Berlin’s Terri Nunn on Touring with Boy George and Culture Club and Why She Won’t Stop

Live is where Terri Nunn still thrives. “The live experience is the reason I do this,” Nunn tells American Songwriter, prior to embarking on a series of shows. More than 40 years since the release of Berlin’s 1980 debut, Information, and their breakthrough Pleasure Victim along with hits “Sex (I’m A…)” and “The Metro,” the band has entered a trinity tour with their ’80s kin Boy George and Culture Club and Howard Jones

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Berlin reunited with Culture Club for the first time in 20 years since they first played together in 2003, and after a handful of dates together in 2022, before extending their shows on the Letting It Go Show tour in 2023.

Today, Nunn—who co-wrote the band’s 1982 hit “Sex (I’m A…), and along with the band’s chief songwriter John Crawford, penned more of Berlin’s catalog from Touch (1985) and Count Three and Pray (1986), which featured their Top Gun hit “Take My Breath Away,” to Transcendence (2019) is still charmed as much by her band’s past as she is settled firmly in their present.

Nunn spoke to American Songwriter about the nostalgic elements of Berlin, how touring continues to capture once-in-a-lifetime moments, who may play her in a biopic of her torrid ’80s love affair with DJ Richard Blade, and how MTV rocked the band’s world once upon a time.

American Songwriter: Does it feel like an ’80s time warp being on tour with Culture Club and Howard Jones? Why did the three of you connect for this tour?

Terri Nunn: Culture Club and Berlin played together last year. It has been a long time, because the first time we played together was like, 2003, and then last year, we did a couple of shows, and they went really well. Then, we did another couple of shows at the beginning of this year. The crowds loved it. They were well-attended, and we liked each other. Everything was just really good.

It’s like a traveling circus. There are all these fans and crew, and you’re in buses, and you’re going everywhere together. It’s really great when everybody gets along, because there’s always enough shit happening on the road, from things breaking down to delays and obstacles, but if everybody’s getting along we can work together and make it a great show for everybody. 

AS: It’s still been a constant for you. What do you find most fulfilling when performing now? Is it the new stuff, or sinking back into Berlin’s more nostalgic moments?

TN: The live experience is the reason I do this. I love concerts. And I’m so happy now. We just celebrated 45 years of Berlin last year since John [Crawford] started it in 1977, and I joined in 1979. It’s bigger and better and more than ever, and that’s why I do this. I love the live experience. I love playing with other bands. Culture Club and Howard Johnson iconic. I love going to shows like this because, with multiple bands, you get more of a show. It’s longer, and I get to see bands that I maybe haven’t seen before and get turned on to new music. It’s like an event. It’s better than any drug I’ve ever had.

It’s fantastic to be with people and listen to music and dance, and let it into me—and just let that shit go. I love the live experience. I love when [the crowd] listens to songs they already know and get excited about it. I love when I play a new song, and I look out there and they’re like “What is that?” Maybe they’re into it, or they’re not. You never know. When I think I’ve got it down, then I get an audience that I don’t understand at all, and they’re not reacting in the normal ways. It’s like a relationship.

[RELATED: 4 Songs You Didn’t Know Boy George Wrote for Other Artists]

AS: I know in the beginning of Berlin, John [Crawford] was doing a majority of the writing but you did co-write “Sex (I’m A…)” earlier on. How has songwriting transitioned for you since then?

TN: That [Sex (I’m A…)”] was the first one I wrote with John that actually went somewhere. For me, it depends on who the collaborator is. The collaboration is what it’s all about. It’s about writing, singing, and playing with other people. I have ideas along the way. I throw down lines or maybe a song idea, but to actually write, I need to sit down and do it. I can’t write on the road.

AS: Love Life is 40 next year, and it’s perfect timing since you’re also working on the biopic (No More Words) about your relationship with DJ Richard Blades in the early ’80s. What can you share about the film?

TN: I am executive producing, and it’s based on a part of Richard Blade’s book called World in My Eyes. It was optioned, and the producer and writer decided they wanted this to be about our romance, about our rock and roll nightmare romance, and they’re calling it No More Words. (Love Life featured Berlin’s hit “No More Words” which became their first Top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 23.)

We’re looking at actresses like Florence Pugh and there’s Julia Garner from Ozark. She can play me. She would be amazing. We couldn’t get her, because last year she was going to play Madonna, and now that’s over, so she’s available. So it’s Julia Garner, Florence Pugh, and Anya [Taylor] Joy (The Queen’s Gambit).

AS: “Sex (I’m A…)” was inspired by your relationship with Blade. Why did you want to create a new video [with director Matt Beard] for the song?

TN: I love a visual show. I love to see stuff. I love to hear stuff I like. I want it to be a production. I want the band to give me what they’re about in as many ways as possible. We were using the original “Sex” video live, and kind of cut up and weirded out and just thought “Let’s do something new for that.”

AS: It’s funny because videos in the’80s were often how bands captured new fans, which is different now in the streaming age.

TN: I love it. Everything’s available at any moment. When did that happen? We had record stores and I was 8 years old working in a record store [Nunn’s family ran several mom-and-pop record shops]. In those days, you had to buy something to hear it. You couldn’t just go, “I want to hear this right now—boom.”

It’s a dream. To me, it’s as much of a dream as MTV was when I heard that there’s gonna be a music video station, playing 24 hours a day. Are you fucking kidding?

[RELATED: Top Gun’ Songwriter of “Take My Breath Away,” Tom Whitlock, Dies at 68]

AS: MTV was the perfect catalyst for Berlin, especially when the band had cinematic videos like “The Metro” playing on a loop.

TN: They [MTV] started right around the time our album came out and the record labels were not sure if this MTV thing was going to be anything. We got lucky because Geffen did believe in videos and gave us money to make videos. The great thing about that premonition of David Geffen is that MTV was like “Give us anything. We have 24 hours to fill,” so we gave them our videos and they were playing a shit out of them. They didn’t have enough content. They just kept playing the same stuff, so that really made us take off. It was really being at the right place at the right time. 

AS: You had another blast from the past in May (2023) when you reunited with Andrew Eldritch at Cruel World Fest for a performance of Sisters of Mercy’s “Temple of Love.” Did it seem like 30 years had passed since your collaboration on “Under the Gun” (off Sisters of Mercy’s Some Girls Wander By Mistake, 1992)?

TN: That collaboration we did 30 years ago was a hit in the U.K., but then I lost touch with him. That collaboration really was a major moment for me. It was one of the first times I’d ventured out, away from John to write with somebody else. I love collaborations because it’s always fresh. You never know what’s going to happen.

There’s just an alchemy that happens when bands played together. It goes back to this tour with Culture Club and Howard Jones. These are things that will never happen again.

Photos by Louis Rodiger / Ken Phillips Publicity Group, Inc.

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