BERLIN: One of Lou Reed’s Greatest Recordings

Available On Amazon

After departing the Velvet Underground in 1970, Lou Reed struggled to find footing in an evolving music industry that already hadn’t taken particularly well to his talent in the past. After the release and subsequent flop of an eponymous debut record, a floundering Reed was ushered back to shore by a young David Bowie, who had long been enamored with the Velvet Underground frontman’s work. The manifestation of that collaboration was the celebrated ‘Transformer.’ ‘

Transformer’ brought Lou Reed into the international spotlight. Tracks like ‘Walk On The Wild Side’ and ‘Perfect Day’ cemented themselves into rock and roll history. In 1973, however, Reed returned to the studio to record the much anticipated follow-up for the landmark album. The result, at least as Rolling Stone Magazine saw it at the time, was “patently offensive.” That album was ‘Berlin.’

Forty three years later, ‘Berlin’ is considered by some to be one of the finest exhibitions of Lou Reed’s talent that he ever displayed. The album, which is a horrific, heartbreaking rock opera telling a distressingly morbid love story, is an excursion through the human condition. It’s most certainly one of the saddest albums ever recorded, but because of that, it’s also one of the most poignant.

Lou Reed Berlin

Photo: By .dannynorton (http://flickr.com/photos/dannynorton/186795352/) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The instrumentation Reed employed on ‘Berlin’ is dramatically different from that of its predecessor. It’s bombastic, atmospheric, and intense. From the apocalyptic minor key piano lead of ‘Lady Day’ to the orchestras of ‘Men of Good Fortune,’ to the brass section of ‘How Do You Think It Feels,’ the record employs an immense soundscape for its delivery. Purely logistically, it was a far more ambitious endeavor than any of Reed’s previous studio recordings. That cacophony of passion holds up to this day, and accents Reed better than nearly anything else in his catalog.

Lyrically, tracks like ‘Caroline Says II,’ ‘The Kids,’ and ‘Sad Song,’ deal with death, depression, suicide, domestic abuse, and every facet of pain one could imagine. Tunes like ‘Oh Jim’ even muse about Reed’s toxic friendships and often hateful spirit. For this very reason, ‘Berlin’ is one of the most relatable albums ever recorded. For those suffering poor relationships, depression, substance abuse, or the like, ‘Berlin’ is an embodiment of their struggle.

Since Lou Reed died two and a half years ago, the goodwill following his passing has faded. A recent Howard Sounes biography revealed a stunningly troubled Lou Reed – even more so than the public already knew. At times, Reed claimed tracks off ‘Berlin’ were theatrical, not autobiographical. As we’re slowly learning, though, that may not have been the case. ‘Berlin’ is the most honest record Reed ever made. The collection breaks down any barriers between him and his audience. He was human, too.

Written by Brett Stewart

We are happy to welcome Brett Stewart to ClassicRockHistory.com

“Brett Stewart is a journalist and musician who lives and works in the city of Chicago. Previously, he’s written for publications such as the Guardian Liberty Voice and he served as the Editor-in-Chief of Strike Magazine for two years. You can connect with Stewart on his website and via Twitter.”

http://brettstewart.net

https://twitter.com/RiversRubin

Add Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Lee Michaels songs
Top 10 Lee Michaels Songs
Stevie Nicks Ballads
Top 10 Stevie Nicks Ballads
One Hit Wonders
10 One Hit Wonders That Should Never Be Called One Hit Wonders
Earth Wind & Fire Songs
Top 10 Earth, Wind & Fire Songs
Charlie Parker Albums
5 Essential Charlie Parker Albums
Mike Stern Albums
5 Essential Mike Stern Albums
John Coltrane Albums
5 Essential John Coltrane Albums
Miles Davis Albums
5 Essential Miles Davis Albums
Bands Who never had a top 40 hit in the U.S. Billboard Top 40
10 Classic Rock Bands Who Never Had A Single Break The U.S. Top 40
Steve Vai Crossroads
When The Karate Kid Fought Steve Vai
MTV's Favorite Bands
MTV’s Favorite Bands And Artists Of The 1980s
Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band
10 Musicians We Would Love To See In Ringo Starr’s All Starr Band