“Berlin” (1973 & 1984): Thank you, Lou Reed

ImageI bought Lou Reed’s “Berlin” in a record shop in Avignon, France, in August 1984.

It was in glorious vinyl. Gatefold sleeve. Artwork, lyrics,  musicians’ credits, all that crazy stuff you used to be able to read without the magnifying  icon on your laptop “picture edit” function.

I was on holiday with a legend called Nick. We are still mates today. I call him The Assassin now.

In 1984, we were hot, super hot. We were gonna kick the world’s ass. We were borderline immortal.

That summer, we bathed naked in the Mediterranean, although I’m not sure we were meant to. I’d die to have a body like that now.

We stayed out dancing, fooling around and drinking until four in the morning, supping exotic drinks that didn’t exist back home in the UK. Like vodka and coke – and warm red wine.

I met a French girl. In those days, French girls of 17 and 18 didn’t really wear bikini tops, or at least they didn’t in Juan les Pin, where we were staying. So that was quite an education for a teenage Brit.

Late one night, the girl’s “friend” showed me a gun in a storage area where they kept tourists’ beach beds. The gun was wrapped in a multi-coloured piece of cloth, maybe a shirt. That was weird.

I didn’t get the girl. I think the gunman did. Lucky gunman. Crime pays.

The Assassin and I stayed in a cool apartment block, about half-a-mile back from the beach. We met a kid of 14 or 15 who played Bob Marley all day long around the complex’s swimming pool. He had a tape recorder and one tape, because that’s what you had then. Less was more, especially when you had Marley. The kid smoked cannabis. We didn’t know what cannabis was, but it sure smelled sweet.

When we got home, I played “Berlin” for the first time on my record player, given to me by my uncle. I’d never listen to “Berlin,” still less heard of it, though I had “Transformer,” which I bought at a sale at the Co-Op in Sittingbourne, Kent.

I think that’s why I bought “Berlin” in Avignon. It was in a plastic protective cover. Maybe the shop owner knew he had a treasure. He did. I’m glad he sold it to me.

“Berlin” was amazing then, even though it was old, hardly cool. The album was released in 1973, the year my favourite ever album was released (Stevie Wonder’s “Innvervisions”).

I was seven in 1973. In 1984, I was 17. I thought “Berlin” was incredible then. It’s better now.

Confusion, angst, abuse, alienation – but most of all, love.

Thank you, Lou Reed.

“In Berlin, by the wall, you were 5 foot 10 inches tall. It was very nice. Candlelight and Dubonnet on ice.”

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