Tuesday, July 30, 2013


Lou Reed challenged his newfound audience with the bleak and brutal beauty of this much maligned musical tragedy of jealousy and rage.  He had found international success with the unlikely hit single 'Walk on the Wild Side' from his second solo album 'Transformer';  but for the followup he was unwilling to come up with radio friendly fodder to please his label RCA.  He said at the time:   “This is going to totally destroy them. I told people I was gonna do that. They throw me in so many categories. This one will show them I’m not kidding.”

'Berlin' was recorded with producer Bob Ezrin at Morgan Studios in London and Record Plant Studios in New York.  The drug fueled sessions featured Lou Reed on vocals and acoustic guitar; Bob Ezrin on piano, mellotron, production, and arrangement; Michael Brecker on tenor sax; Randy Brecker on trumpet; Jack Bruce and Tony Levin on bass; Aynsley Dunbar and B.J. Wilson on drums; Steve Hunter on electric guitar; Allan Macmillan on piano and arrangement; Blue Weaver on piano; Gene Martynec on acoustic guitar, synthesizer and vocal arrangement; Jon Pierson on bass trombone; Dick Wagner on background vocals and electric guitar; Steve Winwood on organ and harmonium; and Steve Hyden, Elizabeth March, Lou Reed, and Dick Wagner as the choir.  

Reed considered the album to be his finest work and he and Ezrin made plans to produce a stage version of the dark and dramatic tale of Jim and Caroline.  Those plans were scraped when the album was panned by critics.  RCA was so shocked by the songs about addiction, depression, domestic violence, prostitution, and suicide that they didn't want to release it.  Reed would later confess:    “There are people I’ll never forgive for the way they fucked me over with 'Berlin'. The way that album was overlooked was the biggest disappointment I ever faced ... I pulled the blinds shut at that point. And they've remained closed ... 'Berlin', you know, we tried. It's such a simple idea that it barely qualifies as an idea: Instead of all the songs having different characters, why not have the characters come back and deal with each other? How much simpler can it get?...People never really got to hear 'Berlin' because of the critics. Then critics ask you if you feel vindicated by other critics. I didn't like critics then, and I don't like them now. There you go. I've always been outside the mainstream, and it stayed that way...I followed up my one big hit with Berlin; 'Berlin' has got this rap that it's depressing. Are you joking me? You can't handle it? You ever read 'Hamlet'? Who are you talking to that's so stupid? Are you joking? You're kidding me...I don't think anybody is anybody else's moral compass. Maybe listening to my music is not the best idea if you live a very constricted life. Or maybe it is. I'm writing about real things. Real people. Real characters. You have to believe what I write about is true or you wouldn't pay any attention at all. Sometimes it's me, or a composite of me and other people. Sometimes it's not me at all...You know, I wanted to be an actor. That was my real goal. But I wasn't any good at it, so I wrote my own material and acted through that. That's my idea of fun. I get to be all these things in the songs. But I present it to you like: This is how it is. Simple. But a guide to doing things that are wrong and right? I mean, Othello murders Desdemona. Is that a guide to what you can do? The guy in 'Berlin' beats up his girlfriend. Is that a guide to what you can do? Is that what you walk away with? I don't think so. Maybe they should sticker my albums and say, 'Stay away if you have no moral compass.'"

'Berlin' only charted at number ninety-eight in the US; but it made it to number seven in the UK.  Bitter over the disappointment, Reed would refuse to play songs from the album for decades.  Thirty-three years later, he performed the album in its entirety for a stage production at St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn. The show was produced by Bob Ezrin and Hal Willner with set design by painter Julian Schnabel and a film directed by Lola Schnabel projected on the stage.  The production was a critical success and was performed at venues all over the world.  In 2008, a DVD was released of the show:  'Berlin: Live At St. Ann's Warehouse'.


"Berlin"   3:23

"Lady Day"   3:40

"Men of Good Fortune"   4:37

"Caroline Says I"   3:57

"How Do You Think It Feels"   3:42

"Sad Song"   6:55


full album:

All tracks composed by Lou Reed.

Side one
1. "Berlin"   3:23
2. "Lady Day"   3:40
3. "Men of Good Fortune"   4:37
4. "Caroline Says I"   3:57
5. "How Do You Think It Feels"   3:42
6. "Oh, Jim"   5:13
Side two
7. "Caroline Says II"   4:10
8. "The Kids"   7:55
9. "The Bed"   5:51
10. "Sad Song"   6:55


LOU REED'S BERLIN a film by JULIAN SCHNABEL / TRAILER from Gio Jas on Vimeo.

  'Berlin: Live At St. Ann's Warehouse'

01 "Berlin"
02 "Lady Day"
03 "Men Of Good Fortune"
04 "Caroline Says (I)"
05 "How Do You Think It Feels?"
06 "Oh, Jim"
07 "Caroline Says (II)"
08 "The Kids"
09 "The Bed"
10 "Sad Song"
11 "Candy Says"
12 "Rock Minuet"
13 "Sweet Jane"

No comments:

Post a Comment