Session File: Recording Lou Reed's 'Berlin'

Lou Reed’s Berlin was an important album for me in many ways.
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Lou Reed’s Berlin was an important album for me in many ways. I was working with a genius, it was only the second album I played on, it was my first trip to England (which was very exciting as I was a big fan of the ’60s British Invasion), and I got to work with Jack Bruce, Steve Winwood, Aynsley Dunbar, and B.J. Wilson. I expected to be nervous—or maybe even a little intimidated—but I was thrilled to be playing with these guys. I think this was naiveté on my part, rather than confidence. I just kept thinking what an incredible experience it would be. I also knew these guys would kick my ass and push me to a new level, or they would roll right over me. I didn’t dwell on that part so much!

We began recording at Morgan Studios in London, where Yes was also working. Bob Ezrin [Berlin’s producer] and I actually borrowed a Univibe and a Coral sitar from the very gracious and kind Steve Howe. One of the many things I learned doing Berlin was how to listen to the other musicians, and how to think on my feet at the same time.

I had flown to London from Toronto with Bob and Aynsley so I already knew Aynsley a little. But the day I met Jack Bruce for the first time was really special. He was pretty quiet at first, but definitely the consummate professional. In fact, Lou told me Jack had really impressed him when he asked to see the lyrics for the first song we were going to record. I started paying more attention to the lyrics myself after hearing about that. If you know what the song is about, it can influence and inspire how you play the song—a valuable lesson.