I was quite familiar with the band Berlin in my teen years. But I hadn’t realized that they were releasing singles as early as 1979. They didn’t really become that well-known until 1983.
The lead singer Terri Nunn would have been either 19 or 20 years old in this video. John Crawford, who wrote this song, would have been 19. It’s fascinating, because the lyrics reflect a maturity well beyond the years of either Crawford or Nunn.
There was a hi-tech alienation theme common to new-wave and synthpop bands at the time. (Think Depeche Mode and Missing Persons). Nunn plays that role well in this video. She has this unblinking, focused stare in her eyes which is slightly unnerving.
Berlin were on Renegade Records when this single was put out. Nunn left the band for about a year to pursue an acting career before reuniting with them again in 1980. They signed with independent label Enigma Records in 1980 before being signed by Geffen in 1982. Geffen re-relased Pleasure Victim later that year.
Nunn’s decision to have the band play “Take My Breath Away” for the Top Gun soundtrack landed them a chart-topping single, but also broke up the band. The single was originally by producer Giorgio Moroder. He originally invited the The Motels to submit a demo of the song, but then Moroder offered it to Berlin.
Personally I can’t stand “Take My Breath Away” and don’t blame the rest of the band for disliking it as well. While the sound is impressive, the lyrics are typical top 40 fare. Its association with a movie that promotes a jingoistic foreign policy makes me like the song even less. The Dead Kennedys took a jab at the movie in an intricately detailed political cartoon spanning both sides of the album Bedtime for Democracy. It showed people lining up for a movie called “Top Goon.”
But then again, Nunn hasn’t always shown what I would consider to be the best political instincts. She was widely criticized for performing at a New Year’s Eve party at the Trump-owned Mar-a-Lago on December 31, 2020.
But I can forgive Nunn for that. Berlin was up there with the best new wave bands in the early 80s. The lyrics in the song above are remarkably intelligent and will make you think. And their hits off Pleasure Victim “Sex…(I’m A)” and “The Metro” pushed boundaries and were refreshing for their time. I’ll give them credit for some good memories from that time.