Berlin (Lou Reed album)

Berlin is the third solo studio album by American musician Lou Reed, released in July 1973 by RCA Records. A concept album, Berlin tells the story of a couple's struggle with drug addiction and abuse. Initially, critical reception was mixed but appraisals of the album have warmed over the years: in 1973 Rolling Stone declared the album "a disaster" but by 2012, the album was ranked No. 344 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[1][2]

Studio album by
ReleasedJuly 1973
StudioMorgan, London; Record Plant, New York City
ProducerBob Ezrin
Lou Reed chronology
Rock 'n' Roll Animal
Singles from Berlin
  1. "How Do You Think It Feels" b/w "Lady Day"
    Released: 1973
  2. "Caroline Says I"/"Caroline Says II"
    Released: 1973


The concept was created when producer Bob Ezrin mentioned to Lou Reed that although the stories told by Reed's songs had great beginnings, they never really had an ending. Specifically, Ezrin wanted to know what happened to the couple from "Berlin" – a song from Reed's first solo album.[3]

The album is a tragic rock opera about a doomed couple, Jim and Caroline, and addresses themes of drug use, prostitution, depression, domestic violence and suicide.

"The Kids" tells of Caroline having her children taken from her by the authorities and features the sounds of children crying for their mother. The Scottish folk rock band the Waterboys takes its name from a line in this song.[4]

Musical themesEdit

Instrumentally, Reed plays acoustic guitar. 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 simplified, the key changed and re-arranged for solo piano. "Oh, Jim" makes use of the Velvet Underground outtake "Oh, Gin". "Caroline Says II" is a rewrite of "Stephanie Says" from VU (though the latter was not released until 1985). The Velvet Underground had also recorded an alternate demo of "Sad Song", which had much milder lyrics in its original form. "Men of Good Fortune" had also been played by the Velvet Underground as early as 1966; an archival live recording, which can only be heard at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, features the song.

Lost trackEdit

On the initial 8-track tape and cassette release of Berlin, there was an untitled one-minute instrumental piano solo performed by Allan Macmillan, pianist on the title track. It featured between the songs "Berlin" and "Lady Day". It has otherwise never been featured on any vinyl or CD editions, or any subsequent reissue.[5] There has never been any official explanation for this, although it may have been placed there in order to fill time and allow for uninterrupted song sequencing between the four programs on the 8-track version. In 2006, when Reed performed the entire album at St. Ann's Warehouse in New York, this solo was reinstated, performed before "Caroline Says II", arguably suggesting this is where the piece may have been originally intended to appear in the track sequence.[6]

Critical receptionEdit

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [7]
Chicago Tribune    [8]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music     [10]
Q     [12]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide     [13]
Spin     [14]
Spin Alternative Record Guide8/10[15]

Stephen Davis, in a December 1973 review for Rolling Stone, felt the album was a "disaster"; he disliked the world of "paranoia, schizophrenia, degradation, pill-induced violence and suicide" that the album introduced to the listener, and disliked Reed's "spoken and shouted" performance.[16] Robert Christgau in a February 1974 review for Creem felt that the story about "two drug addicts who fall into sadie-mazie in thrillingly decadent Berlin" was "lousy" and the music was "only competent".[9]

Berlin reached No. 7 on the UK album chart (Reed's best achievement there until 1992's Magic and Loss). The BPI awarded the record a silver certification. Poor sales in the US (No. 98) and harsh criticism made Reed feel disillusioned about the album; however, he often featured Berlin material in his live shows, and concert renditions of most of the album's songs including "Berlin", "Lady Day", "Caroline Says I", "How Do You Think It Feels", "Oh, Jim", "The Kids", "The Bed" and "Sad Song" can be found on various live albums preceding his 2006 staging of the entire album in concert.


In 2003 Rolling Stone included it in their list of the 500 greatest albums of all time,[17] and in 2008 a filmed live performance was well received. When asked if he felt vindicated, Reed said, "For what? I always liked Berlin."[18] The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[19] The Mexican and Spanish singer Alaska's name was inspired by the song "Caroline Says II".[20]

Live performanceEdit

Reed and producer Bob Ezrin planned a stage adaptation of the album upon its initial release but shelved the plans due to mixed reviews and poor sales. In 2007 Reed fulfilled his original hopes by touring the album with a 30-piece band, 12 choristers and Anohni.[21] Director Julian Schnabel filmed the concert and released it in 2008 as Berlin: Live at St. Ann's Warehouse, which opened to strong reviews.[22][23] The album was digitally re-mastered and re-released on compact disc to commemorate the event.


"Caroline Says II" has been covered by several artists including the Soft Boys, Human Drama, Mercury Rev and Marc and the Mambas. Siouxsie Sioux did a cover version of the song with Suede in 1993.[24].

Track listingEdit

All tracks are written 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
  1. "Caroline Says II" – 4:10
  2. "The Kids" – 7:55
  3. "The Bed" – 5:51
  4. "Sad Song" – 6:55


Credits are adapted from the Berlin liner notes.[25]


  • Bob Ezrin – producer
  • Jim Reeves – engineer
  • Allan Macmillan – arrangement



  1. ^ Davis, Stephen (20 December 1973). "Berlin | Album Reviews". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 16 August 2013.
  2. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time Rolling Stone's definitive list of the 500 greatest albums of all time". Rolling Stone. 2012. Retrieved 9 September 2019.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 31 August 2017. Retrieved 31 August 2017.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ "FAQ". mikescottwaterboys. Archived from the original on 11 April 2008. Retrieved 20 March 2008.
  5. ^ "Lou Reed - Berlin".
  6. ^ "Lou Reed News".
  7. ^ Deming, Mark. "Berlin – Lou Reed". AllMusic. Retrieved 9 August 2013.
  8. ^ Kot, Greg (12 January 1992). "Lou Reed's Recordings: 25 Years Of Path-breaking Music". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 29 July 2013.
  9. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (February 1974). "The Christgau Consumer Guide". Creem. Retrieved 29 July 2013.
  10. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0-85712-595-8.
  11. ^ Schreiber, Ryan. "Lou Reed: Berlin". Pitchfork. Archived from the original on 12 December 2001. Retrieved 9 August 2013.
  12. ^ "Lou Reed: Berlin". Q (68): 103. May 1992.
  13. ^ Hull, Tom (2004). "Lou Reed". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 684–85. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  14. ^ Marchese, David (November 2009). "Discography: Lou Reed". Spin. New York. 24 (11): 67. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  15. ^ Weisbard, Eric; Marks, Craig, eds. (1995). Spin Alternative Record Guide. Vintage Books. ISBN 0-679-75574-8.
  16. ^ Stephen Davis (20 December 1973). "Lou Reed: Berlin : Music Reviews : Rolling Stone". Archived from the original on 28 June 2009. Retrieved 3 September 2011.
  17. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time: 344. Lou Reed, Berlin". Rolling Stone. 31 May 2012.
  18. ^ Marchese, David (1 November 2010). "The SPIN Interview: Lou Reed". Spin. Archived from the original on 16 April 2015.
  19. ^ Robert Dimery; Michael Lydon (7 February 2006). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: Revised and Updated Edition. Universe. ISBN 0-7893-1371-5.
  20. ^ Torres, Rafael Cervera (12 April 2012). "Chapter 2. Mama comprame una guitarra". Alaska y otras historias de la movida (in Spanish). Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial España. ISBN 978-84-01-30559-7.
  21. ^ Pilkingon, Ed (6 June 2007). "The day the wall came down". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 26 April 2010.
  22. ^ Lou Reed's Berlin (2007)
  23. ^ Lou Reed's Berlin Movie Reviews, Pictures – Rotten Tomatoes
  24. ^ "Caroline Says II" by Suede and Siouxsie Sioux in 1993 for Red Hot Aids
  25. ^ Berlin (CD booklet). Lou Reed. RCA Records. 1973.CS1 maint: others (link)
  26. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 27 October 2015. Retrieved 2012-06-13.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

External linksEdit