1978 in Los Angeles, California
Core '80s Band Members:
- John Crawford (born John Buckner Crawford on January 17, 1960) - Bass guitar, synthesizer, guitar, backing vocals, primary songwriter
- Terri Nunn (born Terri Kathleen Nunn on June 26, 1961 in Baldwin Hills, California) - Lead vocals, songwriter
- David Diamond - Synthesizer, guitar
- Ric Olsen - Guitar
- Rob Brill - Drums
Los Angeles-based pop/rock group Berlin began as a distinctive synth pop/new wave band influenced heavily by the electronic music just beginning to emerge during the late '70s. Led by main songwriter and founding member Crawford, the group specialized in darkly romantic melodies and matching lyrical subject matter. However, lead singer Nunn ultimately dominated the band's direction through her role as its most visibly memorable member, and by 1987 the hit-making lineup of Berlin had disbanded. Still, the group remains as an important American example of rock-tinged synth pop at its finest.
Berlin settled on its European name in honor of revered, pioneering electronic bands like German group Kraftwerk and Britain's Ultravox. Placing a major focus on the emerging synthesizer sound of the period, the group struggled initially to find traction, partially because lead vocalist Nunn continued to waver between her pursuit of a music or acting career. In addition, the band's heavily electronic sound didn't fit neatly into the developing new wave craze, which tended to emphasize guitars at least as much if not more than keyboards. For these reasons and more, Berlin's 1980 debut, Information, failed to make a major impact, leading directly to the return of Nunn to the fold.
Upon Nunn's return in 1981, Crawford set out to compose songs that would gain the attention of influential L.A. radio station KROQ, which the band admired. 1982's Pleasure Victim would certainly accomplish that desired breakthrough, as the single "Sex (I'm a...)" made a controversial splash with its frankly sexual lyrics and provocative delivery. However, beyond that flashy tune, the record boasted two other bona fide synth pop classics in "Masquerade" and "The Metro." The former song was written by original member Chris Ruiz-Velasco, who would not be with the band to enjoy the spoils of this eventually platinum release.
Evolution Toward Commercial Pop Sound:
1984's Love Life continued Berlin's solid rise in popularity, featuring the excellent but far less daring single "No More Words." This move toward a more mainstream sound seemed to reap benefits, as this song became the group's first Top 40 pop hit, peaking at No. 23. Perhaps, then, it was inevitable that the band's focus on self-generated compositions would eventually fall to an impulse to seek bigger hits. This happened memorably with what would turn out to be Berlin's final '80s album, 1986's Count Three & Pray. "Take My Breath Away," the soaring keyboard ballad from the Top Gun soundtrack, topped the Billboard pop charts that same year.
Break-Up & Subsequent Legal Battles:
Because it was co-written by one of the band's latest producers, Giorgio Moroder, and did not feature internal songwriting, "Take My Breath Away" unfortunately became a splashy beginning of the end for Berlin. Dissatisfied with this movement away from experimental keyboard pop and a typically growing emphasis on Nunn's talents and image over the contributions of the band as a whole, Crawford expressed his grievances to no avail. Accordingly, Berlin disbanded in 1987, and unfortunately the group would make more noise with its legal battles that ultimately secured name rights for Nunn than it would for music in the near future.
Reunion - Then Nunn Presses On:
Despite animosity over these legal battles and Nunn's reformation of the band in 1998 featuring no other '80s members, Berlin successfully reunited for a brief period for VH1's Bands Reunited series in 2004. While that one-off reformation has not translated into long-term collaboration, Nunn and Crawford put aside their differences successfully for that event. In the years since, Nunn has continued to lead a new Berlin featuring brand-new performers, and although now past 50 she remains a sexy, captivating frontwoman with true talent and presence.