Berlin (Lou Reed album)

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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

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]


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 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.

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.[5] 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.[6]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic3.5/5 stars[7]
Chicago Tribune4/4 stars[8]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music4/5 stars[10]
Q5/5 stars[12]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide4/5 stars[13]
Spin4/5 stars[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]

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.[20] Director Julian Schnabel filmed the concert and released it in 2008 as Berlin: Live at St. Ann's Warehouse, which opened to strong reviews.[21][22] 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, and Mercury Rev. Siouxsie Sioux did a cover version of the song with Suede in 1993.[23] 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 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.[24]


  • 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. ^ [1]
  6. ^ [2]
  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 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.
  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. ^ Pilkingon, Ed (6 June 2007). "The day the wall came down". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 26 April 2010.
  21. ^ Lou Reed's Berlin (2007)
  22. ^ Lou Reed's Berlin Movie Reviews, Pictures – Rotten Tomatoes
  23. ^ "Caroline Says II" by Suede and Siouxsie Sioux in 1993 for Red Hot Aids
  24. ^ Berlin (CD booklet). Lou Reed. RCA Records. 1973.CS1 maint: others (link)
  25. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 27 October 2015. Retrieved 2012-06-13.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

External links[edit]