To me the ’90s gets little respect. Maybe it’s just too recent to garner the reminiscences of millennials or late GenXers. Its likely to be best known for grunge in it’s beginning and the emergence of hip hop towards the end. Somewhere in the middle were bands like Matchbox 20, Third Eye Blind and the Goo Goo Dolls. The later was one of the decade’s biggest post-grunge sellers. The Goo Goo Dolls, like their contemporaries, cashed in on grunge’s loosened grip on the charts by taking the best of it (angst, passionate vocal style and energy) sans the thrift store gloom and slacker aesthetic.
The Buffalo, NY based band combined elements of punk, hard rock and pop to create a relaxed sound that had mass appeal without being offensive. Exactly the kind of music I might have ignored a decade earlier. They were in many ways the new Rick Springfield. In fact the band’s fifth and biggest selling album A Boy Named Goo, produced enough singles to keep the Goo Goo Dolls on heavy rotation for more than a year. One of five successful singles, Name achieved the unusual feat of charting on the Adult Contemporary, Modern Rock and Pop charts all at the same time. During this time it was still possible to hear the Goo Goo Dolls on college radio, the place where they got their start.
That kind of appeal is unusual, but is due in part to the happy upbeat songs by the band’s lead vocalist/guitarist John Rzeznik and bassist Robby Takac. The Goo Goo Dolls may have started out sounding like a Buffalo Tom understudy, but they eventually became the darlings of public space background music systems everywhere.
That’s not saying they should not have or that sold out. Known as a hard working band on stage, all of the Goo Goo Doll’s releases up to A Boy Named Goo had exactly 14 tracks. Although I have never seen them in concert, I did by chance briefly meet Reznik while he was in town at Nationwide Arena (to support Bon Jovi’s Bounce Tour). While leaving the locker room of my downtown gym, he came out on his way to his hotel. The surprising encounter was candid proof that Rzenik was a down to earth and approachable person, despite his celebrity status. It made me appreciate the band even more.
My interest would be fleeting, but A Boy Named Goo is likely to be one of those albums that will become more appreciated as people began to examine the 90 with the fuzzy reminiscing that happens as we get older. However, you don’t need to wait years down the road to enjoy for yourself the Goo Goo Dolls at their critical and commercial best.