In the Spotlight

Moe Berg: Bungalow Rocker - National music legend Moe Berg recalls his suburban upbringing

July, 2019

Moe Berg doesn’t remember much about St. Albert, frankly because there wasn’t much here to begin with.

“When we moved into our crescent on Grandin, it was brand new. There were still lots that hadn’t been developed. It was just being built up,” he says.

If you wanted to do anything aside from grocery shopping you had to go into Edmonton. There was the Klondike Inn and the Dairy Queen–everybody remembers the Dairy Queen–and that’s about it.

St. Albert only exploded after Berg moved to Toronto in the early 1980s. He found fame and fortune with his band The Pursuit of Happiness, and its massive 1986 hit I’m An Adult Now. With renewed interest in the band owing to the 30th anniversary of their debut album Love Junk, the band returns to perform at the Edmonton Rock Music Festival in Hawrelak Park on Saturday, Aug. 17.

“We never broke up,” Berg says, so you really can’t call this a “comeback.”

The singer and guitarist has visited family and friends at least twice a year since he moved, so he’s seen St. Albert grow in six-month increments from sleepy town into booming city. “Part of me wishes it had been more like that when I was a kid, but I’m happy I grew up when I did, when there weren’t a lot of distractions.”

His creative development occurred inside a bubble. He describes his childhood as “very idyllic,” despite the fact he and his four siblings were abandoned by their father when he was seven years old. Fred Berg was a country singer. Moe has a happy memory of his dad letting him strum an open-tuned acoustic guitar during a living room jam.

When dad left, “we soldiered on,” Berg says. In the summer, Mom would open the door in the morning and let the kids roam free, calling them in for lunch or dinner and bedtime. She never had to worry. The kids played street hockey in the winter. Not many times you had to stop the game (“Car!”) in their quiet cul-de-sac.

“You could just be a kid–and not have the same sort of pressures that my kids have on them,” says Berg, a married father of two. “We just played, played music, talked about records, and that’s what life was.”

His first exposure to live concerts came from school dances. Even in junior high schools back in the day they’d have live bands. “And I was in awe of all of them,” recalls Berg.

His records were a big influence: The Clash, Buzzcocks, The Ramones. He says, “When I first heard The Sex Pistols I thought I was going to lose my mind, it was just so amazing.” A couple of friends brought over a UK copy of The Sex Pistols’ 1977 single Pretty Vacant before it was released in Canada.

“We listened to it in my room. When Johnny Rotten said, ‘WE DON’T CARE!,’ oh, man, you’ve never seen three happier people. I’d lived music my whole life, but there was something special about this. It was the thing that got me writing my own songs and going in my own musical direction.”

It was at Paul Kane High School where he met Kim Upright and Bob Drysdale, who would eventually be part of Berg’s first serious original project, The Modern Minds. They arrived right smack in the middle of the explosion of punk and new wave music. Their debut seven-inch single Theresa’s World came out in 1980, and is considered the area’s first “punk” recording.

The band practiced every day; “We didn’t have computers, video games or cell phones, so there wasn’t really anything else to do,” Berg says. At the time there were exactly zero places for a rock band to perform live in St. Albert, he says. “There was barely a place to play in Edmonton.”

So they practiced–and got good.

What happened next is history. The Modern Minds made a huge impact playing clubs like Scandals–in the basement of the Sheridan Hotel in Edmonton. Berg was living in the provincial capital by now, absorbing R&B influences from Teddy Pemberton’s famous radio show on CJSR, The Black Experience in Sound (“What an incredible show,” Berg says.). After some experimenting in that realm with his other bands Troc ’59 and facecrime, Berg finally made the decision to move
to Toronto.

“Edmonton had such a small scene that it was a bit exhausting,” he says. “For the audience, too. For fans of bands playing original music, there’s seven bands, and you see them whenever they play, and that’s your life. It’s hard as a band to keep up your enthusiasm, and as a musician to know there’s hardly any gigs. There was no future. It was this dismal situation. There was no Black Dog, no smaller venues. There were hotel bars, maybe they’d do punk night on a Tuesday night, they were slumming, and unlicensed events in halls. It came to a point I had to do something.”

If he’d stayed, he says, “I could’ve had a life. I would’ve lived and died, and there would’ve been nothing remarkable about my life. I was extremely motivated to do music. I think of the balls it took for me to move. I had no money, I just went and did it.”

At this point in the story, you might want to say, “And he never looked back.” But he does, from time to time.

“St. Albert is my hometown,” he says. “There’s comfort in that.” t8n

Performing – Saturday, August 17 at Edmonton Rock Fest at Hawrelak Park.


Moe Berg claims he can only come up with one song he wrote that was inspired by St. Albert specifically. On the B-side of Theresa’s World lurks a minute and 40 seconds of rockabilly angst called Bungalow Rock. It’s about himself–like most of his songs–and his feelings growing up:

Well, it’s five o’clock Friday, and I just got paid.

I get into my car and drive into my grave,

Oh, oh, to my suburban home!

Tonight I’ll get my baby, and we’ll do the Bungalow Rock!

Got a lumberjack shirt, I got a
Trans-Am, too

I do everything my girl and my friends tell me to.

When I’m oh, oh, in my suburban home!

Tonight I’ll get my baby, and we’ll do the Bungalow Rock!

We end up at the bar, spill the beer on my jeans

I yell “rock ’n’ roll!” Don’t even know what it means.

Oh, yeah, I’m a suburban moron!

Tonight I’ll get my baby, and we’ll do the Bungalow Rock!

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