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Resuscitated Berlin Performs "Take My Breath Away" & More at Pride Events

Terri Nunn Was Born to Rock

Resuscitated Berlin Performs "Take My Breath Away" & More at Pride Events

By Paul E. Pratt

At age three, Terri Nunn knew she wanted to be a singer. Though her vocals would land electro-pop group Berlin atop the charts less than 20 years later, she never got to live that childhood dream. As Nunn explains it, she didn't want to be just any singer -- she wanted to be Sir Paul McCartney.

"I didn't just want to sing like him," says Nunn of the former Beatle. "I wanted to be him."

Good-looking, talented, outspoken and wildly successful, Nunn and an entire generation looked up to the Fab Four. To the aspiring performer, McCartney reflected everything good about popular music and solidified her goal in life.

"I wanted to be a boy in a band because they seemed to have so much fun," she reveals, "The girls at that time were soft and pretty, but the boys were aggressive and loud and rowdy, and that's what I wanted to be."

Over the next many years, the face of rock 'n roll changed. Before long, a new breed of women rockers caught her eye. Grace Slick was the first to show her "it was OK to still be a girl." Nunn shares, "She was everything I wanted to be."

Then Ann Wilson of Heart came out," recalls Nunn fondly. "She was another balls-to-the-wall girl in a band, just as sexy and abrasive and loud as the men. When I saw her, I knew I wanted to rock!"

An ironic statement, since the greatest chart success for Berlin and, subsequently, Nunn, came with "Take My Breath Away." The Giorgio Moroder-produced ballad from Top Gun made Nunn and company radio and MTV staples. While "Breath" cemented itself as one of the most beloved soundtrack love songs of all time, it did anything but "rock out." Nunn takes this in stride.

"I always knew if I heard one of my songs in an elevator as a Muzak cut, I'd made it," she laughs. "Everybody I liked, from The Beatles to the Rolling Stones, had Muzak tracks!"

After topping charts with "Take My Breath Away," Nunn and Berlin opened a 1986 world tour for another '80s pop music phenomenon, Frankie Goes to Hollywood. The global success of hit single "Relax!" had the acts playing stadiums throughout Europe. During this tremendously successful time for Berlin, Nunn was falling apart behind the scenes.

"I burned myself out," she concedes. Nunn says she became so focused on her career, she wound up "losing my life, losing my friends, losing any kind of stability I had." Only when it "all fell apart" did the then 20-year old realize "a career can't be everything." "I didn't even know who to call when I wasn't working," she confides, "So I just walked away."

For the next decade, Nunn focused on "getting a life." She married, had children and even fit in time to record a solo debut -- which record execs pushed for even at the height of Berlin's success. She reemerged mid-90s, reinvigorated, healthier and ready for another go with the band.

With the group reassembled, Nunn expected to start over. She found Berlin's fanbase still intact, which caught her completely off-guard. "The charts are different, the radio is different, the industry is different, but the audiences are still the same," she says, "I'm so surprised how loyal they are!"

In addition to fans clamoring for Berlin's hits, the group released a new album last fall. 4Play features two new studio tracks as well as the band's interpretation of classics by Prince ("Erotic City"), Marilyn Manson ("Dope Show") and Peter Gabriel ("Big Time"). Whereas originals would have required Nunn and bandmates to sift through material to determine which songs would work on a recording, Nunn says the group has "honed these songs for years" playing live.

"I love when artists -- not just artists but bands -- take on other people's work and give their own style and passion to it," she says. Which begs the question what Nunn thought of Jessica Simpson's 2004 cover of "Take My Breath Away." Nunn fesses up, "She did things with it I thought were really cool."

Nunn bursts into song, emulating the sliding scales Simpson used in a more R&B-inflected "Breath." "I wanted to do that too, but Giorgio stopped me," she recollects, "I thought he was ruining the song, that it was boring and that nobody would remember it that way. It became a number one hit, so who was right? He's a genius."

Currently the reunited Berlin is playing gigs around the country in support of their album. Calling them "so much fun," the group is slated to appear at several upcoming LGBT prides, including Milwaukee and West Hollywood. "It's such a different vibe," she says of gay events. "It's the way I wish everyone in the world was."

"Everyone is so loose, so happy, so into it -- not aggressive, hurtful or confrontational," explains Nunn. "It's an audience unlike any other -- and one I want to have as much as possible!"

While the arena tours and #1 hits were a great chapter in her life, Nunn is not driven to recapture those days. In addition to making more money now -- "There are less hands in everything," she says -- she says past success combined with an independent recording career bring her closer than ever to living her childhood dream . . . especially that part about wanting to "rock."

Nunn participated in a recent Camp Freddy Benefit. With proceeds going to New Orleans, Nunn joined Red Hot Chili Pepper Dave Navarro, Chris Chaney of Jane's Addiction, The Cult's Billy Morrison, Matt Sorum from Guns 'n Roses and Velvet Revolver and Alice in Chains member Jerry Cantrell onstage. It felt like a dream come true.

"I get to play music I like and collaborate with people I respect, and that's what I wanted what I got into music," she concludes. "If you keep playing that ego game, if I'm only as good as my last chart-position, eventually you're going to lose. Nobody can sustain that!"

Not Nunn, not Berlin, not even Sir Paul McCartney.