“Top Gun” is returning to movie theaters next year for a hotly-anticipated sequel, but you don’t have to wait until then for your rush of Maverick ’80s nostalgia.
The beloved band Berlin will “take your breath away” alongside the B-52s as their 40th anniversary tour swings through D.C. at The Anthem on Sept. 17.
“There are very few bands who are not only great but unique; Pink Floyd is one of them, B-52s is another one of them,” Berlin lead singer Terri Nunn told WTOP. “They sound like no one else. Never did. They can’t age because they could never be placed anywhere in the beginning. I love that. They’re great people. This is an honor for me. We’re doing 32 cities in America, then we go to Europe.”
For Berlin, it’s an unexpected chance to get the band back together.
“It’s a shock,” Nunn said. “John Crawford, my original partner in Berlin for 13 years, called two years ago and said, ‘I’m getting a divorce. Can you help me?’ … I had been through a divorce, so I helped him through that. At the same time, David Diamond of the original Berlin three, his partner left him. … So we literally helped each other through this horrific time and got creative. It started to develop, people liked it and record labels got interested. Wow! This life is miraculous.”
As a result, the band just released the new album “Transcendence” on Aug. 2.
“It’s electronic, but it’s how we sound now,” Nunn said. “It’s Berlin 2019. We didn’t want to do Berlin 1983; we already did that. What’s different about it is it’s not just about being on a dance floor and getting laid in the back seat of a car. There’s a lot more to talk about now. I like songs that have a lot to say. ‘Transcendence’ is about a conversation that I had with my mother a week before she passed.”
It’s the latest step in a long creative journey for Nunn, who grew up in Los Angeles not knowing whether to pursue music or acting. At age 15, she auditioned for the role of Princess Leia in George Lucas’ “Star Wars” (1977).
“You can watch the audition on YouTube,” Nunn said. “I’m sitting there with Harrison Ford and saying these lines that we didn’t understand because the movie wasn’t made yet. So we’re trying to make some dramatic effect talking about R2D2 and Darth Vader. We didn’t know what that was! It’s pretty funny.”
A year later, Crawford (bass guitar) formed the band The Toys in Orange County, California alongside Dan Van Patten (drums), Chris Ruiz-Velasco (guitar) and Ty Cobb (vocals). Shortly after, the band permanently changed its name to Berlin, briefly replacing Cobb with Toni Childs as lead singer before bringing in Nunn.
“I answered an ad,” Nunn said. “They had a singer, who was great, but she wanted to do a solo thing and actually got a Grammy nomination for her album.”
It wasn’t an easy decision for Nunn, who turned down a role in TV’s “Dallas.”
“The producers didn’t audition me, they just said, ‘We want you to do the part of Lucy, here’s a seven-year contract.’ I said, ‘Oh my God, I want to try this music thing, but if I do [‘Dallas’], this is my life, a seven-year contract. So I went home and said, ‘Mom, I really want to do this music thing.’ She said, ‘Terri, you’re gonna regret it if you don’t.’ My manager said, ‘Are you out of your mind? You are never going to get another opportunity like this.’ He dropped me, my agent dropped me, so I was alone saying, ‘OK, I’m gonna try this music thing now!'”
So, Nunn joined Berlin in 1980 for the debut album “Information” (1980), followed by “Pleasure Victim” (1982), featuring the controversial single “Sex (I’m A …),” and “Love Life” (1984), featuring the Top 40 single “No More Words.”
Still, it was “Top Gun” (1986) that made Berlin a household name with the love song “Take My Breath Away” written by Giorgio Moroder and Tom Whitlock.
“We recorded it straight for the ‘Top Gun’ soundtrack,” Nunn said. “Giorgio Moroder, our producer, got that job while he was working with us, so he wrote it. … I was like the fifth or sixth option for them, we hadn’t even had a hit yet, so I got lucky getting to try out for it. I thought, ‘There’s no way I’m gonna get this,’ so I sang it the way I wanted to sing it. I was bold enough to play with Giorgio’s melodies in a way they had not heard before and they liked it, so I got the job.”
The song was such a hit that it won the Academy Award for Best Original Song.
“I wasn’t there!” Nunn said. “It was my fault. I was an ass. I was just a total idiot. They called me and said, ‘We want to do a medley this year, so you’ll sing a verse and chorus, then we’ll move to the next nomination.’ I said, ‘No, I want to do the whole song or I’m not doing it,’ and they said, ‘OK,’ click! That was my bad. I mean, come on. I get the invitation and I’m trying to call the shots!”
Decades later, she got positive feedback from “Top Gun” star Kelly McGillis.
“I met Kelly McGillis about two years ago in Italy when I was doing a TV show in Rome,” Nunn said. “She cried when we met! I’m not really sure why — her connection is obviously with the song — but she thanked me for doing that song and being a part of that experience with her. It really was emotional for her. It was quite a pleasure to meet her finally. How many decades is that after the fact?”
Sometimes in life, things just come together, band reunions and all.
Hear our full conversation with Berlin lead singer Terri Nunn below:
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