The Goo Goo Dolls' original band name was just as goofy but not so G-rated.
Back in the early days, the band was known as the Sex Maggots.
"We were 19, 20 years old," founding band member, bassist and vocalist Robby Takac explains. "We were kids playing punk rock at the corner punk rock bar, waiting to meet college girls and drinking lots of beer. I wouldn’t say we were a great band, but we were the most positively exciting band."
That was 1985, when Takac was the lead vocalist and Johnny Rzeznik, now lead singer of the Goo Goo Dolls, was his backup man and guitarist. The sound was completely different from the band's latest ultra-pop disc "Miracle Pill," which dropped in September.
The first step in the group's sonic transformation came in 1995 with the release of "Name," the only acoustic track on the band's Warner Bros. record "A Boy Named Goo."
"We were still this really loud rock band, but we were known for this one kind of acoustic song, so it was a little bit of a weird place in our career," Takac recalls. "We would show up at radio shows and literally blow everyone against the back wall for 35 minutes, and then we'd play 'Name' at the end and everyone would go, 'Thank God!' "
Three years later, the Goo Goo Dolls' sixth studio album "Dizzy up the Girl" was released, with yet another step in a softer direction. "Slide," "Black Balloon" and the band's greatest achievement "Iris" were radio hits.
Rzeznik's vocals rose to the occasion of the emotional soft rock ballad: "And I'd give up forever to touch you / 'Cause I know that you feel me somehow / You're the closest to heaven that I'll ever be / And I don't wanna go home right now."
Takac says the band actually recorded "Iris" between albums but not specifically for "Dizzy up the Girl." It was thrown into the mix as an afterthought, and the resulting whirlwind led the Goo Goo Dolls in a new direction.
"Without that bridge, this band wouldn’t be what it is now," Takac says, adding with a chuckle, "If you listened to our first record and now our 12th record and told an alien it was the same band, he would not believe it in a million years."
Now, 33 years later and with help from four different producers, "Miracle Pill" indeed sounds like the work of a different band. The Sex Maggots have faded into a dusty memory; a pop band has risen.
Yet coming off a 20th anniversary "Dizzy up the Girl" tour, Takac says the Goo Goo Dolls are still, at heart, the same project they were when punk rock was the mainstay and tracks like "Iris" were the exception.
Live, the Goo Goo Dolls revert, perhaps more than expected, to their bygone days of hard rock with Takac's gritty lead on the mic and power chords radiating from Rzeznik.
"We’re still that same band," Takac says. "We never stopped being that band. We started doing other things, but that never went away. We just incorporated it into what we do."
The band strives to stay fresh by embracing different styles and working with a variety of producers.
"That process tends to pull the sound around into some areas it wouldn’t have (gone) if we were just sitting in a room in a vacuum making records," Takac says.
The Goo Goo Dolls performing live at the Gaillard Center on Sunday, Nov. 17 might not sound entirely like the "Name" and "Iris" balladeers of yesteryear, or the punk rock kids of the Sex Maggots, or even the electro-pop proponents of the present. Because there's a lot more to them than any one thing.
"You never think when you’re a kid that you’re gonna have kids and still be out here doing this," Takac says. "We’re in our third generation of fans. People are bringing their kids’ kids out, and that’s pretty exciting to me to know that it still works and that I was right."