IN Conversation with Berlin’s Terri Nunn

During MTV’s infancy in the 80s, the synth-pop, new-wave band Berlin quickly gained momentum when their early videos went into heavy rotation on the burgeoning cable music channel. Fronted by powerhouse singer Terri Nunn, the group continued gaining steady traction until their monster ballad Take My Breath Away topped the charts in 1986 and propelled the band into the stratosphere. (The behemoth song from Top Gun even went on to win a coveted Academy award for Best Original Song.)

(L to R) David Diamond, Terri Nunn and John Crawford

Just last year the group celebrated their 40th anniversary with a well-received national tour alongside The B-52s and OMD. On November 14th, Berlin will be performing their very first show since Covid struck. The free, drive-in concert will celebrate Leawood Town Center’s upcoming 25th anniversary.

Nunn’s just glad to be performing again. “I haven’t been off the road this long in over 20 years,” the blondiful songstress told us during a chatty, candid phone call last week. Here’s more from the interview:

Fun fact—and small world connection—I sat behind you at the Lita Ford concert on The 80’s Cruise back in March. That seems like it was five years ago.
“It was! It was another world. I remember getting off the boat and the streets were empty and I was like, ‘Holy sh*t.’ It felt like Omega Man. Did you ever see that movie back in the day? Driving around, everything was deserted.”

Nunn performs on The 80s Cruise in March

Wait, was that the last concert you performed?
“Yep. [Wowsa!] I know—we had a drive-in show booked last month in a L.A.-area venue and then the health department shut that down.”

So I saw the last concert you did and now I’ll see your first concert back? That’s nuts.
[Laughs.] “Everything begins and ends with Berlin.”

Nunn/Photo credit: Louis Rodiger

What have you been doing since the world went into hibernation?
“I’ll tell you the good part of it that I didn’t expect: I have a much better relationship with my [16-year-old] daughter now. What I’m going to take away from this whole experience—when we’re past it and back into quote ‘normal life’—I am not going to make work as high as a priority as I used to. Connecting with her, connecting with my family and friends and having time to see them—socially distanced, of course—it’s been heaven. It’s fantastic. Even sitting in the same room six feet apart and having a glass of wine now is amazing. It’s really changed my priorities a lot. That’s been a huge takeaway.

As far as work? We’re finishing up an orchestral album we already recorded before this whole thing started. That’s coming out late November or beginning of next year. We’re finalizing that. Our single that was supposed to come out—and the video—should come out late November or early January. Other than that, I’m just enjoy being home. Do you live in Kansas?”

Yes, have you ever been to KC? You’re coming to Town Center in Leawood next month for a drive-in concert. How excited are you?
“Oh, yes! We’ve played there before. I’m just excited to play—but this is a complete first. A drive-in concert. Honestly, I have no idea what this is gonna be like. But I miss the connection. It’s why I make music—I love the live experience. I love going to concerts as a listener and, of course, performing. Getting together and getting high on music and dancing and partying is a reason to live for me. I hope people get out of their cars and dance and be with the people they’re with.”

It’s a full-on drive-in experience. Trust me. So Fleetwood Mac just saw a resurgence of popularity with Dreams thanks to that viral skateboarding video. What are your thoughts on Take My Breath Away taking off again once Top Gun II comes out?
“It’s a given. Take My Breath Away was the biggest hit on that [original] soundtrack. I love it. Take My Breath Away is a song that just keeps going and going and going. I am in such gratitude that Giorgio [Moroder], the songwriter and producer, tried me out for that song. It’s still huge—all over the world. And he said it was his favorite song of all the songs he’s done. With Bowie, with Blondie, the Flashdance theme, he said he’s most proud of that song.”

You’re known as someone who likes to connect with the audience—especially during that song. Heck, you pull people up on stage. Last year you walked through the audience during Take My Breath Away. Does the coronavirus put a stop to that close personal connection you have with the audience?
“I don’t know. I’m not going to say—because I really love doing that. I’ll have to look at the situation and the layout. If I can get on the shoulders of one of our crew members and get out there, I probably will. Of course, I won’t be able to touch people—and that’s not something they would want anyway—because we have to be socially distanced good Samaritans. But I want to see if I can get out there.”

Photo credit: Louis Rodiger

You guys do a lot of covers—and Highway to Hell was prophetic in hindsight. How do you decide which songs you will cover?
We all decide. We’ve got so many now. I love doing covers and love honoring music and bands and artists that have inspired me or someone in the band. It depends on the crowd and what we think they might like. It also depends on if we’ve played something to death and if we’re tired of it.” [Laughs.]

Your two-toned blonde/black hair has become iconic. How did that come about?
“With my kind of hair, it’s easy. It came out of necessity. When I first did a tour with the hair I wanted to have, it never worked. I wanted Farrah Fawcett, Stevie Nicks—with the big, feathered hair. I would try and do that, but my hair is stick-straight and isn’t thick. No matter how much I sprayed, teased, f**ked with it, it died within a song or two and would fall flat again.

I wanted to do something different, something unusual. David Diamond, one of the originators in the band, was also a hairstylist. He said why don’t we go with color—like a classic cut that works with stick-straight hair? So we did. The blonde and the black was perfect. It was easy to maintain. It was a statement in the color itself.

I love the new song—Dua Lipa’s Hallucinate—and she’s got a version of my blonde and black hair. It’s kinda cool.”

Also, I’m not ashamed to say I saw Berlin perform three times last year when you teamed up with The B-52s and OMD. The band looked like they were having a ball—40 years and going strong!
“That was one of my favorite tours of all time. The venues were stellar. I hadn’t played in many of them—a lot were newer venues I’d never been in before. And everybody was cool. The great thing about getting older is the ego isn’t as necessary. I mean, you’ve either made it or not—and you care less about it. It’s about living life.

That’s what I loved about this group of people. We were a caravan—a circus—everybody in OMD, everybody in The B-52s were great people. Everybody was all for making it the best show for each other as we could—all working together. It was f**king great.”

Here’s a question from a reader: How did the Miranda rights end up in the song Now It’s My Turn? Was that always going to be a part of the song or a spontaneous development—like a ‘tin roof rusted’ moment?
“It was a way to make a statement—to say, okay, you’re busted, I’m not taking this sh*t anymore. We’re done. It was a more poetic way to do it.” (So, it was purposeful?) “Yes.”

And, finally, any surprises you might have in store for the very appreciative crowd at Town Center? People are losing their minds Berlin is coming to KC.
“That’s sort of the best thing about doing shows right now—it’s just such a celebration. We haven’t had it for so long and when this thing is completely done, there’s gonna be loving in the streets, partying. This has brought us together as people because we see what really matters—the connecting. It’s really changed me.

I will say there will be a couple of new videos for the live songs that we’ll debut on the screens. Otherwise, I’ll be finding ways to connect—in new and interesting ways in this new style of show.”



Interview condensed and minimally edited for clarity.

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