Before I leave the Berlin album—at least for the time being—I want to tell you about something that happened at the end of the project that was really quite cool. I was in New York when Bob Ezrin was finishing up the project, and he asked me if I’d like to come to the Record Plant and hear the album from start to finish.
In those wonderful, good old days, you would mix each song onto 2-track analog tape, and once you had all the songs mixed—which usually took up two reels—you would then put all the songs into the correct sequence. This was done the old-fashioned way, with razor blades and leader tape to separate each song. Now, leader tape was either plastic or paper, and each presented certain problems. Plastic sometimes generated static electricity that could put a pop on your mix, and paper would sometimes tear during fast-forward or rewind. Ah, the joys of the analog world.
When I walked into Studio A, Bob was putting reel one of Berlin on the 2-track machine. I was excited to hear this concept album in its proper order, as we had recorded it out of sequence, and I hadn’t heard the complete story yet. I sat down on the couch, and Bob sat in the sweet spot behind the console. Then, we turned the lights off and listened to side one.
I was stunned. I literally found myself taking in a deep breath when side one finished. Without saying a word, Bob put on side two and hit Play. At the end of “Sad Song” I was completely exhausted. Berlin was more powerful and beautiful than anything I had ever heard, and I realized at that moment that Lou Reed was indeed a genius. The songs, the lyrics, the story, and the vocal performances all added up to an incredible piece of audio art. I once told Lou that I thought Berlin was a sophisticated blues album. I also realized what a genius Bob Ezrin is. Berlin is what I call a “rock tragedy,” and through the production and arrangement, Bob brought all of the emotion and intensity right in your face. It was brilliant. I was very proud to have been part of such a work.
That listening session sealed my life and my career. This was my second album project, and I had become as personally involved in it as if it were my own record, but I also got another lesson in the incredible power of music.