One thing many songwriters suffer from is writer’s block. It’s when you’re not inspired and nothing comes. One of the best known cures is to write everyday and approach your song writing from different angles, probably easier said than done. Quite often after a long period of not managing to put pen to paper, all of a sudden it flows and that happened to songwriter John Rzeznik who is the lead singer and guitarist with the New York based trio the Goo Goo Dolls.
They formed in Buffalo in 1986 with Robby Takac on bass and drummer George Tututska. Takac was the original lead singer because John was too shy but he eventually overcame this. They picked their name from a True Detective ad for a toy called a Goo Goo Doll. John remembered, “We were young and we were a garage band not trying to get a deal. We had a gig that night and needed a name. It’s the best we came up with, and for some reason it stuck. If I had had five more minutes, I definitely would have picked a better name.”
In 1987 they signed to Mercenary records and released their debut self-titled album, the following year they changed to Celluloid records and released their second album, Jed. It was with their third album, Hold Me Up in 1990 that they made their mark in America. Their next album, called Name, was their fifth and was called A Boy Named Goo, but soon after recording it Rzeznik and Takac decided to replace Tutuska with a new drummer Mike Malinin. After a legal dispute with their record label, they re-signed to Warner Brothers and released their sixth album, Dizzy Up The Girl. This brought more success which led to a cameo appearance on Beverly Hills 90210.
It was in 1998 that Rzeznik suffered from writer’s block and was on the verge of quitting the band when he was approached to write a song for the film City Of Angels. He accepted the offer and the result was Iris. The song came fairly easily and John explained how, “I think the biggest difference is when writing the songs for a film, you sort of have your subject matter in front of you and the concepts right in front of you. The emotional aspects of whatever part of the film you are writing for are laid out in front of you. It gives me a bit of a format to work under, you know to work with. When you are writing songs strictly for yourself, sometimes you’re pulling stuff out of your hat. You’re sort of making up stories or reflecting on conversations you had with someone. I think it’s easier to write songs for film because you have that road map in front of you and put the pieces together.”
Iris is about a person with an invisible identity who no one understands. Then, he finds true love. He wants his true love to know that he exists and that she is the only person in the world who can understand and love him – hence the last line, ‘I just want you to know who I am.’ The name Iris was inspired by a Country singer named Iris DeMent, whose name Rzeznik came across while reading a magazine.
The song topped the U.S Billboard airplay chart for a record 18 weeks but in the UK, despite masses of radio airplay, it stalled at number 50. The follow up, Slide, only went seven places higher but it gave their UK record label, Hollywood, incentive to re-issue Iris, but without the budget for vast promotion it disappeared from the chart after only two weeks although it did peak higher at number 26.
In October 2011 the song got a new lease of life when two X Factor contestants, Frankie Cocozza and Joe Cox, both performed it on the show. Unlike most of the X factor winners and contestants whose career has a limited shelf life, this song had the appeal and remained on the chart for over 30 weeks and reached a new high of number three some thirteen years after its initial release.
The track has also proved popular as a first dance at weddings including Avril Lavigne who chose it to start her evening when she married Sum 41 frontman Deryck Whibley in 2006. The same year Ronan Keating decided to have a go at it and somehow took it to number 15 in the UK chart, but thankfully after four weeks it was gone.