In mid July, I was stressing over the opening of Little Shop of Horrors and the fact that Audrey 2 had yet to arrive. The phone rings, and on the other end is some guy claiming to be with “VH1's Favorite Bands” and wanting to interview me. Obviously thrown WAY off base with this, my first reply was “Let's see, my favorite band? That would be Mott the Hoople, Queen, Ian Hunter, Bowie…” Then he stopped me and said “no, this is all about you babe! We want to talk to you about your time in Berlin ”. All of a sudden this irony hits me. Just weeks and days previously I had spoken with one of our old producers, Richie Zito. Tom Zutaut (who signed Guns and Roses and was after us in the early days to sign with Electra) was in town visiting as we spoke. And Ted Nugent and I had a few moments together to joke about him “replacing” me having played on a song from the 3 rd Berlin record. So as he continued explaining that VH1 wanted to come out to Nashville to interview me – I was on my lap top doing a skip trace on him. Sounded pretty screwy to me. Well, I did find some detail showing he certainly was a producer and actor. But I humored him through the conversation ready to call it a day and put this crank call to rest.
After I hung up, I immediately emailed Terri to see if she knew anything. She said she did not, but suggested I phone VH1 to find out. I never did.
The next day, I received another call from VH1 – however, also on the line was our dear friend Richard Blade. Now I was reliving some past! And I knew there had to be true substance to this interest by VH1. My heart started pumping in excitement as we reminisced of the early days, what he is doing now, and mutual friends still in the business. Then he confirmed that, (what would be found out later was just BS), VH1 was doing some new show on its favorite bands, and wanted to come out and interview me as they were other members. (Truth was that they were intending a reunion of the Berlin members). Richard wanted to assure I would not speak to ANYONE. And he kept telling me that he knew I stayed in occasional contact with the guys in Real Life, Tom Bailey of the Thompson Twins, Baxter from Reflex, Roger from The Cure, Colin Hay, and others and needed me to not say a word. Well THAT certainly got my curiosity up. They told me to make plans for them to come out sometime the following week.
Thinking back to how I even became a member of Berlin was truth to be told. I had a rehearsal studio in Anaheim . My band shared this space with John Crawford and his cronies. After a fateful attempt with a group called Fahrenheit, John began auditioning guitarists to complete what became Berlin 's “Pleasure Victim” gang. He asked me if I would mind helping out with the auditions for him since I knew the sound board, and John was always respectful of any opinion I could give. I have visions of that day with guitarists in, and guitarist out. Whoever it was that was to show up as the last auditionee did not show. So, John stated “Ric, we know you would NEVER want to play stuff like this, but would you want to jam a bit?” Well, I did just that. We did “Tell Me Why” a few times and having no stake in this as someone auditioning, I played things my way – rocked it up, and made many suggestions to the song that John and Terri seemed to enjoy. After they packed up, apparently they all headed out to dinner. A few days later John called and left a message that he wanted to speak with me about joining the band and finishing the record.
We finished the record, and within weeks of release on an independent label, we had sold over 25,000 copies and had record companies knocking on OUR door. I have a fond memory standing out in front of Capitol records one night telling Matt that we would be heading back to Orange County with a deal in our pockets. I can't describe the exhilarating feeling knowing that these companies were wanting us. Geffen Records was the only label that actually demanded to see how we handled things live, so they paid for a showcase where we had over 200 of our close friends, family, and fans attend. It was an amazing afternoon. To this day, I have a continued respect for David Geffen and Ed Rosenblatt for wanting to make sure we were what we sounded like.
So with this call from VH1, came all the memories of recording, touring, Sunday softball, and close friendships. Also came to the surface were the occasional dreams of performing together again. I admit that there were numerous times over the last decade that I awoke from a dream where we were performing. Was this wishful thinking? Or just a normal progression of poignant memories and happy times? I left the group in 1985 and admittedly it was hard. I spent my time after Berlin producing other local acts, doing albums and/or touring/gig projects with the likes of Mike Botts (Bread), Nicolette Larson, Waddy Wachtel, Bob Glaub, Lee Sklar, Eddie Money, Larry Carlton, Real Life, and others. I also spent a few years writing songs with Marti Frederiksen (who has gone on to being a sought after producer working and writing with many huge artist including Ozzie, Aerosmith, Faith Hill, and Mick Jagger). We partnered with Terri and had some really awesome tunes. As expected, her vocals were amazing – and some of these tunes were certainly singles material.
On July 16 th , 2003 – I know VH1 was due to arrive at Gibson Guitar in Nashville where I lend my talents as a Corp Director. I was visiting one of my divisions (The Custom and Art location). Apparently they decided first to ascend on my Corporate Office facility, and were told where to find me. I was paged to the front and met by barrage of cameras, mic's, and the host – Aamer.
To my surprise, Aamer hit me with the intent of his real mission which was to unite the members of Berlin . Not only for a time to catch up and remember, but to perform a one night gig. I went in to shock! And then Aamer decides to commandeer the paging system to announce this to the employees of that division. Pretty embarrassing – considering most of the employees there were probably thinking “what da hell is a Berlin ”, but I will get him back. Aamer, watch out!
We spent a few hours together talking about the band, a bit about Gibson, and my involvement with theater. My heart was pumping in overdrive, and I was reliving my relationship with the band as if it were yesterday. It was amazing just during the time VH1 was with me; I felt a complete sense of therapeutic value in their mission. Why? Well, Terri and I stay in touch. Matt and I speak a few hours every now and then. David and I email back and forth occasionally. But John and I have not spoken for many, many years. We were fellow Orange Countians, and knew each other long before Berlin . And I have always wanted the opportunity to get some frank input as to why Berlin was allowed to deteriorate and change gears as it had. I knew now that I would have this chance. And then my thought turned to drummers. Would it be our beloved Rod Learned? VH1 would not say, but my suspicious mind began preparing itself for that possibility. Like a smack in the face, I knew that I could be with the people that forever changed my life and gave me opportunities that others would kill for. One could easily ask how, in relationship to the 18 years that had passed, a measly 4-5 years as part of a band could be so pivotal in ones life. The only way I can describe it is in comparing to having children. When you create a child, there is an unconditional love that will always be there. Whether the child goes off to college, moves out because they hate your guts, or passes away – you have a bond that will be there forever. During our time together as Berlin , we created a child (music) and nurtured it along as a family. We shared countless gigs, and logged many miles touring together. We fought, we hugged. We laughed, and we cried.
I did not hesitate for a second when asked to reunite with the other members. However, it was quite scary that I would have no time for this to sink in as they wanted me on a plane just a few days later. I went home and shared my excitement with my kids. Helen, my beautiful wife, was actually acting as paparazzi, lurking in the background to catch a glimpse of what was going on during the VH1 visit. I met her after my time in Berlin so this was exciting to her to be able to share some of my past with me as it all unfolded again. And my kids have only seen old Berlin videos, gold and platinum records on the wall, photos, and my scrap book. So with excitement, they too wanted to go to LA, however this was a mission that only their dad was invited on – and they understood. It was hard on my daughter Brittany as with a tear in her eye, she reminded me that this was her 12 th birthday weekend – and stated “please have Ms. Terri and the band sing me happy birthday”.
The remainder of that week up until the day I left on Sunday, I spent a lot of time with VH1 on the phone providing them with equipments lists, previous gig dates, stage set up, backline delivery, and anecdotes. They wanted me to bring what I could to share with them and the others, as they knew I was the band “archivist”. I kept a journal of every gig we did, my mother had put scrap books together of everything she could get her hands on, I had old shows and performances on tape, and outtakes of studio recordings and rehearsals. They wanted it all. I ended up quite busy up until I got on that plane on Sunday. But the time I spent putting everything together only heightened my excitement more and kept my mind busy enough to I could cloud reality a bit. Was I dreaming?
So Sunday, 7/20, comes around and I'm heading back to LA for the Reunion . I can't rest, so I take out my laptop and put together a Power Point photo montage of my life post-Berlin to share with the others. I cry as I display the image of my brother – wishing he were here to be a part of this. He was always my biggest supporter, not only with my music, but with life itself. In what seems like moments I land in LA. Unlike Nashville , it takes a while to get to baggage claim. There is a young blonde college girl walking next to me as we walk through the baggage claims doors. Then I see video cameras glued on me, a limo driver, and the segment producer who greats me. As I walk one way, they also film the college girl heading to the luggage carousel. “What about your wife Ric?” “Nope, not her”, I say with a chuckle. We head to the limo, and I almost feel embarrassed about this treatment. Don't get me wrong, I love it, but we were always the type of band that would ditch the limos and take rides with friends. There was more to my life in Berlin than just the glitz. It ran deeper….much deeper.
I arrive at the hotel. Awesome place; $9,000,000.00 per night – hmmmmm. It was then that they presented me with the room incidental agreement to sign, and attached was a list of band members that would be staying there. Did I read it? Sure did! It was attached to MY paperwork. And it was there that I saw everyone's name – including Rod Learned. This did not calm me one bit, and I wish I had not seen the list at all. What it did do was send me into a near nervous wreck now knowing that this thing was REALLY going to happen – and with the original members. I needed a drink! I'm a cheap date, and with one drink I can become your best friend. While awaiting my room, I thought I would spoil myself to that one drink, a $50.00 steak, and Nextel direct calls to my wife and friends in Nashville . I was scolded by VH1 ahead of time to not call on any of my friends still in the business. So what to do now? I need to share this with anyone close to the band!
After dinner, I head up to my room. What a view, right over Sunset. A lot has changed since I moved from here in 1995. A far cry from the deer and other wildlife I see on my property back home. I am so charged up with looking forward to the reunion the next day, that I spend the remainder of the night checking email, cueing audio tapes of our previous live gigs, funny recordings, out-takes, etc. I try to hit the sack at 2am and can't do it. I'm up again doing more cueing – and then realize if I don't get some sleep – I will look a lot older then David really thinks I am.
Around mid-day, I am called for at the hotel. My drive down Sunset seems forever as I have no control over my destiny on the other end. We pull up to SIR Studios, and the damn place is over-run with VH1 crew. Is this for us? Or are the Stones in town? It is for us, and I just want to get in there and get this going. But no, first the makeup, then the interview, then the once over of how this will unfold.
So my grand entrance is made, and it is obvious I am the first one from the band there. The stage has been set, and it appears all the equipment I asked for was there. I found it quite hard to speak to a camera lens while awaiting the next Berliner. And then it happens! Here comes some buff looking guy that looks like a bouncer for Sheena Easton. A little less hair, looking a bit older. Wait! I recognize the face – I think. Yes, it IS David Diamond. Wow, I was bowled over. What happened to that wavy black hair? We hugged, looked at each other, and then hugged again. We reminisced on camera for a while not knowing what the hell we were supposed to do. It felt so good to have him in the same room again. A few minutes later, in walks Matt Reid. Matt I recognized from a website with his recent picture. He seemed to have aged gracefully and looked in the pillar of health as he had always been. Matt was always my Road Dog buddy, and we always spoke as brothers. And here we go again. We were all sharing of ourselves and then in walks John. Wow, other than the glasses – this guy has aged beautifully! We all hugged and caught up on things. John and I locked in on the kid thing. I could sense we were all in the same boat – our nerves a bit on edge with anticipation on who will be the “drummer” that comes in last. Well here he comes – the same way I saw him last. Shorts and sandals. It was Rod Learned! Our beloved drummer. Now this guy has NOT aged at all. I was so excited I could barely do anything but hug. We were all noticeably excited. With each part of the family that walked in as a “cell”, the body was building strength. We could feel it! The “body” was ready to kick some ass. As we awaited our precious Terri – they whisked us out of the room. After a while they called John back in. Uh, oh – a face to face with Terri alone.
After a while, they called each one of us back in to the room to meet up with Terri and John. I can't even remember if I was first, or last. But true to my request for VH1 to pick me up roses (5 white, and 1 red – you can guess the significance), they plopped them in my hand and pushed me back in to the room. And there was Terri. Looking as beautiful as ever! I couldn't speak. All I could do was hand her the flowers like a delivery guy….well, sort of. We hugged, then laughed, then hugged some more. It was great! Terri and I keep in contact and I pretty much was on top of her goings on. What an exhilarating feeling being in a room together again as a group. But this catching up was short lived as we had to begin rehearsing for our reunion show the following night. Now, we will revisit our music and communicate our feelings for each other through each note and each lyric.
After silence, that which comes closest to expressing the inexpressible is music - Aldous Huxley
I had my guitar sound in about 10 minutes. What seemed like hours later, the synth programming and patching was done.
The rehearsal felt amazing. We played, we interviewed, we played, we ate together, we played more, we went next door to visit Devo, and then we played more. We chunked our way through Masquerade, Metro, and Tell Me Why. Considering how long it has been, things sounded amazingly good. In fact, we got to a point of picking small things apart to make it better or at least more original to how we used to perform the songs.
I took a moment to call my family and try to give them some idea how important and special this was to me. I confirmed that Helen had found a sitter for the kids, and would be out to join me the following day to share this moment with me. Our VH1 Therapeutic Counselor Brenda comforted me with assuring there would be a car at LAX to pick my wife up.
I didn't want this Monday to end, but it did and all the guys were taken back to the hotel. Terri headed home. Once at the hotel, we all descended upon John's room and REALLY had a chance to dissect things. Too bad that VH1 was not there because this conversation will not be repeated in detail. However, it was good to learn the real reasons that Rod had left the band when we went on our European tour. And it was also good to hear John speak of his regrets that began the process of all of the guys exiting Berlin . This was a good meeting. Like a room full of brothers that had not had a chance to exchange and share truth and memories for some time.
I didn't hit the sack until 2am . This was NOT the night to cheat sleep as our reunion performance was quickly moving in. As opposed to the previous night, I actually felt a calming release and fell asleep quickly.
At 6am I awoke to my Nextel beeping away. One of my divisions in Memphis had been hit with a tornado and I need to begin some crisis intervention. Well, I guess I'm up for the day. Damn, can I survive with this little rest? Will I pass out tired before we go on?
I was picked up and delivered to SIR early for a final run through of the songs. Initially, VH1 wanted 2 songs. We wanted to perform at least 4 since we knew radio advertised the reunion show and we have to give our dear fans at least 6 more minutes of ourselves since it had been over 18 years.
David and Matt were terrified at the prospects of doing No More Words since the synth patches and parts had become lost in the antiquities of time. What David and I did do was sit in a back corner and work up an acoustical version. Without lyrics, it almost sounded reminisce of a Fleetwood Mac song. However, we summoned Terri over and told her whatever she hears, just sing the lyrics to No More Words. She did just that, and the acoustic versions sent shivers up my spine. We got the rest of the gang involved, and it came together in about 4 takes. I must admit, this in-the-round version is deserving of a movie soundtrack or single.
We were all taken back to the hotel mid afternoon to eat a lunch VH1 had placed in each of our rooms. When I got there, Helen had just arrived. Boy, it felt good to have her with me to share in this. She put up with my excitable blabbing up until the time I was called down to the lobby for makeup. Then a limo picked me up. With cameras rolling, we made the slow crawl to The Roxy. I arrived to what looked like a movie set. My first glimpse of the marquee sent me back to the night we played after signing with Geffen. The place was aflutter with crew, booms, techs, catering trucks. Wow! The dressing room was as dark and dingy as I remember, but carried an ambience that felt comforting. We did a short sound check. My sound from the stage was thumping and huge. I reflected back for a moment to our Berlin days. There was only one sound guy that ever knew how to mix a guitar rather than making it sound like a rubber band. In fact, if I see this VH1 show and my sound is like that, I will probably remove all rights I had granted. Hell, I don't work with guitar company to deserve this!
With sweaty palms and anxiousness about ready to jump out of my skin, we hit the stage to thunderous applause. I made sure to enjoy every note, and every moment knowing that this could end VERY soon if VH1 gets the takes they need. We kicked some ass up on that stage, and at the same time we were all like kids in a candy store after being allowed taste something again that had been forbidden for some time. We rocked! Before I knew it, we were off stage. Was it over with that quick? Wait, they need another take. Great! We get to do it again.
As we end our acoustic version of No More Words, it seemed so ironic to the moment. What more can be said of this rewarding experience. The lights dim, we meet-and-greet old friends and family in the dressing room. Autographs, a bond with the “new” Berliners, photos, interviews, hugs, and merriment. God it felt like we just played our first gig after getting a record deal. We've been here before…and it felt good.
Terri had to head out after the show, so the rest of us spent time at a restaurant continuing our reunion and sharing our lives. At the same time, we knew what we were doing was saying goodbye. And when we finally parted in the wee hours, I don't think any of us had the nerve to put finality to this by saying goodbye.
The next morning, Helen and I awoke and prepared for our trek back home. The car arrived and we were driven to LAX. We had a quiet and peaceful ride. I felt almost in withdrawal that all of a sudden there were no cameras, no producers, and no directors anywhere in sight. All I could do was picture 6 lives that came together again for a moment, and then separate back into different directions.
I am probably one of the lucky members as I continue to live the experience by helping VH1 further work on this show with my dowry of archived material, tapes, finding Chris Velasco, locating fans, songwriters, and ex-record execs that have video footage, etc. In fact, if I don't at least get credit as a consultant and historian, I'll sue ;-).
To all the fans: thank you for your continued support and encouragement.
To Richard Blade, Ken Fuchs, Brenda Gauthier, Aamer, Eddie, Lisa, Michael, Alison, Doug, Noah, Cliff, Kim, Julio, and the entire VH1 crew – THANK YOU! You have aided in a feat rarely experienced, and you will never be forgotten. You have not only acted as “therapists”, but have successfully rekindled important relationships. We have embraced you as part of our family, and I will forever be grateful for all you have done.
TO MATT: what can I say, you are one awesome musician. A true friend and fellow road-dog. Every bead of sweat I saw streaming down your face I KNOW was mixed with tears of happiness.
TO DAVID: you will always remain our "Pookie". You haven't lost your charm, and I could have hugged with you another 20 minutes if the producers weren't on such a tight shoot schedule. You haven't lost any of the talent I have always respected, and it was so good performing with you again. But, I will continue to duck whenever I hear low flying aircraft ;-)
TO ROD: it was so good seeing you after all these years. It was also good knowing the true reasons that you left, and I am so glad that you came back to be a part of this family unit. We would have been incomplete without you, and your presence, smiling face, impeccable timing, and great drumming lent to an experience that will always be remembered.
TO JOHN: You have always been the backbone of this unit, and I will always look up to you for your contributions and writing. Out of everyone, we went the farthest back in to the days of both of our bands playing clubs together, sharing rehearsal space, and doting over "burnable" shirts. You have a beautiful wife and kids! I will miss you, and hope we can stay in touch.
TO TERRI: You are as beautiful and vivacious as ever, and what a voice!! Your commanding presence and vocalization brought the dang house down! It was an honor being on stage with you once again, and I won't hide the fact that I WOULD do it again - any time, any place!
TO PERRY: I know we did not play as "modern" as you had wanted us to in the past, but did we not kick butt at this gig? It was so good to see you again, and it felt SO great to see your excitement after the show. For you to be a part of this was so important!
To Helen , Brittany , Rickey, and Madison – my beloved family: thank you for letting me go back 18 years.
The hardest part of writing this “diary” is that sentences end with a period. That seems so definite. So I won't.
Dreams can come true……..
Copyright © 2005 Ric Olsen