Moe Berg sings “Gretzy Rocks” but actually he likes the ‘Hawks

tpohpic

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, SEPT. 7, 1995

When The Pursuit of Happiness made a splash on the Canadian music scene with its 1988 Love Junk album, it was signed to Chrysalis Records. When 1993’s The Downward Road came out, the band had hooked up with the Mercury label. Now that the group’s new Where’s the Bone disc has been issued by the Iron Music Group, you might well ask: is TPOH leader Moe Berg just plain hard to get along with, or what?

“We always have such a crappy time,” says Berg, calling from the band’s Toronto base in advance of the cross-country tour that will bring it to the Town Pump on Wednesday and Thursday (September 13-14). “I mean, the problem, especially when signing with an American label, is that it tends to be so big that you’re usually counting on a few allies, who are going to be the ones at the company looking out for ya. So if they leave the company you’re kinda stranded, and that, unfortunately, is what happened to us in both those situations.”

Although frustrated by continual label-leaping, Berg has managed to keep a smile—or at least a cheeky glance—colouring his lyrics. The humorous bent of TPOH’s first single, “I’m an Adult Now”, is still in evidence on the satirical new tune “White Man”, which includes these lines: “We listen to Ice Cube and Chuckie D and pretend we’re gangstas in our bedroom mirrors/We like rap and funk and Marley and the Wailers, but when we hit 30 it’s Kenny G and James Taylor.”

“I just thought it would be a funny idea for a song,” says Berg. “A lot of our records have explored popular culture, and a lot of pop culture these days is white culture imitating black culture. So I sorta tried to go after the entire spectrum of the white experience, not just a particular part of it.”

Another track on Where’s the Bone that should elicit chuckles is “Gretzky Rocks”, a whimsical tribute to hockey’s all-time greatest player (next to Bobby Orr). Berg and his bandmates filmed a rather comical video to accompany the tune, but they didn’t convince the Great One to do a cameo. Maybe if they’d tossed in a few Domino’s pizzas…

“We actually talked to his people about the possibility of his father being in it,” says Berg, “and to see if we could get some old archival footage of him. But when the L.A. Kings missed the playoffs I think they were just too sensitive about the whole thing, and they kinda put the kibosh on it.”

One recurring line in “Gretzky Rocks” demands closer scrutiny—the one in which Berg prefaces his assertion that Gretzky rocks with the claim “Actually I like the Hawks.” Now, does he really like the Chicago Blackhawks, or does he just like the fact that their nickname rhymes with “rocks”? (He is sporting a hockey jersey in Where’s the Bone’s liner photo, but it’s not one of those sharp-looking Hawks road jerseys. It’s from some team called the Beavers.)

“No, no—that was just one of those happy coincidences,” says Berg of his lyrical declaration. “I really do like them. I’ve liked them ever since I was a kid.”

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