Berlin is a 1973 album by Lou Reed, his third solo album and the follow-up to the widely accessible and upbeat glam rock classic Transformer. In 2003, the album was ranked number 344 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
The album was tragic, loose musical tale about a doomed couple amid themes of drug use and depression. Response was not good upon its release, as fans and critics were expecting another upbeat glam outing. As time has gone by, a growing number of Reed's fans have come to believe this album to be among his best as a solo artist.
Musically, Berlin differs greatly from the bulk of Reed's work, due to the use of heavy orchestral arrangements, horns, and top session musicians. Instrumentally, Reed himself only contributes acoustic guitar.
"The Kids" tells of a "miserable rotten slut" having her children taken from her by the authorities, and contains a particularly upsetting mid-section featuring the sounds of children shouting for their mother. This segment is so harrowing that a legend has arisen telling how producer Bob Ezrin went home one night and told his children that their mother had (in different versions) either left them or died, and recorded their response. Later, Ezrin dispelled this myth, stating that he had just asked them to cry for the recorder, and that his younger child got carried away with the game. In actuality, Joshua Ezrin, Ezrin's youngest son, was outside the screen door of their house for a few minutes, and while he was pleading to be let back inside, his cries were recorded and put on the album. The Waterboys take their name from a line in this song.
"Sad Song" references Mary I of Scotland in its initial verses:
Staring at my picture book She looks like Mary, Queen of Scots She seemed very regal to me Just goes to show how wrong you can be
The song's chorus features an orchestral theme similar to one that later appeared in Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb", which Ezrin co-produced.
As with Reed's previous two studio albums, Berlin re-drafts several songs that had been written and recorded previously. The title track first appeared on Reed's solo debut album, only here it is lyrically simplified, the key changed, and re-arranged for piano. "Oh, Jim" makes use of the Velvet Underground outtake, "Oh, Gin". "Caroline Says (II)" is a rewrite of "Stephanie Says" from VU. The Velvets had also recorded a rather sedate demo of "Sad Song", which had much milder lyrics in its original form. "Men of Good Fortune" had also been played by the Velvets as early as 1966; an archival CD featuring live performances of the band playing at Andy Warhol's Factory provides the evidence of the song's age. The CD featuring the early performance of "Men of Good Fortune" is not for sale and can only be heard at the Warhol museum in New York.
TRACKLIST: 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
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