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

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, though the magazine had called the album a "disaster" 30 years prior.[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]

Musically, Berlin differs greatly from the bulk of Reed's work, due to the use of heavy orchestral arrangements, horns, and top session musicians. Instrumentally, Reed himself only contributes 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. 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]
Robert Christgau C[5]
Pitchfork Media (9.2/10)[6]
Rolling Stone (Favorable)[7]

Despite lukewarm reviews, 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.

By 1979, The Rolling Stone Record Guide described the album as "grandiose, decadent", and finally "one of the most depressing records ever made, and oddly beautiful in its own awful way."[citation needed]

In 2003 Rolling Stone, whose critics had originally panned the album, included it in their list of the 500 greatest albums of all time,[8] and in 2008 a filmed live performance was well received. When asked if he felt vindicated, Reed said, "For what? I always liked Berlin."[9]

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.[10] Director Julian Schnabel filmed the concert and released it in 2008 as Lou Reed's Berlin, which opened to strong reviews.[11][12] 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, Suede and Siouxsie Sioux in 1993,[13] Mercury Rev and Antony and the Johnsons. Marc Almond also covered the song with his band Marc and the Mambas on the 1982 album Untitled.

The group tvfordogs covered "How Do You Think It Feels" for the album After Hours: a Tribute to the Music of Lou Reed (Mark Doyon's Wampus Records, 2003).

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.[14] 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.[15]


  • Lou Reed – vocals, acoustic guitar
  • Bob Ezrin – piano, mellotron, production, arrangement
  • Michael Brecker – tenor saxophone
  • Randy Brecker – trumpet
  • Jack Bruce – bass; except "Lady Day" & "The Kids"
  • Aynsley Dunbar – drums; except "Lady Day" & "The Kids"
  • Steve Hunter – electric guitar
  • Tony Levin – bass on "The Kids"
  • Allan Macmillan – piano on "Berlin"
  • Gene Martynec – acoustic guitar, synthesizer and vocal arrangement on "The Bed," bass on "Lady Day"
  • Jon Pierson – bass trombone
  • Dick Wagner – background vocals & electric guitar
  • Blue Weaver – piano on "Men of Good Fortune"
  • B.J. Wilson – drums on "Lady Day" & "The Kids"
  • Steve Winwood – organ & harmonium
  • Steve Hyden, Elizabeth March, Lou Reed, Dick Wagner – choir
  • 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. Retrieved 20 March 2008. 
  3. ^ Deming, Mark. Berlin (Lou Reed album) at AllMusic
  4. ^ Kot, Greg (January 12, 1992). "Lou Reed's Recordings: 25 Years Of Path-breaking Music". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved July 29, 2013. 
  5. ^ Christgau, Robert (February 1974). "The Christgau Consumer Guide". Creem. Retrieved July 29, 2013. 
  6. ^ Ryan Schreiber, Pitchfork Media review
  7. ^ Davis, Stephen (20 December 1973). "Lou Reed: Berlin : Music Reviews : Rolling Stone". Archived from the original on 28 June 2009. Retrieved 3 September 2011. 
  8. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time: 344. Lou Reed, Berlin". Rolling Stone. 
  9. ^ Marchese, David (1 November 2010). "The SPIN Interview: Lou Reed". Spin. 
  10. ^ Pilkingon, Ed (6 June 2007). "The day the wall came down". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 26 April 2010. 
  11. ^ Lou Reed's Berlin (2007)
  12. ^ Lou Reed's Berlin Movie Reviews, Pictures – Rotten Tomatoes
  13. ^ "Caroline Says II" by Suede and Siouxsie Sioux in 1993 for Red Hot Aids
  14. ^ [1]
  15. ^ [2]
  16. ^