Berlin (Lou Reed album)

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Studio album by Lou Reed
Released July 1973
Recorded Morgan Studios, London
Record Plant Studios, New York
Length 49:26
Language English
Label RCA Records
Producer Bob Ezrin
Lou Reed chronology
Rock 'n' Roll Animal
(1974)Rock 'n' Roll Animal1974

Berlin is a 1973 album by Lou Reed, his third solo album and the follow-up to Transformer. In 2003, the album was ranked number 344 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time after labelling the album "a disaster" 30 years earlier.[1]


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 UK group the Waterboys takes its name from a line in this song.[2]

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 alternate 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 Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 3.5/5 stars[3]
Chicago Tribune 4/4 stars[4]
Creem C[5]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 4/5 stars[6]
Pitchfork 9.2/10[7]
Q 5/5 stars[8]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 4/5 stars[9]
Spin 4/5 stars[10]
Spin Alternative Record Guide 8/10[11]

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.[12] 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".[5]

Berlin reached No. 7 in the UK album chart (Reed's best achievement there until 1992's Magic and Loss). The British Phonographic Industry awarded the record a silver certification. Poor sales in the US (#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,[13] and in 2008 a filmed live performance was well received. When asked if he felt vindicated, Reed said, "For what? I always liked Berlin."[14] The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[15]

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 and 12 choristers.[16] Director Julian Schnabel filmed the concert and released it in 2008 as Lou Reed's Berlin, which opened to strong reviews.[17][18] 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: the Soft Boys, Human Drama, Mercury Rev and Antony and the Johnsons. Siouxsie Sioux did a cover version of that song with Suede in 1993.[19] Marc Almond also covered it with his band Marc and the Mambas on the 1982 album Untitled. The Mexican and Spanish singer Alaska's name was inspired by the song "Caroline Says II".

Track listing[edit]

All tracks composed by Lou Reed.

Side one
No. Title Length
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
No. Title Length
7. "Caroline Says II" 4:10
8. "The Kids" 7:55
9. "The Bed" 5:51
10. "Sad Song" 6:55

Lost track[edit]

On the initial 8-track tape release of Berlin, there was an untitled one-minute instrumental piano solo performed by Allan Macmillan featured between the songs "Berlin" and "Lady Day," which also appeared in initial cassette releases of the album. It has otherwise never been featured on any vinyl or CD editions, or any subsequent reissue therein.[20] There has never been any official explanation for why it appeared on 8-track and nowhere else, but it was likely placed there in order to fill time and allow for uninterrupted song sequencing between the four programs. In 2006, when Reed performed the entire album at St. Ann's Warehouse in New York, this solo was reinstated, but this time was performed before "Caroline Says II", suggesting this is where the piece was supposed to actually appear in the track sequence.[21]


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



  1. ^ Davis, Stephen (1973-12-20). "Berlin | Album Reviews". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2013-08-16. 
  2. ^ "FAQ". mikescottwaterboys. Archived from the original on 11 April 2008. Retrieved 20 March 2008. 
  3. ^ Deming, Mark. "Berlin – Lou Reed". AllMusic. Retrieved August 9, 2013. 
  4. ^ Kot, Greg (January 12, 1992). "Lou Reed's Recordings: 25 Years Of Path-breaking Music". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved July 29, 2013. 
  5. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (February 1974). "The Christgau Consumer Guide". Creem. Retrieved July 29, 2013. 
  6. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-85712-595-8. 
  7. ^ Schreiber, Ryan. "Lou Reed: Berlin". Pitchfork. Archived from the original on December 12, 2001. Retrieved August 9, 2013. 
  8. ^ "Lou Reed: Berlin". Q (68): 103. May 1992. 
  9. ^ Hull, Tom (2004). "Lou Reed". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian. The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 684–85. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. 
  10. ^ Marchese, David (November 2009). "Discography: Lou Reed". Spin. New York. 24 (11): 67. Retrieved January 13, 2017. 
  11. ^ Weisbard, Eric; Marks, Craig, eds. (1995). Spin Alternative Record Guide. Vintage Books. ISBN 0-679-75574-8. 
  12. ^ Stephen Davis (20 December 1973). "Lou Reed: Berlin : Music Reviews : Rolling Stone". Archived from the original on 28 June 2009. Retrieved 3 September 2011. 
  13. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time: 344. Lou Reed, Berlin". Rolling Stone. 
  14. ^ Marchese, David (1 November 2010). "The SPIN Interview: Lou Reed". Spin. Archived from the original on 16 April 2015. 
  15. ^ 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. 
  16. ^ Pilkingon, Ed (6 June 2007). "The day the wall came down". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 26 April 2010. 
  17. ^ Lou Reed's Berlin (2007)
  18. ^ Lou Reed's Berlin Movie Reviews, Pictures – Rotten Tomatoes
  19. ^ "Caroline Says II" by Suede and Siouxsie Sioux in 1993 for Red Hot Aids
  20. ^ [1]
  21. ^ [2]
  22. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 27 October 2015. Retrieved 2012-06-13.