'80s - Berlin (2005)
'Playing 4 Keeps!'
Berlin was an American new wave band featuring lead singer Terri Nunn. Berlin was formed in Orange County, California in 1979. Their first single, "A Matter of Time," was released in 1980 on I.R.S. Records and featured replacement vocalist Virginia Macolino on lead vocals after Nunn had temporarily left the band to pursue an acting career.
Their first significant hit was the controversial synth-driven "Sex (I'm A...)" (1982), which was banned by some radio stations due to its graphic lyrics, but it was "Take My Breath Away" (from the movie Top Gun) that became their best-selling single in 1986. They had two other hits: "The Metro", which was later covered by System of a Down, Alkaline Trio, and Sleepthief; and "No More Words", who's subsequent video saw Terri Nunn and bandmates re-enact a Bonnie and Clyde style car chase and shoot-out.
Aside from Nunn, the core members of the band were founding member John Crawford (primary songwriter, bass guitar & keyboards), and David Diamond (keyboards & guitar). Other members of the band included Ric Olsen (lead guitar), Matt Reid (keyboards), Rob Brill (drums) and Rod Learned (drums). Berlin officially disbanded in 1987 and Nunn retained the legal rights to usage of the band's name after legal wranglings with the founding member of the group, John Crawford.
In 1999, the band reunited to record some new studio material and also performed a concert, which, along with the new songs, was released as 2000's Berlin Live: Sacred and Profane. This was followed a year later by a flurry of recording sessions that included co-writing tracks with Billy Corgan, among others. The end result, Voyeur, was their first full-length studio release in over 15 years.
They were featured recently on the VH1 show, Bands Reunited where they all agreed to get back together to not only reunite as friends but as a band. They played one show at The Roxy in California to a sold-out crowd.
More recently the latest Berlin collaboration - Terri Nunn (vocals); Mitchell Sigman (vocals, guitar, bass instrument, programming); Carlton Bost (vocals, guitar); and Chris Olivas (drums, percussion) - released their new CD '4Play' on Majestic Recordings.
Chatting recently with lead singer Terri Nunn, I first asked her if Berlin was one of the first American electro-pop bands, why did they decide to name it after a foreign city?! ”My partner was German and he was in love with that whole era of the Berlin time. The art, the music and the whole scene was just so exciting. And we didn’t have anything like that going on in America at the time. So, I guess we were trying to be who we weren’t. So we cultivated the look, the mystery, the whole thing that we thought Berlin should be. We were trying to bring it to America, really.”
What was life like at the peak of your fame when hits such as “No More Words,” “Now It’s My Turn” and “Take My Breath Away” kept hitting the airwaves time after time? ”At the beginning it was the dream of my life and then as it wore on after a few years it was a lot of hard work. We didn’t really understand what was going on either. We knew that were successful, but we were so busy going through the machine of being in the studio and then being on the road and then being back in the studio. I think that, more than anything, destroys more bands because record companies just don’t want you to stop.”
You actually own the name Berlin today, correct? ”Yeah, there were some hoops to jump through with John, because we tried to heal the name for a long time back in the late ‘90s, but nothing was really going. I wanted to continue with Berlin, but he didn’t really want to tour any more. So yeah, it wasn’t easy and I also was also terrified of running the band myself. I’d never done that before. John had been my partner for 13 years and we’d shared everything but sex. But, it was either do it all by myself or don’t do it.”
But then Berlin got back together for VH1’s Bands Reunited … how did that go, behind-the-scenes? ”Yeah, that was a life changing experience for me. I don’t think VH1 realized what they were doing when they came up with the idea, but it was a brilliant TV show idea. I knew that every band they got would be amazing because there would either be intense love or intense hate … there’s middle ground in a band.”
”So, John and I had been in a fight and hadn’t spoken in seven years so when they asked me if I would do it I told them that I didn’t think John would do it. So, I forgot about it and they showed up at my door and started filming. I then walked into this rehearsal studio and John was standing there – and I didn’t even recognize him and walked straight past him – and he said, ‘Terri, it’s John. It’s me.’ So, I turned around, he opened up his arms and I turned into a puddle on the floor.”
Was there anything musically that sprang from that reunion? ”One thing did, yes. It’s on our new record 4Play where we took the acoustic version of ‘No More Words’ from that show.”
Is it true that before becoming the lead singer of Berlin that you auditioned for Star Wars and the role of Princess Leia? ”It’s so true that it’s now on their 25th anniversary DVD release! They put my screen test on it,” she laughs. ”It is so hilarious, you just got to see it. Harrison Ford and I are sitting in lawn chairs in the middle of a warehouse reading these parts together and it is hilarious.”
Did you ever get a call back from them? ”George Lucas went beyond that. That guy did more for my career than anybody. He brought me back in three times, did three screen tests on me, and then sent me this letter about how wonderful I was, but how he went with Carrie for certain reasons. But, he wrote this letter that my agency sent out to people about what a great actor I was, and how he was such a fan of mine. And it really helped me get work at that time.”
”And then, after the TV movies and B-Movie ‘Thank God It’s Friday,’ strangely enough I met Georgio Moroder. Georgio was working with Donna Summer at the time and that brought him over here from Scicilly and she was in the movie. So, I met him – and this was before I was even in a band – and I was totally I love with the man; he was like a God to me. And, who would have thunk it but later on he would he would have written and produced my first number one hit.”
Is it true that at the age of just 16, you were also the Penthouse Pet of the Month for February 1977 under the name Betsy Harris! ”No, that one’s not true! I don’t know who that is, but that wouldn’t even be legal. But, I have heard about this before. I haven’t seen her, but people need to think about the age. It’s a good story, but it’s not me, sorry!”
”I’d like to be offered to do that,” Terri slips in just as we’re headed for another question. ”I was in Playboy sometime back in the ‘80s, but not naked. They did a story on all the singers of the time that they thought were hot. I’d love to do Playboy now, are you kidding me,” she laughs. ”It would be fun. “
With the release of ‘80s Hits Stripped,’ why did you choose ‘The Metro’ to do acoustically? ”Sidewinder Records sent an email to our management company and asked for a song. We had ‘The Metro’ that we had done for the 4Play itunes label from back in October last year. Because itunes wanted a special track, so we recorded ‘The Metro’ for them, they then lost their exclusivity on it and these guys wanted it.”
Would you ever consider doing an acoustic Berlin hits album? ”You know, that’s a good question as we do a lot of our songs acoustically now. I’ve never thought about it, but it’s not a bad idea. Thank you.”
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
'80's Hits Stripped' CD Purchase Link