Recent Posts from my Official Site
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
An actor and man I greatly admire, Robert Kerman (aka R. Bolla) is in a very bad way and is need of our help this holiday season. Please click on this link for information on the Robert Kerman Fundraiser. Any, and all, donations, are greatly appreciated!
Friday, December 6, 2013
Monday, November 25, 2013
Saturday, November 23, 2013
Thursday, November 14, 2013
Hey Casey, thanks so much for taking time out of your schedule to participate in this! First off, can you tell us a bit about your background?
Was there a particular film, song or artist that initially sparked your interest in the arts as a child?
You are one of the leading film historians on this period in the world. How did you first get interested in the genre?
This genre and period has typically been all but ignored in film studies and film history in general but this thankfully seems to be changing. Do you feel like the tide is finally beginning to change and that these films, and the artists who worked on film, might finally start to get some long overdue acknowledgement and recognition?
There is of course a lot of mainstream opposition in the critical community to even discuss this genre. Have you felt any of that opposition to your own work?
Okay, lets talk up about In the Flesh, the exciting program you a curating at the Anthology Film Archives! Tell us about the program. The program looks wonderful and I so wish I could be there. Through the Looking Glass and Wanda Whips Wall Street are two particular favorites of mine. I hope it is very successful and the first of many. What do you hope viewers take away from the series, particularly those who are newcomers to the genre? As a wrap-up I was hoping you might share some personal favorites with us. Could you perhaps name ten or so vintage adult films that you think are seriously in need of rediscovery. Also, are there any particular performers of filmmakers that you would particularly like to see rediscovered? Wow, that’s a great question, and so different
from the expected “list your favorites of all time”! Um…I’m gonna cheat and give
you a lucky thirteen.
Why did you pick these particular films?
High Rise (1972) – We’re showing it in the Anthology series and it’s the least-known of the four, but should be wider regarded as the best early adult comedy. The soundtrack is Hollywood-caliber.
Resurrection of Eve (1973) – It’s way better than the Mitchell Brothers’ better-known Behind the Green Door and is also Marilyn Chambers’ best film.
The Seduction of Lyn Carter (1974) – Anthony Spinelli’s most neglected masterpiece, where Andrea True blows my mind as a housewife in an abusive affair with Jamie Gillis that she secretly enjoys.
Easy Alice (1976) – This is a marvelous meta film about the off-screen adventures of a San Francisco adult star, Joey Silvera, who also reportedly directed the film.
Punk Rock (1977) – Carter Stevens is all around underrated, and I think this is his best film tied with Pleasure Palace (1979). See both, they’re quintessential “adult noir”.
Skin-Flicks (1978) – Damiano’s most underrated film, wall-to-wall great performances, with special note made for Sharon Mitchell as an adult star eager for true love.
Tropic of Desire (1979) – Bob Chinn weaves a fascinating story of a WWII-era brothel in Hawaii. A personal favorite of Bob’s and I concur.
Randy (1980) – The one adult film from Phillip Schuman, this sex comedy following a clinical study of ‘anti-orgasmic’ women seeking a solution to their problem is one of the best films you’ve never seen. The theme song is a catchy gem.
The Seductress (1981) – Another of Bob Chinn’s most underrated, out of a filmography that needs more attention in general.
Mascara (1982) – Lisa de Leeuw and Lee Carroll are superb as, respectively, a sexually frustrated working woman and the prostitute she enlists to help her broaden her horizons.
Nasty Girls (1983) – Ron Sullivan’s most unsung “day in the life” film, following a group of people over one night at a bar as their lives intertwine.
American Babylon (1985) – The Roger Watkins film too few people have seen.
Getting Personal (1985) – Ron Sullivan directing Herschel Savage and Colleen Brennan as mismatched con artists. Funny, touching, beautifully acted. One of the last great FILMS in the genre before video took over.
I’ll stop there! As a gay man, there are underrated studs like Jeffrey Hurst, Ron Hudd, Mike Ranger, and John Seeman I would follow anywhere. Their wives are very lucky!
Directors in need of rediscovery: Alan Colberg was consistently great, as was Jeffrey Fairbanks, and both only made a handful of films so their names are not widely known as they should be. Two directors who are big names yet still don’t get the full credit they deserve are Bob Chinn and Ron Sullivan (Henri Pachard). But the most underrated are the French classic directors, like Claude Mulot, Gerard Kikoine, Francis Leroi, Didier Philippe-Gerard, and Claude Bernard-Aubert. Their films aren’t widely available here but they are almost always a guaranteed bargain.
Awesome Casey! Thanks so much for participating in this and I wish you all the best of luck with In the Flesh and all of your upcoming work. I look forward to doing another one of these down the road to discuss more of your upcoming projects.
Okay, lets talk up about In the Flesh, the exciting program you a curating at the Anthology Film Archives! Tell us about the program.
The program looks wonderful and I so wish I could be there. Through the Looking Glass and Wanda Whips Wall Street are two particular favorites of mine. I hope it is very successful and the first of many. What do you hope viewers take away from the series, particularly those who are newcomers to the genre?
As a wrap-up I was hoping you might share some personal favorites with us. Could you perhaps name ten or so vintage adult films that you think are seriously in need of rediscovery. Also, are there any particular performers of filmmakers that you would particularly like to see rediscovered?
Wow, that’s a great question, and so different
from the expected “list your favorites of all time”! Um…I’m gonna cheat and give
you a lucky thirteen.
Friday, November 1, 2013
A life is filled with Sunday mornings. I have been thinking of a number of them these past few torturous days like the Sunday in the fall of 1987 when I found a copy of Lou Reed's Growing Up in Public in my father's record collection. I was fifteen and within the span of just under forty minutes my life was forever changed. It's funny, as many truly defining moments can happen without a person realizing it but I knew instantaneously. I had found the voice I had been looking for...the meaning. I had found the voice that I knew would be there from that day on and I knew I would never really be alone again.
Kelley came down about an hour after I got up this most recent Sunday morning. We quickly got ready to go out to get some final supplies we needed for the Halloween party we were having that evening. I was feeling pretty rough due to an emergency root canal I had had the day before and I took some prescribed pain medicine to help forgot how uncomfortable I was. We got back in the early part of the afternoon from the store and, as we were unpacking the groceries, I noticed I had a message on my phone. Opening the notifications tab I saw it was a Facebook message from my friend John Levy. Without opening the full message all I could see was "Hey Jeremy, I'm sorry to report that Lou Reed has..." I didn't have to open the message to see the rest. Stunned and feeling sick I made my way over to the steps next to our door and fell against them. The tears didn't come immediately although I would have preferred them to the terrible feeling that surged through my entire body. Our little dog Maizie sensed that something was wrong and came up to check on me. I grasped on to her and whispered, "my voice is gone" and then the tears came...
The first time I ever got my heart broken came on a Sunday morning as well. Getting your heart broke by an unrequited love is a necessary part of growing up. The first time I ever had my heart truly fractured came around the winter of 1992 when I was rejected by a very special young lady who had been my best friend for the better part of a couple of years at that point. There is something really dramatic about being in love in your late teens and I was, of course, convinced the world would end. After the Saturday night rejection I had made my way to my friend Trace's house as the sun rose on an extremely cold and snowy Evansville, Indiana morning. The snow was beautiful, the roads were treacherous and a cassette dub of The Blue Mask, with Coney Island Baby on the flipside, kept me warm physically and spiritually that morning. Before we lost touch for a painful spell in the mid nineties (due to a fall off the planet earth that I took) Lou Reed was able to offer some solace to her as well, on another Sunday morning, when I sent her the lyrics to "Magic and Loss" to help her deal with the passing of one of her grandparents. On Sunday she was one of the first people to send me some much needed words of sorrow with, "I thought of you immediately. I can't believe he's gone." I got similar messages from many friends throughout the week, all of which were greatly appreciated.
I did my best to put on my own personal blue mask during our Halloween party, as the last thing I wanted to do was ruin it for Kelley. I had originally planned to dress as the mom from Psycho but changed my mind and attempted to morph myself into Candy Darling as my own internal tribute to Lou and a time that now seemed more far away than ever. I laughed, I socialized and I watched Kelley's friends make their way in all through the night...all of them much prettier and younger than I. I wondered what they thought of me, as the seven hour Halloween mix I had spent the week before creating played in the background. I couldn't hear it though, I could just hear Lou's voice in the distance but instead of having a Peter Laughner type breakdown I maintained my cool and somehow even managed to enjoy myself even though I dreaded waking the next morning.
Years before I stopped speaking to nearly everyone I had loved, and that had loved me, I would spend many a Sunday morning with friends and lovers. Late Saturday nights that bled into those mornings have been filing in and out of my brain all week. An impossibly late night with my friend Ryan listening to different versions of "Heroin" in his basement room with his father occasionally interrupting wanting to know what we were doing. A Sunday morning in 1994 spent with my most corrosive and passionate partner Shayna making love and listening to the Live in Berlin bootleg I had picked up the day before at a local Bloomington, Indiana record shop walking distance from her place. Introducing Take No Prisoners to my friend Dave, who just recently recalled a bit of his favorite between song banter to me again all these years later, and seeing Lou for the first time live with my oldest friend Kimbre. Memory after memory of hundreds of Sunday mornings have been coming back to me starring so many people from my past, a number of whom got in touch with me this week via phone-calls, texts and emails making sure I was okay.
It was indeed all those incredibly kind messages that I have gotten throughout the week, from people (some of whom I have never even met) who recognized that this wasn't just another celebrity passing for me. Lou Reed was family, the brother I never had, the best friend who I didn't let go of, the voice that helped me through every crisis (small and major) I have faced in my adult life. For the past quarter of a century the knowledge that there would be more lyrics and music from him to help get me through the most difficult nights, and darkest days, has always been there. Now that knowledge is gone and I don't know what to do. What am I going to do without Lou Reed? That thought has plagued and troubled me all week. One friend noted that the music and words will always be there to offer their help and support but the idea that there won't be more coming, that the voice I have depended on for so long has been silenced, is absolutely devastating to me. I still haven't been able to process the news of Lou Reed's passing. I recall the story that Jerry Schilling told about Brian Wilson's reaction to Elvis Presley dying. "What do we do now? I don't know what to do." I know I am not the only one feeling that way right now.
The world has felt and looked strange since Sunday October 27th. Feelings of anger and despair have mixed with a strong sense of gratitude and love the past few days. I feel different, dazed and not sure what my next move should be. I am grateful for Kelley, and our little furry family, and I am grateful for the memories...grateful for all those Sundays since that fateful day more than 25 years ago when I first discovered the artist who would have the greatest impact of any on my life. Lou Reed blew open my mind and introduced me to artistic, cultural and spiritual worlds I had never known of before. Attempting to imagine what my life would have been like if I hadn't discovered and fell completely in love with his work is not only impossible but also unthinkable. The Jeremy Richey I am today simply wouldn't exist...I wouldn't be married to Kelley, there would be no Moon in the Gutter, I wouldn't have the memories and friends that I do...none of it would be the same. More than likely I would have become that middle class conforming douchebag I have always hated and, while I ultimately might not be worth a damn, I can at least look myself in the mirror each day with the knowledge that I am still, deep-down, that transformed 15 year old kid in Indiana discovering and embracing a world I found in the dusty grooves of a cut-out record my father had buried in his collection.
Dedicated to Laurie Anderson and my Father.
Thursday, October 10, 2013
Operating as both a seriously sympathetic portrait to the plight of Mexican Immigrants in the old west as well as a deliriously violent exploitation picture with an absolutely dizzying number of gunfights throughout, Hanging for Django is one of Sergio Garrone's more striking and, relatively speaking, sedate works. While not as nightmarish as the more well-known Django the Bastard, nor as off the chain as his later Naziploitation films, Hanging for Django still casts its own very distinctive spell. Featuring a number of beloved genre icons, including Anthony Steffen, Nicoletta Machiavelli, Mariangela Giordano and a terrific William Berger (who delivers one of his best screen-performances as a bounty hunter preacher named Murdoch) Hanging for Django might not stand with the best European Westerns ever made but it has a number of great moments that will surely delight fans of the genre.
While the cast alone would have assured that Hanging for Django was a fully-loaded production the real stars of the show are editors Cesare Bianchini and Marcello Malvestito, whose superlative cutting work here is unbelievably creative and consistently surprising. The duo's wildly audacious editing services Garrone's off-kilter, and often unexpected, angles and framing incredibly well. Hanging for Django suffers at times, due to a rather pedestrian script from Garrone (centered an admittedly intriguing premise) and a clearly lower than needed budget that hampers a number of interior sequences, but it is a good film and its return is very welcome.
Bianchini and Malvestito aren't the only great behind the scenes artistic duo fuelling Hanging for Django as strong words of praise must go to cinematographer Franco Villa (who would shoot a number of the seventies great Italian genre films) and the legendary Aristide Massaccesi (Joe D'Amato) whose work here as a camera operator is extraordinarily ballsy (check the incredible mid-film gunfight where D'Amato expertly (and literally) flips the camera to match the action creating one of the most exhilarating moments I have seen in some time.
Hanging for Django is ultimately a good film made up of a number of truly great moments (Berger's eerie introduction is particularly mesmerizing) but it never quite reaches the excellence of the finest European westerns of the period. The pros far outweigh the cons though and I would recommend it without reservation to even casual fans of the genre.
Raro's new Blu-ray is absolutely beautiful. The print is immaculate and both the English Dub and Italian language track are wonderfully preserved and presented. The excellent quality of the disc perhaps, at times, makes the films low-budget a bit more transparent than it needs to be but Raro and Kino have done an impressive job here. Two extras are available with the first being a small unattributed booklet and the second being a featurette entitled "Bounty Killer for a Massacre", which is in reality a 2007 fifteen minute chat with author and film historian Manlio Gomarasca. The disc will be released later this month and can be ordered at the links above, at Amazon or at any number of your preferred retailers.
-Jeremy Richey, 2013-
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Monday, September 30, 2013
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
First up, my friend and past Moon in the Gutter Q&A participant Jill Nelson is working on an exciting new book entitled 1976: Tapes From California and she has just started a new blog dedicated to it. Jill is one of my favorite writers and is a terrific person so please give a visit to her new blog and support her upcoming book.
Next up we have the much anticipated re-release of David Hess' incredible soundtrack to Wes Craven's Last House on the Left. I have just pre-ordered the limited to 1000 CD and can't wait to hear it. Here is the link for American readers and a different one for International followers.
Back to the bookshelf, legendary actress Seka is getting ready to release her sure to be essential autobiography Inside Seka. I am expecting my copy from Amazon next week and look forward to covering the book here after I read it. Here is the Amazon link for those interested, as well as a recent New York Daily News article on it.
On the DVD and Blu-ray front. Severin Films has some amazing new releases coming up including a special edition of one of my favorites House on Straw Hill and a limited edition package dedicated to Jess Franco's The Hot Nights of Linda.
Kino Redemption continue their incredibly valuable Mario Bava collection with two key films just released on DVD and Blu-ray, A Bay of Blood and Five Dolls for an August Moon. Both discs look incredible and contain essential Tim Lucas commentary tracks.
Two of my favorite bands, Goldfrapp and Mazzy Star, return this month. Both releases are a major cause for celebration.
Finally the great Kathleen Hanna has recently resurrected her band Julie Ruin and the new EP is a real jaw dropper. Visit their site here and give a listen.
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
After about a year of being totally burned out and exhausted I have started to feel like I am back in business as the summer is drawing to a close. I have several writing projects I have been working on (more details soon) and I am feeling reenergized, reorganized and revitalized personally, professionally and spiritually. To capitalize on this I recently started a new project and am restarted an older one.
First up we have the long gestating Jean Rollin Forum, a message board I recently created to go along with my Rollin blog Fascination. Two weeks in and we already have over a dozen members and a number of great conversations going. If you are interested in Rollin please visit the board and send me a membership request to access all of the forums.
Also, I have just relaunched Harry Moseby Confidential, my tribute to the figures, films, sights and sounds of the seventies! Consider this Moseby 2.0 as I am expanding it to include not just the seventies but the fifteen year period between 1968 and 1983, probably my favorite stretch of time in popular culture.
So, pay me a visit to both places and Let's Rock Again!
Sunday, September 1, 2013
While Gritos en la noche, or The Awful Dr. Orlof as it is more universally recognized, wasn't the first film that Jesus Franco Manera had directed it was the work that would forcefully announce him as one of the most daring and distinctive filmmakers of the sound era. Viewed now more than fifty years after its original 1962 release date The Awful Dr. Orlof stills feels as perverse and shocking as ever. While it is much more controlled and subtle, mostly due to the rigid censorship that was in place in the early sixties, than Franco's most personal later works it remains one of the most progressive horror films ever made. As Cathal Tohill and Pete Tombs would write in their indispensable Immoral Tales, "there was nothing old hat about this dank masterpiece, it pulsed with a new freshness, ransacking the annals of cinema with a deviant vigor."
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Friday, August 23, 2013
Since starting this blog back in 2008 I have met many incredible online friends who share my passion for everything connected to Jean Rollin. It has been incredible getting to interact with fellow fans, co-workers and friends of Jean and I hope I hear from more and more. Over the past several years I have had several readers here ask me about possibly starting an online forum dedicated to Rollin and his films. I have been hesitant due to both time constraints and inexperience but I have decided the time has come for this new chapter for Fascination. So, coming very soon I will be introducing Fascination: The Jean Rollin Experience Forum, a message board dedicated to the fantastic world of our main man. Business as usual will continue here but I do hope this new venture brings out some fellow fans for some fun, meaningful and thoughtful discussions about Jean. I am working on the board right now and hope to have it set up within the next week. I will post the link, and information, as soon as it is live. Thank you to my readers here for their friendship, loyalty and patience! You are all awesome...
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
I was recently invited to submit a piece for Mondo Macabro's great blog focused on one of their past releases. I chose Michel Lemoine's terrific 1976 feature Seven Women for Satan and my look at the film is now available to read for those interested. Thanks to Jared over at Mondo for asking me!
Thursday, August 1, 2013
This new DVD and Blu-ray of A Virgin Among the Living Dead is one of Redemption's best and I know that many readers here will absolutely want to order a copy from Kino, Diabolik or Amazon.
In other news, The Escapees has been announced on Redemption's Facebook page as part of the 2014 line-up! Hopefully that will not be the only new Rollin release but it is a welcome one.
While I have often picked A Virgin Among the Living Dead as my absolute favorite Franco film I came to the work later than most of his others I first encountered through grey market VHS copies throughout the nineties. For whatever reason, A Virgin Among the Living Dead wasn't among the Midnight Video or Video Search of Miami tapes, that Tim Lucas mentions on his tremendous new commentary track, that either me or my movie buddy Dave ordered back in the day. While I had read much about this film I didn't finally get a chance to see any version of it until just over a decade ago when it first made its way to DVD as part of Image's Euroshock line.
I fell in love with Franco's hypnotic 1973 masterpiece during that first viewing in my late twenties. Watching it that first time I felt like I was, in a way, collapsing into the film and all these years (and viewings) later it still mesmerizes me in a way that few fantastic works of art do. It's a remarkably meditative work that is as compelling as it is strange and as surreal as it is oddly grounded.
Pulsing with a soothing narcotic feel punctuated at nearly every turn by Bruno Nicolai's absolutely gorgeous score, A Virgin Among the Living Dead is an incredibly singular experience. While it was marketed both as a horror and sexploitation film during its various theatrical runs, A Virgin Among the Living Dead is very much one of the great European Art Films. It's breathtaking in both its thematic scope and its punctuated brevity and it has a striking emotional core that is sadly missing from most modern 'genre' films. A Virgin Among the Living Dead is among the richest and most rewarding films in Jess Franco's canon as well as being one of the most fully realized, a fact that is made all the more remarkable when one considers just how consistently tampered with the film was through the years.
Redemption's excellent new DVD and Blu-ray offers up A Virgin Among the Living Dead under the title Christina, Princess of Eroticism, the 79 minute cut of the film which is the closest we have to Franco's preferred version of one of his greatest works. The disc also offers the infamous 'horror' version, as an extra, featuring all of the padded out Zombie footage French filmmaker Jean Rollin shot years later, which I wrote a bit about here at my Rollin blog. The new disc also offers up some extremely strange 'alternate erotic footage' featuring Alice Arno, that would have been just as out of place in Franco's soulful work as Rollin's undead were. While Christina, Princess of Eroticism is extremely close to Franco's original cut, it shouldn't be forgotten that A Virgin Among the Living Dead is still a compromised work, a sad fact that points to how much Franco had to work against throughout his combative career.
I am hesitant to write too much about A Virgin Among the Living Dead as it really is a work of art that needs to be experienced and I don't want to spoil anything for readers who might not have seen it before. I will say that it has a number of images and moments that even if I had only seen once would have eternally stuck with me. If I am ever asked what it is that I love so much about this particular period of esoteric European filmmaking A Virgin Among the Living Dead is one of the key works I would point to. More importantly it is one of the pictures I would suggest to less adventurous film fans who still think of Jess Franco as a lesser, or even poor, filmmaker. I defy anyone to watch this film and not be impressed by the amount of passion, skill and thought that can be found in each frame.
Redemption's new discs offer up the best looking print of the film to date. While it is noticeably more grainy and scratchy than Image's older DVD it has a much more consistently vibrant and warmer feel throughout. Skin-tones are much more natural, the day for night shots more sinister and the new disc has finally just a more cinematic look about it. To go along with this struck from negative print we have three audio tracks; the preferred French, the atrocious English dub and the aforementioned Lucas commentary, which is among the best he has ever done.
Along with the alternate version and footage I mentioned earlier, Redemption's new discs have several other extremely valuable extras including trailers, a photo gallery and one of the final filmed interviews with Franco by David Gregory and Elijah Drenner. Best of all are two featurettes from former Jean Rollin assistant Daniel Gouyette, The Three Faces of Christina (which chronicles the various different versions) and Jess! What are You Doing Now? (an incredibly moving tribute featuring friends and collaborators conjecturing on Franco's role in the great beyond). All in all Redemption's new release of one of Jess Franco's key films is an absolute knock-out in every way and one of their best releases so far and can now be ordered from Kino, Diabolik and Amazon.
-Jeremy Richey, 2013-
Monday, July 22, 2013
-Bob Ezrin, Producer-
Critic Michael Hill pointed out in the liner notes that graced the 1998 remaster of Berlin that even though while rock listeners in 1973 were, "primed for a masterwork", Reed's album was, "met with confusion, revulsion and anger" upon its initial release. Reed had scored an worldwide smash a year before with the David Bowie and Mick Ronson produced Transformer and, despite that fact that Rolling Stone predicted that Berlin would be "the Sgt.Pepper of the Seventies", the collection was indeed mostly greeted with indifference or outright hostility. It was the most grown-up album rock music had ever seen and most were simply not prepared for it.
Before the days of downloads and streaming, the first thing a listener would have taken in upon getting an album would be the sleeve. The original LP of Berlin just feels HEAVY. A gatefold with a pull-out booklet, Berlin was graced with a beguiling and mysterious design by Pacific Eye and Ear and featured a number of haunting Saint-Jivago Desanges photos. Reed himself appears on the cover of this incredibly cinematic collection armed with a guitar and a look that could cut through steel. As David Fricke of Rolling Stone would point out in the 1998 documentary Rock and Roll Heart, while other popular artists of the day were making records of the time Reed was making records, "of his time" and you can just feel the absolute audacity of Berlin before the needle even drops.
Despite the fact that Berlin is one of the most cohesive concept albums ever made a number of its tracks had been recorded previously by Lou as far back as the mid-sixties. Early versions of "Men of Good Fortune", "Caroline Says", "Oh Jim" and "Sad Song" had all been worked on by The Velvet Underground and an extended version of the haunting title-track had appeared on Lou's self-titled debut lp a couple of years previously.
Certainly Lou's personal and professional relationship with Nico had informed the album as well. Nico would later claim that Lou, "wrote me letters saying Berlin was me." The album would really be a tribute to Lou Reed's literary background and his dedication to writers like Delmore Schwartz, Hubert Selby and Raymond Chandler. Berlin would represent Lou's goal of presenting characters as sharply-drawn and well-rounded as those artistic mentors in the medium he was working with in 1973. Reed would state that, "the real important thing is the relationship between the two major characters" and, "the narrator is filling you in from his point of view, and his point of view is not particularly pleasant."
The behind the scenes tales of Berlin are as legendary as the album itself. Berlin's brilliant producer Bob Ezrin discovered heroin while recording the lp and suffered a, "chemical breakdown", upon completing it. He recalled that, "we were all seriously ill" and that Berlin, "put me out of commission for quite a while." Reed recalled that, "we killed ourselves psychologically on that album", and that they had, "went so far into it that it was kind of hard to get out."
Berlin is indeed one of the most damaging listens in all of popular music. From the mysterious distant echoes of the riotous birthday celebration that opens the album to the remarkable string section that closes it (a string section Ezrin would later revisit on Pink Floyd's The Wall) Berlin is an unbelievably intense work that never lets up its incredibly tight grip. Lester Bangs would famously call it, "a gargantuan slab of maggoty rancor that may well be the most depressed album ever made" in the pages of Creem a couple of years after Berlin originally shocked listeners who dared to take its ominous journey.
Reed and Ezrin created Berlin utilizing the largest cast of supporting players that Reed would ever work with. Everyone from famed jazz musician Michael Brecker to Cream co-founder Jack Bruce to legendary Traffic leader Steve Winwood makes a contribution. It's ironic that a recording that sounds as unbelievably out of step and isolated as Berlin had so many well-known hands in the mix. Reed was thrilled with the results and he would state in early 1976 that Ezrin, "did a great job" and in fact, "everybody on that album did a great job." While all the supporting players are indeed fine Berlin's shining stars are ultimately Reed (whose nearly always underrated vocal stylings have never been quite as effective and sinister as they are here), Ezrin (nobody produces with this kind of passion anymore) Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter (whose ferocious dueling electric guitar playing remains an absolute highlight).
While Reed's lyrics for Berlin have been rightly celebrated time and time again one of the great things about it, that isn't stated enough, is just how well-played and produced it is. It's a record that influenced generations of musicians and yet there still isn't anything that sounds quite like it.
Years before the great Julian Schnabel finally made Berlin into a film cinematic connections were already being made. One of the artists most effected by the album was legendary Kraftwerk co-founder Florian Schneider, who would mention in 1975 that he felt, "Berlin is projecting the situation of a spy film, the spy standing in the fog smoking his cigarette." Lou would say of the album in 1977 that Berlin, "was a movie in sound" and by 1979 he admitted that he would, "love to see Polanski make a movie" of it.
Berlin is indeed relevant. It isn't a stretch to say that without it the course of popular music would have been much different. Would we have a Low, Lust for Life, Dub Housing, Metal Box, Psychocandy, Daydream Nation or Kid A without Berlin? Perhaps but I doubt any of those albums would have sounded quite the same without Reed's visionary recording. Lou Reed's pulverizing portrait of a lost couple in a divided city, he had never even visited before recording, had an effect that went beyond critical acclaim or mass commercial acceptance (although time often forgets it remarkably went Top Ten in the UK). Berlin has never been an album for all tastes but those who are touched by it are never quite the same...
-Jeremy Richey, 2013-
The quotes for this piece were taken from the American Masters documentary Rock and Roll Heart and the books Beyond the Velvet Underground by Dave Thompson, Lou Reed Between the Line by Michael Wrenn and Walk on the Wild Side: Lou Reed The Stories Behind the Songs by Chris Roberts.