Berg's Pursuit of Happiness Hits Roadblocks

by David Howell, Edmonton Journal, September 7, 1995

Oh, no. Woe is Moe.

Moe Berg, the St. Albert native who fronts Toronto band The Pursuit of Happiness, doesn't show any signs of actually finding happiness.

At least not in the music business, which he says is about anything but music.

"When I first got into this I thought, 'Well, if you're a good band and you write good songs, then you know, the world will be your oyster,'" the singer-songwriter says over soup at a Jasper Avenue bistro.

"In my career that certainly has had very little to do with being successful."

The Pursuit of Happiness is one of four bands playing Saturday at a U of A WOW (week of welcome) dance at the Convention Centre. From opener to headliner they are Taste of Joy, Captain Tractor, TPOH and Vancouver's Odds.

Berg's last in Edmonton for a well-received solo performance at the folk festival, is back here promoting a new album, Where's the Bone (Iron Music Group/BMG).

A hit (I Should Know, Glamourous Death) and miss (Gretzky Rocks, White Man) affair, it's better than 1993's sex-obsessed The Downward Road but not up to the same standards as 1987's Love Junk or 1990's One-Sided Story.

Where's the bone is the fourth TPOH album and Iron Music is the band's third label, which begins to explain why Berg is bitter about the business of music. Dumped from Chrysalis after the first two albums and then by Mercury after The Downward Road, he's seen enough exit doors to make his blood boil.

"What's happened to us traditionally is that we get in with a record company and then the people who got us into that company either leave or are fired. And then basically you become someone else's project and you develop almost this pariah status. That's been really tough for us. I certainly don't feel like we've been treated all that well, but then again maybe it's just the nature of the business."

Or maybe it's because Berg doesn't agree with the prevailing industry wisdom that ties artistic merit to record sales.

"The nature of the business is you're expected to sell a record to every single possible consumer. It's like Tide or something like that. And if your record doesn't seem like it's going to appeal to everybody, suddenly you've lost your value as an artist.

"The problem is I never expected lots of people to like our band anyway."

If he wanted to, Berg could trace a lot of his woes back to I'm An Adult Now, the surprise hit single from Love Junk, itself a classic alternative Canadian pop album. Adult Now sold more than 100,000 copies in Canada and robbed TPOH of a lot of street credibility in the process. But Berg remains proud of the song and says he never tires of playing it.

"I think if someone's gonna drop down their 50 cents to come and see The Pursuit of Happiness play, they have a right to hear the hit, you know? And realistically it sort of got us in the door. I never expected it (to be a hit). It was just one of the songs in our repertoire. It wasn't like this is the song we're going to base all our hopes and dreams on. We just thought it was the song that would make the best video.

"I never thought it was our best song and I never think about it when I'm writing a song now."

Copyright 1995 Edmonton Journal

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