The Goo Goo Dolls' 25th-anniversary tour heads to Atlantic City

InterviewJuly 9, 2011NYDailyNews

It was the mid-1980s, and pop music seemed more preoccupied with Madonna's fashion statements than with what it was trying to say. The scene was filled with a parade of hair bands that mangled into a huge mess.

In Southern California, New York and elsewhere, groups went in another direction and created alternative rock — one of them from, of all places, Buffalo. That was a quarter century ago.

The Goo Goo Dolls are 25 years old and they're still going strong with a record called "Something for the Rest of Us." Critics have given it mixed reviews, but the CD is an awesome listen to fans who long ago accepted their angst-driven lyrics. The group also has a track on the new "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" movie soundtrack titled "All That You Are."

Currently on a lengthy tour, the Dolls have their sights on a trip to Atlantic City in two weeks to play the Showroom at the Tropicana on Saturday, July 23.

Lead singer John Rzeznik says the album addresses "the uncertainty of the times we are living in." It obviously isn't the feel-good platter of 2011. But it is fiercely honest.

He cites, for example, the fourth track, "Notbroken," which he wrote after receiving a letter from a woman whose husband was wounded in Iraq. He was paralyzed and didn't want to come home.

"He felt like he was less of the person" he was before, says Rzeznik. "She just wanted him to know that he's still everything that she ever wanted," and writing the song was like penning a love letter on her behalf.

Rzeznik is less inclined to talk about the meaning behind "Soldier," which also deals with a man rejoining society. Rzeznik told a listener who was convinced it was about a G.I. returning from war: "Actually, it's not about a soldier at all. The song is a metaphor for alcoholism. Everybody has an alcoholic in their lives at some point in time, and that is what I was thinking about when I wrote the song. But there is room for interpretation. I'm not a preacher. If it means something else to you, that's cool. Actually, it's flattering that it can mean other things to other people."

He didn't reveal who "Soldier" is about or whether it might be autobiographical.

When the Goo Goo Dolls first got together in Buffalo in 1986 it was for no other reason than just a way to kill time. "We sort of figured out how to write songs," says Rzeznik.

The others were bassist Robby Takac and drummer George Tutuska. Twenty-five years later, Rzeznik and Takac are still in harmony; Tutuska left in 1996 to pursue other interests and was replaced by Mike Malinin. Despite their tendency to explore the dark, "we're all feel-good," the front man insists. "I mean, a lot of people we know aren't working. So, basically, it's shut up and do your job. It's so amazing that we can still do what we want to do and be successful at it. We're very grateful for that and it's due to our fans, no question."

They started out as the Sex Maggots, but when producers refused to book them they changed their name to a kids toy they'd spotted in an ad. They hit stardom when "Iris," from the "City of Angels" movie soundtrack, became a megahit and was nominated for Record of the Year at the 1998 Grammys.

Yet despite all their success, "Something for the Rest of Us" did not evolve easily.

"Recording it was the hard part," says Rzeznik. "After we did the last song, it didn't sound right to me. Sonically, it wasn't correct. We'd felt rushed. So we went back to the producers and told them we wanted to work on it some more. Fortunately, they told us to go ahead — to make the best record we could. I mean, there's no point in putting out something that is mainly s—t in and s—t out."

The relationship between Rzeznik and Takac has endured fights, arguments and the everyday ups and downs of any collaboration. But it remains very special.

"He is the brother I never had," says Rzeznik. "Sure, we yell at each other when we are working. We are strong individuals."

Rzeznik is already working on another studio album. "You no longer can take three years between records," he says. "I never used to write while touring, but I've been doing a lot of writing during this tour. Some mornings, I'll wake up suddenly with an idea for a song. I get up and start messing with a guitar. Later, I'll polish it up and see if the other guys like it."

It could be that the push is on because Rzeznik is now 45, even though the youthful energy is still there.

"The fact is, the world is moving very quickly," he says.

The Goo Goo Dolls also play the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, N.J., on July 22, and the Jones Beach Theater in Wantagh, L.I., on July 24.