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Released: July 1973

Rating: 4.026 (average of 19 ratings)

Genre: rock > proto punk

Quotable: “The most ambitious album of his career” – Mark Deming, All Music Guide

Album Tracks:

  1. Berlin [3:24]
  2. Lady Day [3:39]
  3. Men of Good Fortune [4:38]
  4. Caroline Says I [3:57]
  5. How Do You Think It Feels [3:42]
  6. Oh, Jim [5:14]
  7. Caroline Says II [4:13]
  8. The Kids [7:55]
  9. The Bed [5:51]
  10. Sad Song [6:55]

All songs written by Lou Reed.

Total Running Time: 49:26

Sales (in millions):

sales in U.S. only --
sales in U.K. only - estimated --
sales in all of Europe as determined by IFPI – click here to go to their site. --
sales worldwide - estimated --


peak on U.S. Billboard album chart 98
peak on U.K. album chart 7

Singles/Hit Songs:

  • How Do You Think It Feels (10/73) --
  • Caroline Says I (2/74) --

Notes: Original versions of “Caroline Says II” (recorded as “Stephanie Says”), “Oh, Jim” (recorded as “Oh, Gin”) and “Sad Song” available on the Velvet Underground’s box set Peel Slowly and See. The title cut was first recorded for Lou Reed’s eponymous debut.

In 2006, a live performance of the full album was captured and turned into a concert film and live album (Berlin: Live at St Ann’s Warehouse).


Rated one of the top 1000 albums of all time by Dave’s Music Database. Click to learn more. One of my personal top 100 albums of all time. Click to learn more.

Lou Reed
Transformer and ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ were both major hits in 1972, to the surprise of both Lou Reed and the music industry, and with Reed suddenly a hot commodity, he used his newly won clout to make the most ambitious album of his career, Berlin.” MD Fans and critics who were “expecting another upbeat glam outing” WK did not respond well. Reed was disillusioned enough abou the album’s reception that for years he rarely played any of the material live. WK

The album is “the musical equivalent of a drug-addled kid set loose in a candy store.” MD Assisted by producer “Bob Ezrin at his most grandiose,” MD Reed crafts an album very different from the bulk of his work, fleshing out Berlin “with a huge, boomy production…and arrangements overloaded with guitars, keyboards, horns, strings, and any other kitchen sink that was handy.” MD He also assembled top flight session musicians including Jack Bruce, Steve Winwood, Aynsley Dunbar, and Tony Levin. MD “Instrumentally, Reed himself only contributes acoustic guitar,” WK which made for quite a change from the “superb use of the two-guitars/bass/drums lineup with the Velvet Underground.” MD

Thematically, Reed was more adventurous as well. While he has “often been accused of focusing on the dark side of life, he and Ezrin approached Berlin as their opportunity to make The Most Depressing Album of All Time, and they hardly missed a trick.” MD Reed uses the songs to “form a loose story line about a doomed romance between two chemically fueled bohemians.” MD

As is often the case with concept albums, “a few of the songs are little more than sketches” MD but the highlights, which include “How Do You Think It Feels, Oh, Jim, ‘The Kids,’ and Sad Song – are powerful, bitter stuff.” MD

The Kids tells a horrific tale of Caroline, the album’s main female character, having her children taken away by the authorities. The song “features the sounds of children shouting for their mother.” WK

As Reed had done with his first two solo outings, he reworks some unreleased Velvet Underground material. He reworked the song “Oh, Gin” into “Oh, Jim” while the VU song “Stephanie Says” remerges as Caroline Says II. “Sad Song” was also a song originally recorded by the Velvets. Men of Good Fortune had been played by the group as early as 1966. WK The title cut was even a reworked song – but from Reed’s debut solo album. “here it is lyrically simplified, the key changed, and re-arranged for piano.” WK

The final assessment is that “it’s hard not to be impressed by Berlin, given the sheer scope of the project, but while it earns an A for effort, the actual execution merits more of a B-.” MD “The sheer size of Berlin ultimately overpowers both Reed and his material.” MD “But if Berlin is largely a failure of ambition, that sets it apart from the vast majority of Reed’s lesser works; Lou’s vocals are both precise and impassioned.” MD

Review Sources:

Related DMDB Links:

Previous Album: Transformer (1972) Lou Reed’s DMDB page Next Album: Sally Can’t Dance (1974)

Caroline Says II (live on David Letterman)

How Do You Think It Feels (live)

Sad Song (live)

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Last updated March 3, 2011.