Even though the Goo Goo Dolls have been touring for more than 35 years, bass guitarist Robby Takac admits that there’s a song he still loves to play.
“My favorite song of the show is generally ‘Slide’ because we play it early, and everybody knows it. So we come out and play a couple of songs. Everybody might not know those songs, but as soon as we play ‘Slide,’ everybody’s in,” Takac says. “That’s probably my favorite on most nights. It’s hard to pick one in particular that I like just because they’re all fun to play.”
The Goo Goo Dolls will be playing that and many other tunes tonight as they rock Merriweather Post Pavilion with the Rockville-founded band O.A.R. on The Big Night Out Tour.
Although people tend to associate Takac with the Goos, he got started playing in rock bands years earlier.
“I’ve always been into music. I wasn’t all that athletic, not much of a debater. I just sort of leaned towards the things that I could do aside from run around in the woods and act like a nut,” he says while laughing. “I could kind of play guitar. A bunch of kids in my neighborhood that had a band, and nobody wanted to play bass. They all wanted to play guitar or drums or sing.
“You know how someone ends up the goalie? Well, I was sort of the goalie of the rock bands when I was young,” Takac says.
At the time, he was taking guitar lessons. But the kids had a bass. Takac eventually bought that bass from them and became the bass guitarist in that and the future bands he was in.
But it was when he met Johnny Rzeznik that everything would eventually skyrocket.
Touring in a Van
When they met, Rzeznik was playing in a punk band with Takac’s cousin, Paul, called The Beaumonts. At the time, Takac was playing more in rock bands, but had played a few gigs with them. He was also playing in a band called The Beat Generation with drummer George Tutuska.
Memorial Day, 1986 is the date Takac gives as when the Goos officially formed. At that time, the line-up featured Takac, Rzeznik, and Tutuska. Takac says that they played punk rock and were doing demos like crazy.
They started recording their first album at Track Master Recording Studios, which Takac owns today. And they played—a lot.
“We went to places like Heebie Jeebies, Maxwell’s, the Continental, and the 930 Club in Washington, D.C.,” he recalls. “That was our world. We’d drive around in our van and did that for 10 years until we learned how to make records, how to write songs, and Johnny became a confident singer. I sang almost our whole first record and most of our second record, and then John started singing more. So, we’ve been able to grow through this process. Most bands don’t make it through those drifts.”
Well, not the entire band came through. The band fired Tutuska, who was replaced with Mike Malinin, who would end up playing with them for 19 years. Today, Takac and Rzeznik remain the only original members.
Giving Out Demos on the Street
When the Goo Goo Dolls were in their infancy—pun totally intended—Takac says he and Rzeznik would travel to New York City from Buffalo and literally give their demo tapes to everyone and anyone.
“We’d wait out on the street in front of places and just hand our demos to people like at Warner Brothers or whatever—to anybody. It was crazy. But it’s funny because later on some of those people popped up again, and they’re like, ‘Oh my God—I remember you guys walked up to me in an elevator in 1987.’ Yeah, that sounds right,” says Takac, again laughing. “We were pretty ambitious. But I don’t know if we knew what was out there. I think we thought like when you signed a deal, they would hand you the keys to your castle or Rolls Royce. But it was so far away from what we thought was possible. We’re dudes from Buffalo. That didn’t happen to dudes from Buffalo.”
But it actually did.
Their first hit, “Name” came off their album A Boy Named Goo, which went to number one on the Billboard Charts.
These Buffalo boys would hit the stratosphere, though, in 1998, when Rzeznik was asked to pen a song for a movie.
Still Getting a Charge
Before City of Angels–the movie starring Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan–came out, Rzeznik was approached about writing a song for the soundtrack. The song he created was “Iris,” which not only became a mega-hit for the band and the soundtrack, but was also included on their 1998 album Dizzy Up the Girl.
Five years ago, the band did a 20th-anniversary tour to celebrate the iconic album. This year, for the 25th anniversary, it will be re-released as a special edition on vinyl in September.
Over the years, they’ve put out many more albums and always toured.
Although their most recent album Chaos in Bloom came out in 2022, the Goo Goo Dolls debuted a new single “Run All Night” on Good Morning America just before their current tour began in late July.
And even though they’ve probably played certain songs like “Iris” thousands upon thousands of times, Takac says he still loves it.
“’Iris’ is always amazing. Holy shit. If you don’t get a charge out of what happens when you play a song like that, then you should have a different job, man,” he says. “Energy comes from that song. When you have thousands of people in the mix singing it back to you, oh my God, it’s just awesome. It’s so much fun!”
For more concert info or to get tickets, go to the Merriweather Post Pavilion website.
Michele “Wojo” Wojciechowski is a national award-winning writer and author of the humor book Next Time I Move, They’ll Carry Me Out in a Box. Her work has appeared in publications such as Vanity Fair, Esquire, Parade, Discover, AARP, PBS’ Next Avenue, Family Circle, Reader’s Digest, and many more. Over the last few years, she’s been learning to play the drums and dreams of playing one song with the Foo Fighters. Oh yeah, and she’s got a Xena Warrior Princess costume hanging in her closet. Don’t ask. Reach her at WojosWorld.com, Twitter @TheMicheleWojo, Facebook WojosWorldFanPage.com.