Berlin - the album

In ongoing anticipation of my trip to Berlin, tonight I bring you some music from Lou Reed’s Berlin album.

This is a damn tough album to listen to. When it was first released, in 1973, it was such a huge musical departure for Reed that neither fans nor critics knew what to think. Most hated it at the time. Critics complained about Bob Ezrin’s (over)production and the dark story the record tells. Ultimately, though, most would come to see it as one of Reed’s best albums.

Thematically, this is the story of Jim and Caroline, who live in Berlin. Caroline toys with Jim and sleeps around, growing so cold and withdrawn that “her friends call her Alaska.” He’s a speed freak who beats her. Eventually, after their children are taken from Caroline as an unfit mother, she commits suicide. In the concluding “Sad Song,” Jim says, “I’m gonna stop wastin’ my time / Somebody else would have broken both of her arms.”

Reed recently toured a production of Berlin, which brought the album back into the public eye. “The story still thrills as it repels,” David Fricke wrote in an online Rolling Stone review. “The way Reed, with a poet's ear and a reporter's eye and no intruding moral comment, renders both artificial ecstasies (booze, speed, reckless sex) and real-life horror (beatings, blood on the sheets).”

Berlin was not recorded in Berlin, but New York and London. In an interview last year with The Guardian, Reed explained why he chose Berlin as a setting. “His idea was to use the divided city of Berlin – which he had then never visited – as a metaphor for human discord,” the article says. “The theme of Berlin, Reed says now, was Othello. ‘Jealousy, jealousy, jealousy. There are certain subjects that will always stand out, and jealousy's a real big one. Show me a man that's never been jealous.’”

Caroline II.mp3
How Do You Think It Feels.mp3

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