Turning Me Insane
Legendary ’80s outfit Berlin kicks off Salinas Valley Food and Wine Festival at Fox Theater.
Thursday, October 11, 2012
Terri Nunn is not the archetypal suburban mother of three. The 51-year-old has been the voice – and sexiness – behind the synth-pop outfit Berlin since 1978.
“Sometimes other parents look at me sideways,” she says, “but music keeps me alive and hot and young.”
Even if you haven’t heard of Berlin, there’s a good chance you know “Take My Breath Away.” The melodramatic ballad – from the Top Gun soundtrack – might be the definitive love song of the ’80s.
“When they told us the song would be used in the love scene between Kelly McGillis and Tom Cruise, I felt honored,” Nunn says.
But Berlin’s founding member John Crawford wasn’t as enthused.
“[Crawford] hated it because we didn’t write it and it didn’t sound like us,” Nunn says. “Of course the record label wanted us to do it because the movie would give exposure to Berlin, which was smart. The whole world opened their doors to us.”
Though the band didn’t write the piece that snagged an Academy Award in 1986 for Best Original Song, one of the main reasons for its success is Nunn’s voice, which has enough electricity to light up Times Square.
But the world-renowned romance ballad is not an accurate representation of Berlin’s sound – it’s completely different from all of its previous work, including its first MTV video hit, the dark synth-punk “The Metro,” and the highly suggestive “Sex (I’m A… ),” which could be described as Kraftwerk-in-heat-meets-Devo-in-the-80s-on-a-date-with-Blondie.
Twenty-six years after Berlin made history with “Take My Breath Away,” the group is returning to its synth-centric roots with a modern-day electronic dance music twist: Nunn has been working with John King of the Dust Brothers on a new album – expected to be released in the beginning of the year – which she describes as “very danceable” and not nearly as dark as the stuff she was writing 30 years ago.
“One of the nice things about getting older is I’ve lightened the fuck up,” Nunn says. “I’m so into EDM now and I wanted to do my version of it.”
Folks can expect to hear new tunes and hits Friday when Berlin performs at the Fox Theater, with Salinas’s favorite party band, Wild Turkeys, opening. Folks can also expect some participation: The sultry blonde says she likes bringing unsuspecting audience members up on stage to dance with her.
While Berlin’s sound and personnel has undergone changes since its 1978 inception, Nunn’s desire to deliver music that evokes some kind of feeling – from lust to passion to anguish – has remained constant.
“There’s a lot feelings in my songs,” she says. “My songs make it all right for people to have intense feelings and express them and live through them. Emotion is such a great power. It’s a deliverance.”
BERLIN plays at 8pm (doors 7pm), Friday, Oct. 12, at the Fox Theater, 241 Main St., Salinas. $20; $45 VIP. 758-8459. www.salinasvalleyfoodandwine.com/events/uncorked-the-official-kick-off-party/