Song premiere: Berlin’s Terri Nunn on how she got her ex to play an 'a**hole' on new track 'Show Me Tonight'

It might seem unusual, or even masochistic, to ask your ex-boyfriend to yell toxic male insults at you, let alone capture such barbs in a recording studio for posterity. But that’s just what Terri Nunn did for her new wave band Berlin’s reunion album, Transcendence. On the frank track “Show Me Tonight,” the iconic, two-toned-haired frontgoddess’s former boyfriend, legendary KROQ DJ Richard Blade, spews a series of nasty one-liners spoofing the beauty industry’s insecurity-inducing infomercials — and the steely Nunn doesn’t even flinch.

We’re still waiting for your phone call! You're wondering why he hasn't texted you back yet? It's because of the way you look!” Blade barks. “That's right — you look old, run-down, and overweight. Look at those crow's feet! Get rid of that fat! Call us now, now, now, now! Call now!”

“The song is about how in America we're all told that we're not young enough, we're not pretty enough, or rich enough, or smart enough,” Nunn tells Yahoo Entertainment. “I needed an announcer, someone who could be that a**hole that you hear on the radio saying, ‘You suck, and that's why the guy isn't calling you back, because you're old and you're fat and you're stupid.’ So he's the announcer in the song. He committed to it! He made it even better than I wrote it! He sounds really vicious, doesn't he? He starts out really nice at the beginning of the song, and then it just gets meaner and meaner and meaner. We literally just let the [recorder] go, and he did it in five minutes. He's a professional!”

Richard Blade and Terri Nunn in 2017. (Photo: Facebook)
Richard Blade and Terri Nunn in 2017. (Photo: Facebook)

This may be first official musical collaboration between Nunn and Blade — who, despite what Blade’s unnervingly convincing “Show Me Tonight” performance might imply, have remained good friends and often appear together at ‘80s-themed music events. But their romantic relationship in the 1980s inspired one of Berlin’s biggest, and certainly most notorious, hits: “Sex (I’m A…),” a song so racy it was banned on some radio stations in the South.

Nunn, who as a teenager acted in the 1978 disco movie Thank God It’s Friday alongside Donna Summer, confesses that that breathy track, from Berlin’s 1982 album Pleasure Victim, was actually inspired by Summer’s Giorgio Moroder-co-penned bedroom classic “Love to Love You Baby.” “We stole from that song; we took the bassline. … We totally stole from him, we just inverted it,” she chuckles. Nunn failed to mention that cheeky thievery to Moroder a few years later, when they collaborated on Berlin’s Oscar-winning Top Gun theme “Take My Breath Away.” (“That's one of those things you leave out!”) But she also notes that Moroder didn’t even recognize her from their first meeting during the Thank God It’s Friday era: “He didn't remember, couldn't care less!”

Moroder would later say that “Take My Breath Away” was one of his favorite projects he ever worked on, which was vindicating — but Nunn still regrets that she declined to perform the song on the Oscars telecast that year (Lou Rawls and Melba Moore did instead) once she found out she would be part of a medley. “I told the Oscar guy, ‘No, I'm singing the whole song or I'm not doing it!’ He said, ‘OK, thank you.’ Click. And that was the end of me. I learned real fast that you don't say no to an Oscar guy. … I blew that one.”

Terri Nunn in 1984. (Photo: Michael Marks/Getty Images)
Terri Nunn in 1984. (Photo: Michael Marks/Getty Images)

After the original Berlin lineup split only a year after their Top Gun success, Nunn continued with different configurations of the band. But the groundwork for her reconciliation with original bandmate John Crawford — and for Transcendence, which includes a new version of their steamy “Sex” duet — can, interestingly, be traced back to Blade, when Berlin appeared on his VH1 reality show Bands Reunited in 2004.

“It was great for me, because without that show, this new album would never happen with John,” says Nunn. “Because we were estranged for about seven years, we weren't speaking to each other. That show is the reason we started speaking to each other again. [Richard] called me, and he said, ‘Would you do this show?’ I said, ‘Of course I would. He said, ‘Do you think John will do it?’ I said, ‘No.’

“And [Richard] contacted John, and they set up the cameras, and we're walking through, and I thought I would see some of the band — I didn't know who. I heard this voice, and I literally walked by John, because I hadn't seen him in so long. I didn't recognize him. And he said, ‘Terri!’ And I looked around, and he said, ‘It's me, it's John.’ And he opened his arms, and I started to cry. These cameras were in my nose and up my ass, and this whole thing was happening, but it was really a true reunion of John and me — which meant so much to me, because what we did together has given my kids a college education.”

Berlin's Terri Nunn (center), John Crawford (left), and Ric Olsen circa 1987. (Photo: Dave Hogan/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Berlin circa 1987. (Photo: Dave Hogan/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Speaking of their long estrangement and how later “John Crawford came back in my life out of nowhere,” Nunn explains: “At one point we had tried to do Berlin again, and I heard at the time that [John] was talking to somebody about getting another singer, and it really hurt. So, we didn't talk for about seven years, and I didn't know if we ever would again. But time heals, and I was like, ‘Why are we not talking?’ So [Bands Reunited] started the reunion of our friendship, and then when he got a divorce two or three years ago is when he called me. Then this whole [Transcendence] thing happened.

“I'm sure it's cathartic too for John. He was getting a divorce and he called me crying, because it sucks. It's hard getting a divorce, and you've got to go back and talk to old friends. He needed a shoulder to cry on. And then we started working together on songs, and things popped, and then we got a record deal, and this whole thing happened. … And now he’s singing [“Sex (I’m A…)”] with me again, 30 years later.”

Terri Nunn and Berlin, circa 2019. (Photo: Louis Rodiger)
Terri Nunn and Berlin, circa 2019. (Photo: Louis Rodiger)

Nunn sounds just as sexy singing “Sex (I’m A…),” today, but it’s “Show Me Tonight” that resonates today. “I wrote [“Show Me Tonight’s” spoken-word section] for [Richard Blade] because that's what we hear every day as women: ‘You're old, you're fat, you're stupid,’ that's just what we get in America. I grew up with it, you did too,” says the 58-year-old Nunn. “We're told all the time we're not good enough, so that's what the song's about: ‘Show me tonight, my body's fine.’ That's why I wrote that song, because I want us to be able to accept our bodies, and we are fine, and we are beautiful. There's a lot of different ‘beautifuls.’”

That being said, Nunn is aging very gracefully and still looks quite beautiful as she closes in on her sexy sixties. What’s the secret to how she has transcended time, so to speak? She credits her veganism, but also answers: “Being happy, being married to somebody that loves me [attorney Paul Spear], and steady sex — good sex.”

The above interview is taken from Terri Nunn’s appearance on the SiriusXM show “Volume West.”

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