Power popsters' pursuit of stardom brought step closer with record deal

by John Mackie, Vancouver Sun, November 8, 1988

Well, looky here: Ten years on, some of the artists involved in the original Canadian punk/New Wave scene are getting long-overdue recognition from the mainstream music industry.

Duke Street Records gave Vancouver's Art Bergmann the chance to display his tortured muse before the nation. CBS has picked up Cross Our Hearts, the latest album by Jeff Hatcher (long a Winnipeg favourite for his Graham Parker/Dave Edmunds-style pub-rock).

And now Chrysalis in New York has finally given Edmonton's Moe Berg the chance to showcase his band, the Pursuit of Happiness, before the world.

The word "finally" is key, because for the last three years, the Pursuit of Happiness have seemed on the verge of stardom - or at least of getting the chance to become stars.

In 1986, the band made a video for I'm An Adult Now, an irresistibly driving pop-rocker. It became a MuchMusic favourite, and WEA inked a deal to distribute the single.

But although the band "talked to a hundred record companies," nothing happened until Kate Hyman of Chrysalis New York flew to Winnipeg to see the band last winter.

Conditions couldn't have been worse - the temperature was 40 degrees below zero, the band was playing a "fern bar" called Bananas, and the club owner wouldn't let the band do a sound check - but Hyman was impressed, and said she was going to sign the band that night.

Less than a year later, we have Love Junk, a rip-roaring slice of hard pop produced by Todd Rundgren.

It showcases Berg's slightly warped sense of humour and life - there's an "apocalyptical" love-gone- wrong song called Killed By Love and a "bittersweet" treatment of suicide, When the Sky Comes Falling Down.

"Pop music is maligned as lightweight stuff, but it's the music I like best," says Berg, who leads TPOH into the Town Pump tonight. "Music like the Raspberries, Todd Rundgren, early Who and Beatles.

"I think a lot of the problem is that people don't really push out the parameters (of pop). That's hopefully what I'm doing with the Pursuit of Happiness...Hopefully you can talk about something that's mildly interesting to people in their 20's and yet still be tuneful and aggressive."

I'm An Adult Now is such a song. It's a coming-of-age anthem, powered by relentless, thundering guitars.

"I've always thought of myself as a kid, immature, and I suddenly realized I wasn't, that there were things I couldn't do anymore," explains Berg, who relocated to Toronto in 1985. "The real message of the song is the third verse. 'I can't take anymore illicit drugs - I'd sure look like a fool, dead in a ditch somewhere.'

"There's this kid in Toronto who took acid at a Pink Floyd concert and he fell into Lake Ontario and drowned. People die of drugs all the time, but if you're 14 and die of drugs, that's a tragedy. If you're 29, then people just think you're kind of a moron."

Copyright The Vancouver Sun and Pacific Press 1988

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