When The Pursuit of Happiness singular US hit ‘I’m an Adult Now’ came out it, was the unofficial theme song to that stage in my life. It was 1989 and I had just graduated from college. Faced with looming student debt and the prospect of low paying entry level positions, the transition to adult life was gonna be a mixed bag. That song no doubt resonated with a lot of other people as it was a favorite on VH1 and in places where young hip people bought things like indie book stores and shops that sold marijuana paraphernalia liked Spencers and Waterbeds & Stuff. It took less than a minute for me to figure out that the song had the influence of Todd Rundgren somewhere in its production when I first heard it.
Rundgren,the leader of 1970s/’80s odd rock band Utopia has had limited success commercially with his own projects. When he gets behind the controls in the studio, he’s fared better when producing other people’s music. His portfolio as a producer is long and varied and includes names like XTC, Hall & Oats, Cheap Trick and many others. One of the more interesting bands from that production portfolio was the Canadian The Pursuit of Happiness.
As a Toronto based college band, The Pursuit of Happiness embodied some of the more accessible musical traits of Rundgren himself. Oddly while listening to their big label debut Love Junk, its easy to imagine a teenage Rundgren singing the sarcastic lyrics in Love Junk although the band’s leader Moe Berg pinned all of the albums tracks.
A previous project called XO from Bourgeois Tagg came close to sounding like a revamped Utopia, but Love Junk, the debut album from The Pursuit of Happiness would clearly benefit from Todd Rundgren’s pop sensibilities.
With an attitude somewhere between early emo and skater punk pop slackers, The Pursuit of happiness had recorded a few songs together while its members were college students. The recording of ‘I’m an Adult Now’ actually got airplay on canada’s version of MTV called MuchMusic. It also went on to become something of a hit – if only in Canada.
That’s how they got the attention of Chrysalis Records and Rundgren. Moe Berg’s vocals were styled in much the way Rundgren’s were for his solo projects. A sharp sarcastic wit with just a touch of humor categorized many of Love Junk’s songs. The former single ‘I’m an Adult Now’ was re-recorded and became the album’s first single and biggest (if not only hit).
There were other singles to follow, each with minimal impact, but Love Junk had cemented Rundgren’s reputation as a hit maker, even if he could not chart himself. As talented as the members of The Pursuit of Happiness were they would only achieve minimal success forward.
Perhaps the band could not create a strong image, as it’s leader resembled a nerdy version of Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, but had the style and wit more in tune with the coffeehouse crowd. Whatever the reason, Love Junk was the bands big stab a fame for however long it lasted.