While I’d first heard Berlin in late 1981 when their self-released single of “The Metro” made it onto WUSF-FM to ensnare me without ever finding a copy [that was affordable], I next ran across the band when Enigma Records had released their “Pleasure Victim” mini-album and advertised it in the pages of Trouser Press ca. 1982 in an ad with the copy “what if Blondie and Moroder had made a whole album.” Eventually Geffen Records sensed something they might be able to sell and the band started to take off in an America finally giving New Wave a chance. Geffen re-released “Pleasure Victim” and I didn’t need to mail order it from a Trouser Press ad.
By the time of their full second album, the Geffen money was sufficient for the band to actually get Moroder himself to produce a pair of tracks earmarked for singles release from the “Love Life” album. “No More Words” was the leadoff single and the “Bonnie + Clyde” styled video saw it roaring across the screens of MTV; taking the tune to the exalted #23 spot on the Billboard Hot 100®. On the other side of the world, history repeated itself as the song reached the exact same spot on the Australian charts. Berlin were the third rock concert I ever saw on the “Love Life” tour and I had enjoyed their new album a lot, but I never got the US 12″ single of “No More Words.” Instead, I opted for the UK 2×12″ of “You Don’t Know” from the “Count Three And Pray” album of 1986 that to this day I have not heard. It featured the US 12″ tracks as the second disc in the gatefold double single.
MORODER WEEK Day 4 – Berlin: No More Words US 12″
The 12″ mix of this one was 5:44 for a 3:54 song so it was definitely an “of its time” 12″ extended version. The intro began with the percussive, “water dripping” envelope synth that reminded me of similar sounds in “Mr. B’s Ballroom” by DEVO. But it had been extended out to eight bars with the distinctive Moroder bass sequencer fading in before the track got down to business with a drum fill and guitar riff. That sequencer was the only real callback to the characteristic Moroder sound that had built his reputation since 1977. Elsewhere, the band and producer were sticking much closer to pop rock than any disco sounds, even though Berlin had initially made a name for themselves with a gnarly Moroder Eurodisco pastiche called”Sex [I’m A…]” on their previous record.
The synths stayed close to horn patches throughout the song but there were a few stabs of actual sampled horns used for emphasis strategically throughout the song. Singer Terri Nunn was recorded [like much of the track] a little more dryly than was the norm of 1984. She sang with her usual power and it was a pleasure to hear a female vocalist who didn’t believe in vibrato abuse and let it belt for a change.
After the middle eight, the song took an excursion into dub space to extend the track. First Nunn got dubbed out then the percussion synths got some spotlight. Then the bass sequencer triggered the noise gate to give Nunn’s vocal the same stutter effect that was used earlier in yesterday’s single. Then after four bars of that, the sequencer alternated two bars at a time with the stuttered lead synths. Finally, guitarist Ric Olsen got a few bars for a solo while the song returned to the usual end fadeout it always had.
This single was indicative of the changes that the Moroder sound was undertaking by ’83’-84. Disco had been out for several years and Moroder was burnishing his pop chops here. This record found him moving from the superpop of the previous year’s “Flashdance” megasmash into rockier territory with aplomb. This was a very likable single that I felt could have gone top ten, but it was not quite to be. But it did respectable business for a young band. Berlin would be third time lucky with Moroder at the helm of their mega-selling single for the “Top Gun” OST a few years down the line. For what it’s worth, that was Moroder’s favorite of his records, but I prefer the slightly punky spirit of “No More Words” to the widescreen ballad style of “You Take My Breath Away.”
Interestingly enough, the band had apparently demoed “No More Words” in a form far deeper into the typical “Moroder sound” with a mix that sounded close to “I Feel Love.” This has been revealed by the Scott Davies of Rubellan Remasters, who is currently working on the DLX RM of “Love Life” with access to the master tapes. Fascinating, Captain.
Next: …Shifting Geres
Fun fact: for a few years in the early 90s, I worked with a woman who had been Terri Nunn’s BFF since high school and is namechecked on the Terri Nunn solo album. Somewhere I may still have my dub of the advance cassette of the solo album with a song that did not make the final cut.
On a more general Moroder note, are you familiar with the album “Love’s In You, Love’s In Me” by Giorgio & Chris? 1978 or so Casablanca release. Chris is a female vocalist for whom no last name is given. A fun album, with side 2 being especially good. I think I paid all of 5 cents for it!!
Mark Moerman – Chris was Chris Bennett, singer in Moroder + Bellotte’s Munich Machine project, so she had a history with Mororder already. So Terri Nunn still had time for high school pals even after making it in This Business Called “Show,” huh? Speaks well for her.
The story with “No more words” (and “Dancing in Berlin”) was that the whole of “Love life” was recorded with Mike Howlett – but the label “didn’t hear a single”. So they contacted Moroder, he agreed to do the remix/rerecording and Nunn has been dispatched to the studio to redo the vocals. No other band members were present. So Moroder and Nunn redid those two songs that were singles, and it paved the way for them to collaborate of “TMBA” (again without other members of Berlin). By the way, the rhythm track was taken wholly from the “Rush rush” (flop) single by Debbie Harry, with tempo set to the speed of “Maniac” by Michael Sembello :)
What you have on the back cover picture here is “Dancing in Berlin (remix)” which actually is the original version of the song, produced by Howlett. Sadly the original of “No more words” ever surfaced to this day (though Scott may finally release it).
Vlad – It’s been ages since I heard the “Rush Rush” single from the “Scarface” OST. I have the 12″ on “Once More Into The Bleach” and my hat is off to you. I never made that connection. The Moroder involvement did seen to telegraph label jitters. Whenever an album has high profile production on one or two songs that’s a dead giveaway. Of course the irony is that I consider Howlett to be a hit making producer himself! He sure had success with OMD and A Flock Of Seagulls. If he hadn’t re-recorded “Messages,” OMD might never have reached critical mass.
A little more info on the early No More Words. I got the versions unintentionally while researching to find the original Dance Mix from the 12″ single. In the end, the domestic tapes are no longer there but I was able to source tapes from the UK archive for the versions needed.
The tape of the original No More Words from the U.S. archive I received is a collection of incomplete experiments, listed as dub mixes. The music is very synth driven in the aforementioned ‘I Feel Love’ style, but of the lyrics that remain it appears the song originally had the verses done as spoken word. I have to say that I much prefer the Moroder ‘sung’ version in comparison. And while I’m sure I could cobble the mix(es) into some sort of adequate dub mix, I doubt it will happen. Had it been the full vocal version, it may have been worth pursuing, if only for historical purposes.
Scott – Welcome to the comments! Well, you would certainly know the score there. So the verses were spoken instead of sung on the “No More Words” demo/dub? How strange. Ms. Nunn sings the hell out of those verses in the version we all know and love, so I’m with you there. Some things were just not meant to be. By that point in the band’s development, they probably needed to ditch the Eurodisco sound they used for the “Sex [I’m A…}” single. Truth be told, that sound was already close to its expiration date by 1982!
I am curious that you say you have never hear Count Three & Pray. I firmly suspect this album is the only album anyone in the UK can recognise as Berlin’s. The vast majority or us Brits have never heard of Love Life or Pleasure Victim or The Metro or (keep going with all the USA hits). The UK first really met Berlin with Take My Breath Away and we were then stunned by two storming, totally live performances on The Tube, hosted by Jools Holland and Paula Yates, of You Don’t Know and Like Flames. There is also a fantastic, rocking live version of Will You Ever Understand Me live at Montreaux Rock Festival which, if you can find, will rip your ears off.
As for touring over here, Berlin sadly seem to be doing the hokey cokey with a promised UK tour last year that was partially postponed/partially cancelled. Those postponed dates for May this year are now cancelled too. Ho hum but I am so pleased I managed to catch Berlin live in Riverside, CA way back in 2012. I hung around afterwards and meet Terri Nunn. Her first words to me, once I introduced myself, were “You must get laid a lot with an accent like that” (I am Scottish). I just smiled and kept talking to her …
Seek out Count Three & Pray. We love it over here in the UK
Duncan Watson – I have two of the singles from “Count Three And Pray” but have yet to actually play them after 25+ years. Hell, I also have the Japanese laserdisc of “Wham Bam, Live In Japan” featuring a “Count Three + Pray” concert an hour long and have yet to watch that. Do you detect a pattern of neurosis? Because I do! i do remember “Like Flames” from the MTV video played a few times. A song bursting with vitality, as I recall from memory. Of course, the divisive success of “You Take My Breath Away” contributed to the crash + burn of the band. That single was really just Nunn + Moroder without the band, but the suits felt that Berlin had more name value, so that was how it was branded. After this album the band fissured for good, until the recent “Transcendance” that saw Nunn, Diamond, and Crawford reunite. I’ve read some scathing comments on that one but I’ve not bothered with anything Nunn or Berlin in any shape did in ages. Possibly because my favorite Berlin album is “Information” from 1980 where Nunn had [temporarily] left the band to give acting one more shot, so the singer was Virginia Macolino on that one. Nunn is a great singer, but I liked these songs by the band best.
Hi Mr. Monk,,
Another psychic post, as I just listened to
the other day on my playlist, (the US 12 inch mixes),
along with Metro remix.
Didn’t know it was Moroder related until you brought it up.
There was definitely to me a more pop sounding track from
them, whereas their earlier tracks had a darker, more
brooding tone to them. Of course, the bane of their
existence to me, was their gigantic hit, which I could
never stand listening to ‘take my breath away’,
which to me is worse than ‘hold me now’, however,
its probably the only song people would recognize
from them today.
So goes the pop world.
negative1ne – The Pop World can be a cruel mistress. The hand that giveth the money and success can often extract irredeemable costs, as we see with both Berlin and Thompson Twins.