By Matt Carmichael
The story of the Goo Goo Dolls is not a fairy tale. Not by any means.

Sure, it's got humble beginnings in a working class town. It's got the Prince Charming character, played by a KROQ program director, who lifts them out of obscurity. It's got the hit that puts them on the charts after years of hard work. But no detail of the tale is sexy or spectacular. It's all a touch above average, never quite vaulting to a new height. To hear front man Johnny Rzeznik tell it, the story is more like a text book.

Rockers take note, he's got a lot to teach.

Rzeznik, and current bandmates bassist Robby Takac and drummer Mike Malinin are a three-piece rock machine. They don't try to hide it and they don't want to be anything but a rock band. It's a formula that finally worked for them.

Success does not come overnight for the vast majority of bands. It took almost a decade before the Goo Goo Dolls had a real hit single in 1995's "Name," from their fifth album, A Boy Named Goo. They were on the road for much of that time. "It took so long for that record [Name] to break. We played more than 400 shows on that album," Rzeznik said from his home in Buffalo.

When it broke, it didn't signal some drastic change in their career on stage. "We were opening for Bush (I can't believe we did that). Nobody knew who we were until we played that song. Then everybody stopped throwing shoes at us for a second, but as soon as Name was over they started throwing shoes again."

"You guys like Bush," Rzeznik joked. "I should throw something back."

Nor have continued success with "Long Way Down" from the movie Twister and "Lazy Eye" off the Batman and Robin soundtrack changed life off the stage. "I live in the same town. I moved up the street a little bit. My life is ruled by a dog," comments Rzeznik, not about his wife Laurie, but his golden lab Chloe. "Every morning I get up and I have to mop up a puddle of pee."

Rzeznik cautions younger bands to keep everything in perspective and take it slow. A bad decision can costs years of pain -- and legal problems. "You have to be patient and you have to have faith in what you do. If one A&R guy comes knocking on your door, five more will follow."

The Goo Goo Dolls just wrapped up a nasty lawsuit with their first label, Metal Blade, which taught them something they wish they had known at the outset. "You have to have proper legal advice before you decide to try and make your living playing rock music. Don't ask a divorce lawyer for advice about the music industry. Get yourself an ENTERTAINMENT lawyer. (caps left in at Rzeznik's request)."

But after all the hardship of the real rock n roll lifestyle... the one lived on a tour bus playing state fairs to pay the rent ... Rzeznik still has faith. "There are a lot of great bands that will never get their chance to be heard because of the way the industry is set up and that's just the way with everything. But I really, really... I gotta believe that if you're talented, if you're really talented and you really put forth the effort you're gonna do well. You might not be Bono, but you'll do well."

That's the approach Rzeznik himself takes. "If I take my guitar and write a good song and mean it, there's always a place for it."

But he's been around to learn that there is no permanency in this business. That place might not always be at the top of the charts. As he and the rest of the Goo Goo Dolls work in the studio on their next album (target date spring '98) they're being realistic about the expectations. Rzeznik says he's not out to write another 'Name' but he's "perfectly aware that the road ahead is paved littered with the carcasses of bands who had one big record and then BOOM!"

But they're going to keep going. Once the album is out it'll be back on the road for them. In the meantime they still play gigs around, to pay the bills. "I keep my toiletry bag parked on the side of the vanity. I haven't hung my tooth brush up yet," said Rzeznik.

If they keep on the track they're on, the next chapter should be a positive one. It will still remain a hard road for these rockers, even now that they've got their Name.