For kicks, Goo Goo Dolls bassist Robby Takac logged on to eBay shortly before the May 29 release of “What I Learned About Ego, Opinion, Art & Commerce (1987-2000)” (Warner), a collection of remixes of previously released recordings.
He learned all he needed to know about entrepreneurship, audacity, greed and ingenuity from that online auction site.
“It’s astonishing to see, when some folks were finding out this record was coming out, how fast they were putting together bogus copies of it,” Takac said recently. “They were sorting through our records, grabbing things and putting together their own compilations and pawning it off as a pre-release.
“It’s a little disturbing, but then I got to thinking, imagining myself putting the records through my own player and seeing the disparity between the recordings done on 16-track in 1986 versus the stuff done at Ocean Way (Studios) in 1999. It must be pretty amazing.”
In-the-know Goo Goo Dolls fans will appreciate the real deal. The 22-track set features such remastered favorites as “We Are the Normal,” “Burnin’ Up,” “Eyes Wide Open,” “Girl Right Next to Me” and “Bulletproof.” Newly converted fans, who propelled the Goos into a long-overdue overnight sensation in 1995 with the modern-rock hit “Name,” will discover such overlooked gems as “Two Days in February,” “I’m Addicted,” “Up Yours,” “Laughing,” “Just the Way You Are” and “Another Second Time Around.”
The disc also contains a “pass key,” giving fans access to a Web site devoted to vintage video clips, photos and unreleased tracks.
For Takac and band mates John Rzeznik (vocals-guitar) and Mike Malinin (drums), “Ego, Opinion, Art & Commerce” was a strange trip down memory lane.
“We tried to do it from the beginning of our career to the present,” he said, “and it didn’t work so well. We found that when we put it in reverse, it made a little bit more sense. It made it more cohesive that way. Our fear was that the record would fall apart as it went on, but it became more urgent. By the end, you’re waiting for the thing to jump out of your CD player. It was a very enjoyable period for us to look back at all this as an observer.
“I hear a song like ‘On the Lie’ and it makes me go, ‘Holy cow, I remember the first time (John) played that for me!’ And all the things that seemed like a stretch at the time don’t seem like such a stretch anymore. That’s part of the ability to age with grace. No one ever said from record to record, ‘Whoa, what are you guys doing?’ We grew up as the records grew up, but I don’t think we noticed it until now.”
The collection initially was intended only for international release on Third Rail/Hollywood, which handles the Goo Goo Dolls outside North America. The international version, with a shortened title (“Ego, Opinion, Art & Commerce”), is slightly different, containing “Name” instead of “Eyes Wide Open.”
“We were just starting out to do this as an overseas thing,” Takac said. “We hadn’t had much exposure overseas over the years. Last year, for the first time, we actually spent a little time traveling around and stuff. We approached Hollywood with this idea, half selfishly because I think 15 years later there’s usually a few songs that you probably wouldn’t mind getting back at again, get another swipe at it. It was nice to be able to go in and do that.
“The people at Hollywood were like, ‘Wow, that’s a pretty cool idea.’ It was going to be an Internet-access thing. Warner got a look at it and thought it was cool, too. I think they were a little leery at first; I think they thought people might sort of consider this our next record or it might confuse people. The music business, in general, I think underestimates the intelligence of the public.”
The music industry has long underestimated the Goo Goo Dolls since their inception 16 years ago in their native Buffalo, N.Y. Rzeznik, Takac and original drummer George Tutuska emerged from the underground rock scene and toured incessantly until catching the attention of Metal Blade Records in 1988. By their third album (“Hold Me Up”) in 1991, Warner took over distribution and exposed the band to a wider audience.
“Superstar Car Wash,” released in 1993, opened more alternative-rock doors, thanks to the anthematic “We Are the Normal.” The follow-up LP, 1995’s “A Boy Named Goo,” took them into the platinum stratosphere.
But nothing could have prepared them for the stunning ballad “Iris,” which appeared on the “City of Angels” film soundtrack and the group’s sixth album, “Dizzy Up the Girl,” in 1998. “Iris” broke several radio airplay records and topped six different Billboard charts. “Dizzy Up the Girl” sold more than 4 million copies and spawned more hits – “Slide,” “Black Balloon,” “Dizzy” and “Broadway.”
“Maybe with this new record, when the big book on rock is written some day,” Takac said, “people won’t focus in on these last three years and go, ‘Well, that was interesting, but where’d you come from?’
“We’ve been trapped in this sort of odd P.R. vortex. A lot of people dig what they know about us, but there’s some other avenues that probably haven’t been brought to the full attention of the world public. Even in the United States, people don’t know we’ve been putting out records this long, so this album was a good opportunity for us to open up a little bit and show some other things.”
Has “Iris” set the bar even higher for the Goos?
“It’s funny, we just had a long discussion about that last night,” Takac said. “Do you think about it? Yes, I guess you have to, but in the long run, is it going to affect what you do? Hopefully not. We never knew any of those songs were going to be huge; as we were recording them, I don’t think we went, ‘Ah, this is it.’ As a matter of fact, we buried ‘Name’ in ‘A Boy Named Goo,’ and that’s probably why it took 10 months to take off.
“As soon as we start worrying about that kind of stuff, shit starts flowing down and the process gets a little bit diluted. You just hope you can keep it out of your mind and just make your next record. We try to stick to that.
“It used to be that we put our record and of the 15 people who needed to like it, 13 liked it, everything would be great. We’d go out and do our little tour and play to the folks who liked us. Now it’s a little different; there’s a little tension involved. The best thing you can do is separate yourself from it all.”
The trio is going full steam ahead, returning to the studio this summer to record a follow-up to “Dizzy Up the Girl.”
“We have piles of quarter-finished, half-finished, three-quarters-finished ideas,” Takac said. “We started this week with (producer) Rob Cavallo working on preproduction for the record, so we’re slated to go into the studio July 15 and hopefully getting it out this year, but a lot of it depends on 150,000 things.”
THE FIRST RECORD I EVER BOUGHT: “I owned ‘Rubber Duckie’ and other stuff like that, but the first one I recall going on my own and buying was ‘Through the Past Darkly,’ a Rolling Stones greatest hits. I’ve bought it 23 times since.”
THE FIRST CONCERT I EVER WENT TO: “Same thing, Rolling Stones, in 1974 at Rich Stadium in Buffalo. Soon after that, I saw Todd Rundgren on a toboggan hill in eastern New York. You know how in Florida they’ll have concerts on beaches? In Buffalo, we have summer concerts on toboggan hills. I saw Todd and about 12 local bands when I was like 7 and I remember standing there going, ‘Okay, this is wild.’ It was chock full of hippies and you’re a kid going ‘What the hell is this?’ I loved every minute of it.”
NOW, ABOUT THAT “EGO, OPINION, ART & COMMERCE” ALBUM TITLE …: “It was something that Johnny had heard. He was reading a book and there was a statement from somebody about having scars from the battle of ego, opinion, art and commerce. We thought, ‘Oh, my god, what a great way to explain the music industry and our involvement in it.’ There’s a fine balance between the things you’re allowed to do, the things you like to do and the things you’re physically able to do. I don’t think that’s any different from life in general. I’ve often felt that the life of a plumber or a contractor isn’t any more full of bullshit that mine is. I know that plumbers don’t have quite the egos that the people in the music industry do. We all run into the same problems, though. As scary as doing this is every day and as scary as knowing that the next record could bomb, it’s even scarier thinking you’re starting again from ground zero. Any time you start thinking, ‘This is bullshit; I can’t take this anymore,’ I start to think of the options and go, ‘Wow, this isn’t that bad at all.’ “
GOO GOO DOLLS ON THE WEB: Get gooey with the Goo Goo Dolls @ www.googoodolls.com. Other fan sites – FabFay’s Goo Goo Dolls Page, Joe Goo’s Goo Goo Dolls Online, World of Goo, Rag Doll’s Goo Goo Doll Page, Gooshow.com, Matt’s Goo Goo Dolls Page, Goo-Tasia.
BWF (before we forget): The Goo Goo Dolls album discography – “First Release” (Metal Blade, 1987); “Goo Goo Dolls” (1987); “Jed” (1989); “Hold Me Up” (1990); “Superstar Car Wash” (Metal Blade/Warner, 1993); “A Boy Named Goo” (1995); “Dizzy Up the Girl” (Warner, 1998); “What I Learned About Ego, Opinion, Art & Commerce (1987-2000)” (2001); “Gutterflower” (2002).
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