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Music / Berlin

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Caroline Says: "This is a masterpiece".

Berlin is the third studio album by Lou Reed, released in 1973 through RCA Records. It was produced by Bob Ezrin (Alice Cooper, KISS, Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd). As the title suggests, it takes place in Berlin.

Not to be confused with the band Berlin (best known for their hit song "Take My Breath Away").


Side One

  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

  1. "Caroline Says II" (4:10)
  2. "The Kids" (7:55)
  3. "The Bed" (5:51)
  4. "Sad Song" (6:55)

Caroline Tropes...

  • Baroque Pop: Like most of Reed's music from this time period.
  • Bottle Episode: All action takes place in Berlin.
  • Call-Back and Continuity Nod: "Caroline Says II" calls back to "Candy Says" from The Velvet Underground's self-titled album. In fact, this song is essentially a rewrite of the unreleased Velvet Underground song "Stephanie Says", with new lyrics and a slower, sparser arrangement.
  • Concept Album: The entire story takes place in Berlin.
  • Covers Always Lie: Reed is shown on the cover with an electric guitar but only played an acoustic one on the album.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: "Caroline Says II"
    Life is meant to be more than this
    And this is a bum trip
    But she's not afraid to die
  • Domestic Abuse: "Caroline Says II"
    Caroline says
    As she gets up from the floor
    You can hit me all you want to
    But I don't love you any more
    • "Oh Jim"
    And when you're filled up to here with hate
    Don't you know you gotta get it straight
    Filled up to here with hate
    Beat her black and blue and get it straight
  • Downer Ending: The album ends with Caroline's suicide.
  • Driven to Suicide: Caroline.
    This is the place where she cut her wrist
  • Drugs Are Bad: "Caroline Says"
    All of her friends call her Alaska
    When she takes speed, they'll laugh and ask her
    What is in her mind?
    But she's not afraid to die;
    All of her friends call her Alaska
    It's so cold in Alaska
  • Epic Rocking: The 7:55 "The Kids" and the 6:55 "Sad Song". "The Bed", at 5:51, just barely misses the six-minute mark.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin:
    • "Sad Song," which is a sad song. If you ignore the lyrics it might not seem like it at first though.
    • The album itself, which is set in Berlin.
  • Face on the Cover: Reed is shown on the album cover, but in a small image.
  • Fingore: "Caroline Says II"
    She put her fist through the window pane
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Jealousy is a recurring theme on the album. Reed considered it a destructive emotion.
  • Grief Song: "Sad Song".
    I thought she was Mary, Queen of Scots
    I tried so very hard
    Shows just how wrong you can be
    I'm gonna stop wasting time
    Somebody else would have broken both of her arms
  • Jerkass: Both main characters of Berlin qualify. Caroline is serially unfaithful, a neglectful parent, and so on, while Jim is a domestic abuser who gets custody of their children taken away from her purely out of spite and doesn't feel any remorse after his mistreatment of Caroline drives her to suicide, and in fact rationalises it by saying "somebody else would have broken both of her arms". Of course, it's also possible that some or all of Caroline's characterisation is a case of Unreliable Narrator, since we mostly have to take Jim's word for her actions and various things he says throughout the course of the album suggest that he may not exactly be the most stable individual out there.
  • Lack of Empathy: "Men of Good Fortune"
    Men of good fortune, often cause empires to fall
    While men of poor beginnings, often can't do anything at all
    The rich son waits for his father to die
    The poor just drink and cry
    And me I just don't care at all
  • Last Note Nightmare: "The Bed" is a dream-like song with a final moment of pure nightmare. "The Kids" is another quiet song that in this case ends with the voices of children hollering for their mother, sounding for all the world like they have just been told she is not coming home ... ever.
  • Location Song: "Berlin", though the entire album could count since it all takes place in the German capital.
  • Lonely Piano Piece: The Title Track is just Reed and a piano.
  • The Movie: Julian Schnabel's Berlin: Live At St Ann's Warehouse, combining concert footage with filmed scenes from the story.
  • My Greatest Failure: How Reed regarded Berlin. It was perhaps the most ambitious thing he ever did, but it flopped commercially and was savaged by critics (though it was retroactively deemed one of his best albums).
  • New Sound Album: Berlin features heavy orchestral arrangements, compared to the Glam Rock sound of Transformer.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Some of the more salacious details about Caroline make it clear that she's based at least a little bit on Nico, with whom Reed had a torrid affair a few years prior. They're even the same height, 5'10.
  • One-Man Song: "Jim"
  • One-Woman Song: "Caroline Says" and "Lady Day".
  • One-Word Title: "Berlin".
  • Really Gets Around: Caroline, if Jim's narration is accurate (it might not be).
  • Rearrange the Song: The title track originally appeared as a bluesy ballad on Lou Reed; "Sad Song", "Oh Jim" and "Caroline Says II" are rewrites of (then) unreleased The Velvet Underground songs.
  • Rhyming with Itself:
    • "Men of Good Fortune" rhymes "die" with "die", as well as "a thing" with "anything".
    • "Caroline Says" rhymes "vial" with "vile."
  • Rock Opera: It's a story about two doomed lovers in the titular city
  • Sex by Proxy: Suggested in "How Do You Think It Feels?"
    How do you think it feels
    To always make love by proxy?
  • Shout-Out:
  • Slobs Versus Snobs: "Men of Good Fortune"
    Men of good fortune, often wish that they could die
    While men of poor beginnings want what they have
  • The Something Song: "Sad Song"
  • Splash of Color: The photos in the album artwork are green-tinted monochrome except with prominent elements tinted in red.
  • Statuesque Stunner: The title track mentions that Caroline is 5'10.
  • Title Track: "Berlin"
    In Berlin, by the wall
    You were five foot ten inches tall
  • Unreliable Narrator: Subtext suggests that Jim may be one.
  • Wham Line: "The Bed":
    This is the place where she cut her wrist
  • With Friends Like These...: "Oh Jim":
    All your two-bit friends
    They shot you up with pills