ARCHIVE: Berlin’s Terri Nunn enjoying the life

Published on September 29th, 2017

Nunn enjoys the fruits of her labor with Berlin

 

By Jim Dail

 

During the early ‘80s, few new wave bands were as synonymous with the keyboard-rich genre as the group Berlin. Headed by the sultry Terri Nunn and powerful synthesizers, Berlin became a mainstay on the newly developed MTV with such videos as “Masquerade,” “The Metro” and “No More Words.”

To this day the band is enjoying the fruits of that labor.

“Back in those days, everyone had their hand in reaching for something, and it was all about publicity and promotion and we didn’t get that much money when people were done taking their share,” said lead singer Terri Nunn. “But because we did that then, we can do what we are doing now, and I’m having a great time now.”

Those early days were filled with not only a quick learning curve on how the corporate business world works but coping with the attitudes towards women. It was the days of Nancy and Ann Wilson of Heart and Pat Benatar, all of whom were frustrated by their labels and managements attempts to format them into the exact female role they felt would sell.

“I wanted to be able to do the things the men were doing,” she said. “Women had to be cute and pretty, soft and shy, but that’s not what all women were. The men could be nasty, aggressive, in your face, but women couldn’t. It didn’t fit reality.”

She would see male singers and not just want to imitate them.

“Well, I didn’t want to be like Mick Jagger,” she said. “I wanted to be Mick Jagger for all the reasons I mentioned before. He could be and do whatever he wanted.”

Now, everything has changed in so many ways. Women can be aggressive and in your face and Berlin is no longer resting comfortably and regularly on the charts as they did in the early days.

“I don’t feel the need to go back and be like we were then because I am far more successful in this phase of Berlin that I ever was then,” she said. “I have the freedom to do what I want to do and there was always so much more I wanted to say with my music and now I have that freedom.”

Nunn points out that there are a lot of illusions when it comes to the business and music itself.

“I remember meeting artists and I’d tell them what I thought they were saying in their lyrics and how great it was,” she said. “They’d look at me and say, ‘Uh, you aren’t even close!’”

The same is true of life as a musician working to make it in the beginning.

“There is a lot of downside when you are trying to make something of a band,” she said. “There’s no real life, 50 people are reaching for a piece of your paycheck, being told what to do and having to answer to everybody.”

However, don’t get the impression that she regrets anything or that she is happy. She clearly is not.

“There are good things and not so good things, but it all helped me to get where I am and I have go everything I wanted,” she said.

She wonders how modern groups make it at all in the current climate.

“I was lucky because I’d already laid the groundwork and people knew who we were and I didn’t have to start from scratch,” she said. “We don’t have to sell 5 million records anymore because we can tour because there’s an interesting thing that happens and that is as people stop buying records, concerts start going up and it shifts to the live thing.”

That includes Berlin’s modern era of touring.

“I’m not a big fan of going into the studio and sitting around laying down tracks, but I love being on stage and having that interaction with people,” she said. “The band is instigating energy with the audience, not creating it. We feed off of them.”

That’s true even if things don’t go perfectly.

“I love every show even if sometimes parts of it sucks,” she laughed. “We’ve always focused on the live music which is one of the reasons that we were successful early on and why we are still successful now.”

One of the things she is proud of, even honored by, is the fact that now other bands are covering her music.

“I love the covers, even if I don’t love their renditions because it really is an honor having someone record your music, to take the time to do it,” she said. “System of a Down did a version of ‘The Metro’ and it starts out really slow then turned into just chaos! I thought, ‘Wow, that’s an interesting take.’”

Among other who have covered Berlin’s music are Peaches and Jessica Simpson.

“Peaches did ‘Sex (I’m a…)’ and sang every part and I thought that was cool,” she said. “And I always figured Jessica Simpson would do ‘Take My Breath a Way’ because she said that was the first song she was kissed to.”

In some ways, that song illustrates the changes Nunn sees in the business.

“I wanted to do the chorus like she did, but I was shot down by Giorgio Moroder who kept saying ‘No that is not the way it is supposed to sound,’” she said. “I kept thinking ‘Oh this is going nowhere, he’s a loser.’ Of course, he was right!”

The song would be Berlin’s only Billboard Number One single and would win the 1986 Academy Award for Best Original Song.

She learned a lot from the experience.

“People don’t want complicated because people want to sign along,” he said. “It changed me.”

She’s also feeling reinvigorated these days.

“Dave Schulz who used to play with The Goo Goo Dolls joined us and he is so excited to be in the band that we feel the same excitement,” she said. “He told me that he always dreamed of having this gig and he has brought in a lot of new ideas.”

Is she happy?

“I’m loving every minute of it,” she said. “I have a life, I get to be on stage and I’m just having fun.”

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