Berlin (Lou Reed album)

Berlin is the third solo studio album by American rock musician Lou Reed, released in October 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 its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[3][4]

Studio album by
ReleasedOctober 5, 1973 (1973-10-05)
ProducerBob Ezrin
Lou Reed chronology
Rock 'n' Roll Animal
Lou Reed studio album chronology
Sally Can't Dance
Singles from Berlin
  1. "How Do You Think It Feels"
    Released: October 1973 (US)[2]
  2. "Caroline Says I"
    Released: February 1974 (UK)

Concept edit

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.[5]

The concept was created when producer Bob Ezrin mentioned to 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.[6]

"The Kids" tells of Caroline having her children taken from her by the authorities and features the sounds of children crying for their mother.

Live performance edit

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.[7] Director Julian Schnabel filmed the concert and released it in 2008 as Berlin: Live at St. Ann's Warehouse, which opened to strong reviews.[8][9] The album was digitally re-mastered and re-released on compact disc to commemorate the event.

Musical themes edit

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 alternative 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 be heard only at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, features the song.

Packaging edit

The album cover was conceived by Pacific Eye & Ear, which also designed Alice Cooper's Muscle of Love the same year.[10][11] The first lyrical lines of "Berlin" are shown beneath a collage of characters from the concept album.[12]

Critical reception edit

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [13]
Chicago Tribune    [14]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music     [16]
Q     [18]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide     [19]
Spin     [20]
Spin Alternative Record Guide8/10[21]

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, as well as Reed's "spoken and shouted" performance.[3] 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".[15]

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.

Cash Box said of "How Do You Think it Feels" that it is "that kind of infectious track that folks will not forget," although it is "lyrically heavy."[22] Record World said of it that this "heavy metal item from his Berlin lp should blitz the charts."[23]

Legacy edit

In 2003 Rolling Stone ranked Berlin at number 344 on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time,[24] with the album maintaining this position in a 2012 update of the list.[4] In 2008 a filmed live performance of the album was well received. When asked if he felt vindicated, Reed said, "For what? I always liked Berlin."[25] The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[26]

The Scottish folk rock band the Waterboys takes its name from a line in the song "The Kids".[27] The Mexican and Spanish singer Alaska's name was inspired by the song "Caroline Says II".[28]

Covers edit

"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 the musicians of Suede in 1993.[29] In 2008 Rick de Leeuw recorded a Dutch translation of the song, with the approval of Lou Reed himself.

Track listing edit

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

Lost track edit

The album was recorded as a 64 minute double LP, but the tracks were edited into shorter versions after RCA got cold feet about an expensive double package with no obvious hits. None of the original long versions have been subsequently released, with one exception.[30] The initial 8-track tape and cassette tape release of Berlin, there was an untitled one-minute instrumental piano solo performed by Allan Macmillan. It played between the songs "Berlin" and "Lady Day". It has otherwise never been featured on any vinyl or CD editions, or any subsequent reissue.[31] 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.[32]

Personnel edit

Credits are adapted from the Berlin liner notes.[33]



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

Charts edit

Weekly charts edit

Chart Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[34] 59
Dutch Album Chart 16
UK Album Chart 7

Certifications edit

References edit

  1. ^ Bates, Theunis (2005). "Lou Reed - Berlin". In Dimery, Robert (ed.). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. London: Cassell Illustrated. p. 293.
  2. ^ "The Great Rock Discography". p. 681.
  3. ^ a b Davis, Stephen (December 20, 1973). "Lou Reed: Berlin". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on June 28, 2009. Retrieved September 3, 2011.
  4. ^ a b "500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. May 31, 2012. Retrieved September 9, 2019.
  5. ^ Engelhardt, Sarah. "Lou Reed's 'Berlin' in Retrospect: A Macabre Masterpiece – WQHS Radio".
  6. ^ Patch, Nick (October 29, 2013). "Toronto producer Bob Ezrin remembers Lou Reed". Metro. Archived from the original on August 31, 2017. Retrieved August 31, 2017.
  7. ^ Pilkingon, Ed (June 6, 2007). "The day the wall came down". The Guardian. Retrieved April 26, 2010.
  8. ^ "Berlin". July 25, 2008 – via IMDb.
  9. ^ "Berlin" – via
  10. ^ Connolly, Dave (September 19, 2017). "[Review] Lou Reed: Berlin (1973)". Progrography.
  11. ^ "Interview: Dennis Dunaway". March 15, 2012. Archived from the original on March 15, 2012.
  12. ^ "Michael Hogan: Lou Reed's Berlin, the Movie". Vanity Fair. May 5, 2008.
  13. ^ Deming, Mark. "Berlin – Lou Reed". AllMusic. Retrieved August 9, 2013.
  14. ^ Kot, Greg (January 12, 1992). "Lou Reed's Recordings: 25 Years Of Path-Breaking Music". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved November 9, 2020.
  15. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (February 1974). "The Christgau Consumer Guide". Creem. Retrieved July 29, 2013.
  16. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). "Reed, Lou". The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0-85712-595-8.
  17. ^ Schreiber, Ryan. "Lou Reed: Berlin". Pitchfork. Archived from the original on December 12, 2001. Retrieved August 9, 2013.
  18. ^ "Lou Reed: Berlin". Q. No. 68. May 1992. p. 103.
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ Marchese, David (November 2009). "Discography: Lou Reed". Spin. Vol. 24, no. 11. p. 67. Retrieved January 13, 2017.
  21. ^ Strauss, Neil (1995). "Lou Reed". In Weisbard, Eric; Marks, Craig (eds.). Spin Alternative Record Guide. Vintage Books. pp. 325–27. ISBN 0-679-75574-8.
  22. ^ "CashBox Record Reviews" (PDF). Cash Box. November 24, 1973. p. 31. Retrieved December 11, 2021.
  23. ^ "Hits of the Week" (PDF). Record World. November 24, 1973. p. 1. Retrieved March 20, 2023.
  24. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time: Berlin – Lou Reed". Rolling Stone. November 18, 2003. Archived from the original on December 20, 2010. Retrieved October 7, 2020.
  25. ^ Marchese, David (November 1, 2010). "The SPIN Interview: Lou Reed". Spin. Archived from the original on April 16, 2015. Retrieved October 7, 2020.
  26. ^ Dimery, Robert, ed. (2006). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die (revised and updated ed.). Universe Publishing. ISBN 0-7893-1371-5.
  27. ^ "FAQ". Archived from the original on April 11, 2008. Retrieved March 20, 2008.
  28. ^ Torres, Rafael Cervera (2012). "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.
  29. ^ "Caroline Says II" by Suede and Siouxsie Sioux in 1993 for Red Hot Aids
  30. ^ Anthony DeCurtis Lou Reed: A Life, 2017 p.177; Larry Sloman 'Glitterbug Sledgehammer', Rolling Stone September 1973
  31. ^ "Lou Reed - Berlin". Discogs.
  32. ^ "Lou Reed News".
  33. ^ Berlin (CD booklet). Lou Reed. RCA Records. 1973.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  34. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 249. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  35. ^ "Certified Awards". Archived from the original on 27 October 2015. Retrieved 2012-06-13.

External links edit