in the Buffalo News in July of 1990, was placed by Artie Kwitchoff, the Goo Goo Dolls' tour manager, partly as a practical joke on me. Okay, Artie, it took a few years, but here we go . . .

Dateline: Gainesville, Florida
“Me and Lance saw you on Headbanger’s Ball!” Goo Goo Doll bass/vocalist Robby Takac has a truly wicked laugh and uses it here to full effect. In spite of my embarrassment, I feel at home, even though I'm 2,000 miles from my abode. That is because the Goo Goo Dolls are larger than life. They are as defensive, angst-ridden, regretful, goon, silly and dumb as the rest of us. They make tons of mistakes, but they laugh about it and go on their merry way. You don’t have to fly to Buffalo, New York, on your birthday to find this out; you can hear it on any of their albums, the hard-to-find but very worthwhile melodic trash-punk “Jed,” the rowdy n' wild “Hold Me Up,” or their latest, most mature (?) effort, “Superstar Car Wash.” With songs like “Up Yours” and “James Dean” from “Jed” and “Two Days in February” from “Hold Me Up” and “Fallin' Down” and ”Close Your Eyes” from Superstar, you know these guys are probably Buffalo's prime fuck-ups, but you also know that, at the end of the day, they couldn't care less. As long as they can pick up a guitar or settle in for an evening with their girlfriends, all of life's difficulties just kind of fade off into the distance. Lots of people already know this about the Goo Goo Dolls. I hope you're one of the uninitiated, though, because you probably need a new source of pure, unadulterated joy.

Back to business: A few months ago my boss, perhaps you know him, his name is Lonn Friend, grabbed me and threw me on his Headbanger’s Ball segment for about 30 seconds. I had had no sleep the night before and was wearing no makeup. I hoped no one I knew saw me. Naturally, everyone did, including Robby and Lance Diamond. Okay, now you're wondering who Lance Diamond is? He's the fourth Goo Goo Doll. This trio has more fourth members than any band I've ever met. Their tour manager, Artie, is one. It you've met them after a show, you've probably been the fourth Goo for a while. But that title should really be held by none other than the Incredible Lance Diamond, a lounge singer of indeterminate age who's been captivating Buffalo audiences for a generation or so. Not only did he lend his inimitable vocal styling’s to a couple of tunes on “Jed” and “Hold Me Up,” he's also been known to jump onstage with the guys---we're talking at punk gigs here: mosh pits, the whole nine yards --- and take over the show with his dancing microphone and armfuls of roses. Lance even came to Hollywood with the Goos once and completely enraptured the jaded black-leather crowd at the Coconut Teaszer, Why he was watching Headbanger’s Ball with Robby though? I can't imagine. Probably a little too much of the demon weed. Anyhow, Lance isn't with the band this tour. He makes too much money back in Buffalo to go traipsing around the country with the likes of the Goo Goo Dolls. But the Goo's aren’t doing all that badly themselves.

In fact, compared to the “Jed” days, when I first encountered them, they're sitting pretty. They're here in Florida to open for Soul Asylum and gear up for their own headlining tour, and for the first time in their entire lives they are riding in a big bus instead of a rickety van with a beat-up New York State license plates. “I guess you could say we have sort of an opulent situation here,”' Robby chuckles. “I looked at bands years ago that were traveling like we travel now, and I'd say, I'd never do that! It's a waste of money, a tour bus and all. We always kind of thought we'd be setting up our own stuff and not bothering to pay people to do it. I never realized how the business worked. I mean, things change. It makes you feel kind of weird.” Not that the guys don’t appreciate the change. Four years ago, when I first interviewed Robby, he candidly admitted, “We never had a good grasp on what the whole thing was about, when it came to the music business. We got dogged!” He was talking about the Goos' original label, Celluloid, which offered them $750 bucks for their first album--and then didn’t come up with the money. Things were going to get better, they hoped, when they signed with Metal Blade, which was creating an alternative label called Dimension. It didn't work out quite that way though. For some reason Metal Blade wound up putting the Goos on another subsidiary, this one called Death.

“I'll tell you the truth, I thought we were going to be sunk, man,” Robby told me back then. “Being in company with bands like D.R.I. and C.O.C. were not that at all!” As it turned out, the name of the label didn’t matter. Jed became a critic's favorite. And besides, people do slam and stage dive at Goo Goo Dolls shows. It's just that they don't do it to vent their aggression: they do it to vent their ... well, to be honest, to vent their wackiness. The association with Metal Blade turned out to be a good thing after all, because it led to the band’s relationship with Warner Brothers when the two labels decided to join hands. It started with “Hold Me Up” the guys actually got to shoot a video for “There You Are.” Now, with “Superstar Car Wash,” Warner Brothers has pulled out the big guns. Not long before this Soul Asylum trek, the Goos packed the Whisky in Hollywood, and said guns were very much in attendance. After the show the band's dressing room was overrun by guys in three-piece suits. “Who are all these people?” singer/guitarist Johnny Rzeznik asked me that evening. “They're your fans?” I hesitantly suggested. He eyed me dubiously before being grabbed for yet another set of corporate photos. Johnny's the realist of the band. Sometimes. Other times he's just plain pessimistic. “If I wind up being a janitor, will you still be my friend?” he asked me once and this was after band had performed a brilliant set.

Dateline: Miami, Florida
Its my second night in Florida with the Goos, and they've just stolen the show from Soul Asylum. The college audience was surprisingly dead, but they rose to the occasion during the Goos' thrashier numbers. After the gig Artie offers to take me, Johnny and anyone else so inclined to dinner. Then he does one of his well known disappearing acts. While we're waiting for him, Johnny and I have a serious chat about the state of rock. “All these kids wanted to do was get rowdy,” Johnny reflects. “I wonder if anyone really cares about the music anymore?” “I know what you mean,” I reply. “Sometimes we get letters at RIP that are about anything but the music. A few contemplative moments pass. “I guess it's not going to happen for us,” Johnny sighs. “What do you mean?” I protest. “You completely won the audience over!” “No. no, no, I mean going to get a bite to eat.” So maybe even Johnny's pessimism has dissipated a bit! Robby, of course, is the eternal optimist. “I'm pretty confident right now,” he told me earlier today on the bus. “Warner Brothers seems to be really excited about the songs and the record as a whole.” Honestly, though, discussing the business of music is not all that interesting to him. After all, he's the one who originally told me the Goo Goo Dolls philosophy back in the “Jed” days: “From day one, we said, We're doing music. That's what we want to do. We were labeled losers from that day on. So this is all kind of like, ‘Yo, man, I ain’t making no money, but I ain't hanging around GM, working 20 hours a day so I can come home to my three CD players and watch cable, you know? I mean, okay, I'll do without the cable man; just give me the rest of my day to myself. We'd rather be happy than have to deal with that crap!” And that attitude has remained pretty much the same throughout the Goo’s' history. Complacency and convention aren't part of their vocabulary, and if that causes trouble now and again, so be it! And it does cause trouble. “I just got in a new relationship, and my girlfriend's mother absolutely despises me,” says Robby. “Her mother looks at me, and I think she sees a guy who's going to be a flash in the pan for a couple of years and then live off her daughter.” “Oh, I know you better than that!” I scoff. No matter what, Robby's always stood on his own two feet. Besides, its obvious that the Goo’s are teetering on the brink of fame. One of the roadies invades our chat. “Some kid just came up and asked if this was Vic Chestnut’s bus.” Vic Chestnut is the guy who's opening the show. Oh well....

Dateline: Los Angeles, California
Johnny's the sensitive Goo Goo Doll. Robby's the bratty one, and their drummer, George Tutuska, is supposedly the quiet one. But George's persona is deceptive. He pens some of the more thoughtful lyrics for the Goo’s. Explains Robby, “He wrote “Salinas” and “There You Are.” He and John wrote “You Know What I Mean.” He and I wrote “Already There” on this record, which I think is pretty cool.” George also has a temper. "He has a bad habit of throwing his drums,” Robby once told me. Like the time years ago at the Limelight in New York, when the crowd thought they were too cool for the Goo’s. “I guess we weren’t New York enough for them?” Robby recalled. “They shut us off while we were playing, and George whipped his drums off the stage. They came dangerously close to hitting some guy who, unfortunately, was named Rocko, you get my drift?” Needless to say, George did not leave the incident unscathed. Now, at the Palace in L.A., he's sporting a huge bandage on his wrist, the result of an accident in Seattle. “I was having a temper tantrum,” he affirms. “It wasn’t an unprovoked temper tantrum. The monitor kept going, BOOOOOP! So loud that it was hurting like mad. I tried to kick it off the stage, and it knocked me off my stool. I hyper extended my wrist.” At least he's healed enough to do the gig. The audience goes wild, and I even hear a few people calling for songs from “Jed.” But the Goo’s aren't a few fans' secret pleasure anymore. Lots of people are getting turned on to them, and Warner Brothers is even throwing an after show party. While loads of important looking executives tell other important looking executives that they loved the Goo’s years ago, Johnny's rolling around on the floor in a wrestling match with an old friend. He gets up for a moment and just to be obnoxious, I ask him, “Do you feel like a huge rock star now?” “No. . .” In a couple of hours the Goo Goo Dolls’ bus will be headed east, and I won’t be seeing them for a while. But it's been fun being a fourth Goo again, along with about 1,000 other Palace attendees. As the evening draws to a close, I remember an offer Robby made to me a long, long time ago. “Anything we can do for you, we've got connections here in Buffalo,” he confided. “If you are looking for some good wings . . .” One of these days I'll have to take him up on that.
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