The Sex Maggots are coming to Connecticut. Or at least, they would have been — had the Goo Goo Dolls not changed their name 20 years ago. As legend has it, the band was forced to find a new moniker when a club owner refused to put the old name on his marquee. So the boys flipped through a copy of True Detective magazine and settled on a change after finding an advertisement for a “Goo Goo Doll.”
“That’s how the folklore goes,” says bassist/vocalist Robby Takac. “[Goo Goo Dolls] doesn’t really mean anything … The first name was bad, so we moved on to another bad name, got 15,000 fans, and were afraid to change it … At the time, we thought [the name] was just really inappropriate for what we were doing in that post-punk era that we were sort of wallowing around in.”
Takac and the Goo Goo Dolls will perform March 23 at Sacred Heart University’s 2,100-seat Pitt Center in Fairfield, Conn. The 8:00 p.m. concert will be the 31st stop on the group’s latest tour, which will conclude with a trip to the United Kingdom in August. After a tour centered around Jumbotron graphics and calculated choreography, Takac is looking forward to playing in Sacred Heart’s modest arena, where he suspects the group will have more of a chance to improvise. He’s also looking forward to the antics of the local crowds.
““The entire New England area tends to be a pretty hard-drinking part of the country, so the crowds are always great in that part of the world,” Takac says.
Since forming in 1985, the Goo Goo Dolls have released ten albums, including the power-pop classic “Dizzy Up the Girl” (1998), which sold over 3 million copies. The song “Iris,” originally recorded for the “City of Angels” soundtrack, spent 18 weeks at the top of Billboard’s airplay charts. According to publicist Amanda Hanson, the Goo Goo Dolls recently set a record for most Top 10 Hits in adult-rock history with their 12th chart-topper, “Let Love In,” the title track of their 2006 album.
But the group has only enjoyed mainstream fame in the latter half of its existence. The initial half consisted of scrounging for gigs and looking for part-time work in the band’s hometown of Buffalo, N.Y.
“The first nine years were spent searching for gigs and odd jobs — or for a girlfriend with an apartment,” Takac says. “That would work, too.”
At one point, Takac found himself getting paid to read advertisements for toilet companies, while lead singer Johnny Rzeznik ended up selling hot dogs and roasted peanuts at a concession stand.
The Goo Goo Dolls’ meteoric rise began a few months after the release of the group’s fifth album, “A Boy Named Goo” (1995), when a Los Angeles radio station placed the single “Name” on heavy rotation. With this increased exposure, the song vaulted into the national Top Five, and the album went platinum.
“We’re really lucky to have slid in under that big iron gate that seems to have closed on the music industry,” Takac says. “These days, bands don’t get a chance to grow their own sound. Record companies don’t take chances anymore — they can’t afford to. Nobody’s buying music.”
Takac laments the way high-speed downloading has changed the music industry, but loves how the Internet has given credibility to many up-and-coming artists. If a record company is being stingy or tries to undercut a band, the group can turn around and say, “Tell that to my 200,000 MySpace friends,” he says.
Meanwhile, Takac is fired up for the group’s impending trip to Connecticut, home of the PEZ dispenser. The bassist started collecting the candy dispensers eight years ago when fans began threw them onto the stage; Takac now owns over 1,700.
“My fondest memory is touring the factory in Orange,” Takac says. “My house is piled like 18 feet high with PEZ dispensers. It’s crazy.”