Those First Impressions: Berlin Debut Single

Zone H | US | 7" | 1979 | ZON-001

Berlin: Matter Of Time US 7″ [1979]

  1. Matter Of Time [ver. 1]
  2. Overload [ver. 1]

The group Berlin had been around the block several times before finally signing with Geffen Records, who had the wherewithal to take the group up the charts to a level of success that would have made their 1979 era heads spin. The band formed in LA in 1978 and favored a take on the continental synth-rock sounds proffered by the likes of Ultravox at the time. They recorded their first single on Zone-H Records in a lineup that would be familiar with anyone who first encountered the band on Geffen, three years later:

  • Bass, Vocals – John Crawford
  • Drums – Dan Van Patten
  • Guitar – Chris Valasco
  • Synthesizer, Vocals – Jo Julian
  • Vocals – Terri Nunn

Both songs would be re-recorded for releases that were stepping stones to the Geffen era, but even those releases would reach few ears. “Matter of Time” was re-recorded in 1980 after vocalist Terri Nunn left the band for a year to pursue her acting career. Apparently she did some TV guest-shots during this sabbatical from the band. The second version of the song has lead vocals by replacement vocalist Virginia Maccolino. The re-recording appeared on their scarce 1980 debut album, “Information.” and later that year, I.R.S. Records picked up the track for a domestically released single that remains the most likely way you may have heard this song over the years. It was released on commercial 7″ and appeared on the 1980 compilation album “I.R.S. Records Greatest Hits – Vol. 1” which was a promo only release. The B-side, also appeared on “Information” with Maccolino singing, but that track was never licensed by I.R.S. A new instrumental B-side unique to that single, “French Reggae” appears in place of “Overload” on the I.R.S. single.

After giving acting a shot, Teri Nunn decided to return to the band and has remained the singer for Berlin in all of its further incarnations, up to the present day. What happened to Virginia Maccolino, no one can say. It is interesting to see that over two years, much effort was expended on this song, which was apparently thought to be their strong suit. Enough for two labels to release it as a single. Considering this, I’m a little shocked that it didn’t make a third appearance on the “Pleasure Victim” EP, but by then I imagine the group were tired of it. But I’m not. The song is great in either incarnation, but I’ll give the nod to Terri Nunn for being the better vocalist. She was always a strong singer and her early appearance here is nothing to be embarrassed about since she has all of the chops she would evidence later.

“Overload” is a song co-written by main songwriter John Crawford and Toni Childs, who co-wrote much of the material on the “Information” album. Childs wouldn’t surface again until several years later singing backing vocals for the likes of The Europeans and Stephen Duffy. Her own solo album didn’t appear on A+M until 1988. The B-side is about using too much electrical power and ends with Nunn listing everything in the modern American home that runs on electricity before an abrupt cold ending cuts the song short.

Though they had a “synth band” rep, most of the instrumentation on this single is conventional. Drums are acoustic and live and are well recorded. Synth player Jo Julian engineered and produced this session and he deserves kudos since it sounds far better than most debut singles recorded under low-budget circumstances. The mastering is also fantastic on this single, which sports DMM legends on the labels. Consequently, this pressing sounds way better than most 32 year old 7″ singles. This was a band who really knew what they were doing. I’m happy to have this and the I.R.S. version, which I found in the early 80s when it was fairly common. This version of the single is certainly less so. I ran across a dealer at a record show in Orlando in the early 90s who had three copies of this sitting in a box of 7″ers for a song. Not surprisingly, I nabbed all of them and redistributed the other two copies to friends who collected Berlin. What I really need is that “Information” album, which seems to have surfaced only in Germany in 1980.

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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4 Responses to Those First Impressions: Berlin Debut Single

  1. ronkanefiles says:

    Yay! for mentioning Europeans! Fantastic band with no legit CD’s – that I am aware of. More A&M UK madness…


  2. Brian Ware says:

    Wow! Five consecutive days – five consecutive blog entries. You’re a maniac Mr. Monk!


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