Berlin is an American new wave band. The group was formed in Los Angeles in 1978 by John Crawford (bass guitar). Band members included Crawford, Terri Nunn (vocals), David Diamond (keyboards), Ric Olsen (guitar), Matt Reid (keyboards) and Rod Learned (drums). The band gained mainstream-commercial success in the early 1980s with singles including “The Metro”, “Sex (I’m A…)”, “No More Words” and then in the mid 1980s with the chart-topping single “Take My Breath Away” from the 1986 film Top Gun.
Despite its name, Berlin did not have any known major connections with the capital of Germany, but instead was formed in Orange County, California in 1978. They were inspired by the keyboard work of Kraftwerk, Devo, Sparks and The Screamers. Their first single, “A Matter of Time,” was released in early 1979 on Zone-H Records. The single was re-issued in 1980 featuring a replacement vocalist, Virginia Macolino, after Terri Nunn had temporarily left the band to pursue an acting career; at one point, Nunn auditioned for the role of Leia Organa in the movie Star Wars. This was followed by the album Information. At this point, the band was having trouble gaining the attention and respect of the recording industry: according to Nunn, “It was all skinny ties and a lot of upbeat, happy guitar stuff. The record labels just didn’t understand what we were doing.”
Terri Nunn rejoined the band as singer in 1980, and they signed to independent label Enigma Records on which they released a double A-sided single, “Tell Me Why” / “The Metro”. The single was intended as a one-off, since Crawford was by then focusing on his new band Fahrenheit and regarded Berlin as a “just for fun” side project. However, the single was a success, helping to finance the EP album, Pleasure Victim, which was recorded on a $2,900 budget. The EP included their first significant hit: the controversial synth-driven “Sex (I’m A…)” (1982), which was banned by some radio stations due to its graphic lyrics. The song was intentionally written and composed to get airplay on Los Angeles radio station KROQ, which specialized in playing music that was not heard on other stations, and of which members of the group were fans. Due to the attention brought on by the single, wider release offers were made by larger record labels for Pleasure Victim. Geffen Records’ offer was accepted and the label re-released Pleasure Victim worldwide in early 1983. The label also re-released “The Metro”, which then became another hit.
In 1984, the band released their next album, Love Life, and the single “No More Words,” whose subsequent video saw Terri Nunn and bandmates re-enact a Bonnie and Clyde-style car chase and shoot-out, became their first top-20 hit. “Take My Breath Away” (from the movie Top Gun) became their best-selling single in 1986 and a huge international hit, but also their last big hit.
Aside from Nunn, members of the band were founding member John Crawford (primary songwriter, bass guitar and synthesizer), and David Diamond (synthesizer & guitar). Ric Olsen (lead guitar) was brought in during the final recording of Pleasure Victim. Other members added were Matt Reid (synthesizer), Rob Brill(drums: 1983–1987) and Rod Learned (drums: 1979–1983). Berlin’s breakout EP, 1982’s Pleasure Victim, featured Nunn, Crawford, and Diamond, as well as guitarist Ric Olsen, drummer, synthesist and producer Dan Van Patten and guitarist Chris Ruiz-Velasco. (These last two were founding members, along with Crawford and original male vocalist Tyson Cobb.) Before Pleasure Victim was completed, Van Patten and Ruiz-Velasco parted ways with Nunn, Crawford, and Diamond. Ric Olsen was brought in to complete tracks on Pleasure Victim.