Berlin plus Big Country
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June 29, 2013 @ 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
General Admission Balcony (Row U and back).
For fans of electronic music – and the far-reaching wave of style and pop culture that followed in the wake of the 80s – Berlin vocalist Terri Nunn is an icon. As the charismatic vocalist for a band that virtually launched electronic dance rock in the U.S., Terri earned the No. 11 spot on VH1’s list of the “100 Greatest Women in Rock.” It might come as a surprise then to hear that Terri
(who inspired legions of modern female rockers) was first inspired by male role models like Robert Plant and David Bowie. “The first artists that changed my brain about what I wanted to do were men,” Terri confesses. “On stage they were really loud, powerful, sexy and irreverent. The guys seemed to have a lot more fun than any of the girls I saw.” But Terri’s perception shifted when she discovered the artistry of three very distinct women in rock: Grace Slick, Anne Wilson and Stevie Nicks. “Grace Slick was really like a guy on stage, and she showed me the role I wanted in a rock band,” Terri explains. “Anne Wilson also had an incredible vocal power and presence, because she was very influenced by Robert Plant. Stevie Nicks was femininity and mystery in the midst of the rock world, and I wanted that, too.”
Still performing and recording more than 20 years after the release of the groundbreaking debut, Pleasure Victim, Terri and Berlin are currently touring on selected US dates on the Regeneration Tour in support of her new live CD/DVD Terri Nunn & Berlin: All The Way In, the group’s impressive 11th release. An eclectic and ambitious album, All The Way In is comprised of all the hits, new material along with both electronic and alternative rock covers from a first rate selection of artists – Duran Duran, one of the first female rockstars Grace Slick and industrial-Goth iconMarilyn Manson, to name a few. This live recording is everything you’d expect from Berlin, a band that continues to explore and perfect a sound they pioneered over two decades ago. “Although we didn’t realize it at the time,” Terri recalls, “Berlin’s early sound was the start of modern electronic music. That sound has morphed into industrial, trance and now electroclash. Bands like Goldfrapp, Ting Tings, Shiny Toy Guns, Franz Ferdinand, The Killers, Kings Of Leon, and Ladytron are actually direct descendents of what we were doing in the ‘80s.”
Inspired by Ultravox and Kraftwerk – two European bands using state-of-the-art keyboards to create sounds entirely different from those of a traditional keyboard instrument – Terri and Berlin co-founder John Crawford followed their inspiration to form a band centered on this keyboard- driven sound, but fronted by a dynamic female vocalist. “At the time we came out,” Terri offers,
“labels were signing power-pop bands like the Knack, The Plimsouls and The GoGos. We thought we might have something that was different and unique, but the record labels just didn’t understand what we were doing and we were laughed at.” Berlin persevered, honing their songwriting skills until a then-fledgling record label, Enigma signed Berlin on the strength of a collection of demos. Those demos became the group’s first release, the EP Pleasure Victim. “We created the record, including the cover, for Enigma for under $3,000,” Terri admits. When Pleasure Victim sold 25,000 copies in one month, Geffen signed Berlin, purchased the recording
from Enigma and re-released the record at the beginning of 1983. Pleasure Victim went on to achieve multi-platinum sales in America.
Berlin began touring and getting radio airplay as Pleasure Victim spawned three hit singles. Terri fondly recalls how the group’s first single, “The Metro,” created a groundswell buzz for Berlin. “For any band, every record is an exploration,” she offers. “There’s usually one song that will stand out, where you’ll say, ‘That’s what this album is going to be about!’ For us, that song was “The Metro.” When we wrote it, we knew that was our direction. The most amazing thing about “The Metro” is that even today it’s one of the most important songs in our catalog. It stands up to the test of time and it’s still played on radio stations everywhere I go. “The Metro” defined us and defined that period of music for many fans.”
Pleasure Victim also included the dance hit “Masquerade” and the wildly controversial single, “Sex (I’m A….)” Terri admits, “John and I wrote that song specifically to appeal to the alternative rock radio station, KROQ here in LA. When no other station was even touching our kind of music, KROQ loved anything that was different. KROQ made it possible for bands like us to be heard at all.”
With the release of Love Life in 1984, MTV’s burgeoning popularity generated nationwide exposure for Berlin through the memorable videos for “No More Words” and “Dancing in Berlin.” But the pivotal moment in the band’s career arrived when the romantic ballad “Take My Breath Away” – from their 1986 album, Count Three and Pray – was prominently featured in the major motion picture Top Gun. “When “Take My Breath Away” came out, our popularity exploded and we had worldwide success for the first time,” Terri remembers. “That song was number one around the world. For the first time, we had a shot at playing everywhere.”
“Take My Breath Away” won both the Academy Award and Golden Globe in addition to achieving crossover success for Berlin. A world tour with Frankie Goes to Hollywood saw Berlin perform for stadium crowds throughout Europe and England. “It was amazing and huge for us because we’d never done anything that big before,” says Terri. “The bittersweet part is that while we were experiencing breakthrough success around the world, we were falling apart as a band. We didn’t even want to look at each other anymore.” When that 1987 world tour came to an end, so did Berlin.
After Terri and Berlin parted ways, the singer admits she “went through a lot of searching. I’d been doing Berlin for so long it really felt like I was finally getting out of a cage. Suddenly, I was free to do anything I wanted, so I enjoyed collaborating with other people on different things for a while.” Over a period of several years, Terri worked on a variety of projects including Jane’s Addiction vocalist Perry Farrell’s movie The Gift. She also recorded the hit song “Under The Gun” with Andrew Eldrich from the Sisters of Mercy, achieved an adult contemporary chart hit with Paul Carrack for the song “Romance,” and recorded with smooth jazz keyboardist Dan
Siegel. In 1991 Terri collaborated with vocalist/songwriter Karl Hyde (from British dance sensations Underworld) on material for Moment of Truth, her solo debut. Moment of Truth allowed Terri to branch out creatively and experiment with a variety of styles including rap, pop ballads and straight up rock ‘n’ roll.
While Terri Nunn pursued other creative endeavors, the music of Berlin remained in the public consciousness to the point where the vocalist was repeatedly called on to reform the group. In 1998 Terri put a band together and hit the road again as Berlin, performing the best-loved songs of band’s classic catalog. The following year, Berlin released two four-song EPs, Fall Into Heaven 1 and Fall Into Heaven 2. A live CD, Sacred & Profane, followed in 2000.
Berlin’s first full-length album of new material since 1986, entitled Voyeur, was released in 2002. Terri explains, “Voyeur had the electronic, keyboard-based sound we’re known for, while incorporating a lot of new technology, new sounds and new directions. We also infused contemporary inspiration from bands like Garbage, Sneaker Pimps and even industrial artists like Nine Inch Nails. What I can add to the mix of today’s electronic music is a message in the lyrics that I write. To me, messages in songs are still really important. Many bands have changed my life, not just for their sound but also for what they’ve said to me.” Voyeur also includes a songwriting collaboration with Billy Corgan from the Smashing Pumpkins.
Berlin’s previous studio CD 4play released in 2005 features the song “Scream” which was the title theme for Lifetime’s TV series “Angela’s Eyes.” It also included many cover songs by artists Terri admired such as Robert Palmer, Depeche Mode, Prince, Marilyn Manson, David Bowie and has a very special acoustic version of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth “.
All The Way In features Terri’s live emotive, crystal-clear vocals sounding as passionate and dynamic as ever. In addition to two new Berlin tracks (the sultry, percolating beat of “Ordinary Girl” and the equally heartfelt ballad “Last Day On Earth”) All The Way In gives Terri and Berlin a forum to take on some of the most popular rock hits of the ‘70s, 80s and ‘90s. As Terri explains, it’s a live CD/DVD she’s wanted to make for a long time. “This is the first time I didn’t have a record label telling me no, so I finally got to record all of these songs into one compilation.”
As Terri takes Berlin into the future, she remains keenly aware of all that she and the band have accomplished. “We were at the very beginning of the electronic movement in America and that’s something I’m proud of,” she states. “It wasn’t easy, because we didn’t know if it was just a fad or something that would last. We were so inspired because electronic music took rock ‘n’ roll to a new level beyond just bass, drums, guitar and vocals to become anything you wanted it to be. The exciting thing for me now is that it can be anything I want it to be live. When we tour today we have computers running on stage and video content running simultaneously with the music. It’s fantastic,” she laughs. “The possibilities of electronic music are endless, and I don’t mind expanding on my own legacy in that genre. Personally, I love following what my favorite bands are up to as they mature. It’s great to hear what Stevie Nicks or Kate Bush are doing now. I love being able to represent that as well.”
Terri is also in the process of recording a studio CD of all original new songs to be released in the early part of 2010. Also in the works are various projects in development for television and radio.
Big Country was originally formed in 1981 by guitar playing founder members Stuart Adamson and Bruce Watson both native of the band’s hometown Dunfermline in Scotland.
Initially driven by a shared vision of widescreen guitar melody, harmony and lyric, the classic Big Country sound was further enhanced later that summer by the arrival of drummer Mark Brzezicki and bass player Tony Butler. This is the Big Country that (with producer Steve Lillywhite), recorded the classic debut album ‘The Crossing’ in 1983.
The band broke massively worldwide with the release of the album’s classic singles ‘Fields Of Fire’, ‘Chance’ and signature song ‘In A Big Country’, which went on to become massive worldwide hits, selling over 2 million copies and driving ‘The Crossing’ to 3 prestigious Grammy nominations in the USA.
The run of success continued throughout the 1980′s with the release of the anthemic single ‘Wonderland’ and the second album ‘Steeltown’ (1984), which debuted at Number 1 in the UK and contained the hit singles ‘East Of Eden, ‘Just a Shadow’ and ‘Where The Rose Is Sown’ . In 1985, Big Country appeared at Live Aid in London followed by further successful album releases ‘The Seer’ (1986, which included the bands biggest UK hit ‘Look Away’, which also reached Number 1 in the Irish Singles chart) and ‘Peace In Our Time’ (1988), which saw the band playing the first ever privately promoted gig in Russia at the Moscow Sports Stadium.
At the start of the 90’s ‘Through A Big Country’, featuring all the bands classic hits was released, followed by the fifth studio album ‘No Place Like Home’ (1991) taking the band’s total record sales to well over five million copies.
Further studio albums Buffalo Skinners (1993) and ‘Why The Long Face (1995) followed, which saw Big Country landing the special guest slot on the Rolling Stones ‘Voodoo Lounge’ European tour and several shows in the UK and Ireland with Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page and Robert Plant in 1995.
In August 1998 they were once again invited to open for the Rolling Stones on their ‘Bridges To Babylon” tour of Europe prompting Mick Jagger to say that Big Country were “one of the best opening bands we ever had”.
Two songs written at that time (‘Somebody Else’ and ‘Devil In The Eye’) were co-written with Ray Davies of The Kinks who invited the band to back him on the main stage at Glastonbury to perform a storming set in the rain.
By now singer Stuart Adamson had relocated to Nashville, Tennessee and so his fellow bandmates decamped to America to join him in writing and recording the album ‘Driving To Damascus’. It would be the last album they recorded together. With Stuart at the helm, Big Country, scored 17 top 30 UK singles achieving 5 gold and platinum status albums along the way. Stuart and Big Country would tour Europe one final time in 2000 and on the closing night at their beloved Barrowlands in Glasgow the band were fatefully joined on stage for one last song by Alarm singer Mike Peters and Bruce Watson’s son Jamie on guitar.
On December 16th 2001, Stuart Adamson took his own life in Honolulu, USA. He is survived by his children Callum and Kirsten. A celebration of Stuart’s life was held at Glasgow Barrowlands in May 2002 featuring the remaining members of Big Country with special guest vocalists including Mike Peters who would also sing with the band at a fan club convention in Zaandam, Holland.
The remaining three members had no real thoughts of performing as Big Country again. But, Tony Butler, Mark Brzezicki and Bruce Watson re-united in 2007 to celebrate the band’s Twenty-fifth anniversary. “It wasn’t a come-back… it was just the three of us having fun, as friends and as a band, and hoping to give the fans some enjoyment by playing our songs live, to celebrate 25 years” – Bruce Watson
In the summer of 2010, Bruce Watson finally picked up the phone and asked Mike Peters to do what he had previously been reluctant to do and sing with Big Country officially. In order to celebrate 30 years since the band was formed, Mike (a longstanding friend of Stuart’s who credits the words of ‘In A Big Country’ as literally inspiring him to ‘Stay Alive’ through two very public cancer battles), instinctively agreed and dates were booked. The first was fittingly in Glasgow, Scotland on New Years Eve 2010 and the second in the band’s hometown of Dunfermline. There was instant chemistry with the band also being joined by Bruce Watson’s son Jamie on guitar as Big Country again sought solace in the music and the freedom to express their love and admiration for their departed friend Stuart Adamson (who’s usual space at the centre of the stage was left symbolically vacant).
“When we are playing it is as if we never stopped, but I know we have, I know we suffered a great loss. But you heal . . . slowly. I can assure you that Stuart will be there with us every night, in our thoughts, in our words, and in our hearts. And now we find ourselves maybe not fully healed, but whole enough to hear the calling to continue this story. And time has made me realise that this story has always been about our fans, the love we have for our fans, and the love they have selflessly given us back.” – Bruce Watson
“When Bruce Watson called and asked me to sing for Big Country it was something I didn’t need to think twice about. It’s been an incredible honour getting to know the music of Big Country intimately and a pleasure to be around such great musicians and fans alike. I find singing the lyrics of Stuart Adamson very life affirming” – Mike Peters
Two years of intense and emotional shows followed with the ‘new’ Big Country fuelled by a renewed energy and once again revelling in the dreams and visions that had brought them together in the first place, finding instant and respectful acceptance by fans and critics alike. Since then, the band have performed at many of the UK and Europe’s most famous festivals, including Isle Of Wight (Twice), V Festival, T In The Park, Oxegen, Pink Pop and Cropredy creating a new generation of fans and renewing the passion for diehards with the introduction of new original songs such as ‘Another Country’ and ‘The Journey’ which encapsulate not only the sound but the heart and soul of Big Country past, present and future.
With the promise of a new era dawning for the band and the realisation that Big Country now have the platform to once again record and tour on a world wide scale, bassist Tony Butler has decided that his time in Big Country has come to a close and so he has retired gracefully from the stage with his place now being taken by another long standing friend of the Big Country family Derek Forbes (Simple Minds), who was recently voted Best Scottish Bass player of all time and who, in the words of Tony Butler himself “Plays a mean D”.
“I am looking forward to the next Big Country chapter. Along with the constant warmth and affection shown to Big Country by its dedicated fans from around the world, and on its 30th anniversary, it feels right and fitting that Big Country continue the journey… and as Stuart always said, “When taking a journey, it’s not about the getting there, it’s enjoying the view on the way” – Mark Brzezicki
Big Country are currently writing and recording an album and music to be released in 2013 and are set to step into the future with an opening hometown concert at the Glen Pavilion on December 30th 2012. This is the venue where life literally started for Big Country (who played their first ever show at “The Glen” on the 4th February 1982). Fittingly, at 1400 hours on the day of the concert, inside the grounds of Pittencrieff Park, the journey towards a renewed Big Country will begin with an open recording session in the company of family, fans and friends in order to lay the first cornerstone of the future. The Journey Starts Here……