Goo Goo Dolls' John Rzeznik – The Ten Records That Changed My Life

the goo goo dolls

Goo Goo Dolls main man John Rzeznik has been productive lately, in every sense. His wife Melina Gallo gave birth to their daughter, Liliana, in December. “She’s awesome,” he says. “It’s hard to be away from her, and I would have never thought that. I look at her and think, ‘Oh God, please don’t let me fuck this up!’ I was such a bad drunk for so long. I’ve been sober for three years now, and every now and then I think, ‘Hmm, maybe I could smoke a little bong before I go to bed’. But, no. I don’t do anything now.”

The Dolls’ 11th album Boxes came out last May and hit the US Top 30, and now they’re back and set to tour the US with their new EP You Should Be Happy. “The way the world’s going, it seems people won’t wait around for an album any more – you keep having to put songs out as you write them. And I’m a lazy bastard too, if I can I’ll wait two years before I write a song. But I had good material, so we just decided to put it out.”

And as for the ten records that changed his life? “It’s so hard to pick just ten!” he shouts with happy anguish. “Damn The Torpedoes is my favourite Tom Petty album, I loved [Genesis’s] Duke, Simple Minds’ New Gold Dream, but these are the albums I got into early that have just stuck with me…”

Sweet - Desolation Boulevard (1975, (US))

“This is the first one that really did it for me, and opened my eyes to what music could be. I was in grade school, about 11 years old. I love that guitar sound, and I’ve always been a sucker for a hook – I mean, Ballroom Blitz is on this album [the US release].”

Kiss – Alive II (1977)

“One of older guys in my neighbourhood gave me his copy. It was when I was first fiddling around with music, starting to pick up the guitar. This was Kiss at the height of their powers, for me it was the whole spectacle of the thing. I never did get to see them – my mother wouldn’t let me go – but I listened to that record a lot.”

The Enemies – Products Of The Street (1980)

“The Enemies were a local punk band in Buffalo, a bit more straight-ahead influenced by the New York Dolls and the Ramones. They were the first band I snuck into a club to see. Products Of The Street was their first EP, and I loved the cover, a cartoon of the band breaking out of prison. The song I really like on it’s called Disconnected.”

Various Artists – Urgh! A Music War OST (1982)

“This record was always around our house, my sister got me into it. It’s a documentary with no narration, all about the punk and new wave bands of the time. It’s crazy how much good music I got turned on to through this: The Police, XTC, Gang Of Four – bands I really loved when I was starting out.”

Echo & The Bunnymen – Heaven Up Here (1981)

“Echo & The Bunnymen were on Urgh! too, and they were massively influential on me. I was dating this really cool girl from the other side of town, her parents were these intellectuals who let her smoke in her bedroom when she was 15. Where I grew up there was a slaughterhouse and an oil refinery, and she lived in this heady world. She turned me on to Heaven Up Here, and I came to really love it, and the band.”

The Clash – London Calling (1979)

“I didn’t really have any friends in high school, but then I made friends with a guy who took me under his wing. All his friends were into music like this, and London Calling just reminds me of the great, great times I had with them. And it taught me a huge lesson: you can write songs that aren’t about cars and girls. There was this amazing urgency to it that was completely lacking in mainstream music where I was at the time.”

The Clash – Sandinista! (1980)

“I know, another Clash album, but I was so into this band. Sandinista! has this melancholy feel to it, it’s like you’re digging in the dark for where you’ll end up. I think they were trying to expand their sound, to grow, which is what you have to do. I made a playlist of my favourite songs on it – you can make one incredible album out of it [it’s a triple album]. It’s a record you listen to while smoking some pot, and get into it, for a whole day!”

Joe Jackson – I’m The Man (1979)

“It’s just a brilliant record. It starts with On Your Radio which is a super great fucking song, Different For Girls is on there. Then there’s Look Sharp! too. I used to have a 10-inch maxi single and it had a Look Sharp! button [badge] you could pull out and wear, and I would. Joe’s such a great songwriter. I really have always been a sucker for a hook, no matter whose it is.”

Depeche Mode – Construction Time Again (1983)

“I always thought Martin Gore’s songwriting was incredible. Their lyrics were so good, and it was something different, they made a unique sound that I’d never heard before. I really liked the videos they did with Anton Corbijn too. We tried to do a cool acoustic cover of Somebody [from Some Great Reward] but the way he sings it is so British there was no way I could wrench it away and make it my own.”

The Replacements – Tim (1985)

“I’d just started college when I heard Tim, and it just filled the hole in my soul. It was romantic, in a tough way, and it had so much swagger. There’s some duds on there – Dose Of Thunder and I’ll Buy are throwaway tracks – but Left Of The Dial was the one for me. In the States, all the college radio stations were way down, left of the dial. For me it was all about that underground college scene we grew up playing. It speaks of another time. It’s over 30 years old now – I’m so fucking old!”

The Goo Goo Dolls You Should Be Happy EP is out now. Buy it from Amazon UK or US. Visit their website for tour dates.

“I was in a bad spot”: the darkness behind the Goo Goo Dolls’ new album

Grant Moon

A music journalist for over 20 years, Grant writes regularly for titles including Prog, Classic Rock and Total Guitar, and his CV also includes stints as a radio producer/presenter and podcast host. His first book, 'Big Big Train - Between The Lines', is out now through Kingmaker Publishing.