Luna to Berlin Airlift
Boston-based singer-songwriter Rick Berlin is the former frontman of Orchestra Luna, Luna, Berlin Airlift, Rick Berlin: The Movie, and The Shelley Winters Project.
After not one but two versions of Orchestra Luna, we decided to lose the girls, the choreography and the somewhat jazz/Broadway influences and head down a more rock n roll, even prog rock (ugh) road. Longer solos, even drum and bass solos, longer songs, etc. We played a lot of shows, and even, for the money, learned enough cover songs to make the cover circuit (which was always weird as we tried to slide in some of our own songs, our ‘originals’ as they called it as if these songs were something to be ashamed of). Of course, as soon as we left the Freebird curriculum, we’d clear the dance floor. We did, however, as just ourselves, actually have a hot draw around town. We did wind up in the studio and recorded “Hooray For Hollywood,” “Anthem” and a bunch of other songs. The guy who ran the studio was in a deep coke hole. When Karla DeVito brought Steve Popovitch – Meatloaf/Cleveland International – to see us at the Paradise, he immediately wanted to sign us up. Steven Paul Perry and I met with Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson in their hotel room after they opened for The Kinks. We were psyched! Unfortunately (stupidly naïve?) we’d signed our recording rights over to that studio coke hole dude. He wanted $100K from Cleveland International to release us. Wouldn’t budge. Popovitch told us to get rid of the guy and come back once free. (We actually drove all the way to Cleveland to persuade Pop to just go for it, pay the $100K, and sign the band. Of course he wouldn’t.) Took 5 years to get rid of the bastard. Too late for Cleveland International. As a result, our piano player, Bobby Brandon, decided to be an attorney. He actually became the lawyer for Madison Square Garden for a time. But in the end, LUNA was DOA.
All of this led to:
There was a brief interim.
THE SUITCASE BAND
Chet Cahill (bass), Steven Paul Perry (guitar), myself and Barry Marshall (suitcase) became a tiny outfit. Barry stuck a mic in a hatbox suitcase and hit it with a tambourine and a maraca and we played a bunch of shows. That’s when we saw Jane Mangini play in Seven (all of the songs were hers). We loved who she was, how she looked and especially how awesome a musician she was, lugging that heavy-assed acoustic piano from gig to gig.
Time to write hit songs, somehow, as LUNA (Bobby out, Jane Mangini in) transformed into
I’d written what I thought was an actual radio ‘hit’, “Over the Hill,” and because my piano playing was, at best, suspect, we asked Jane to play on the demo. She, of course, nailed it. Then we had to find a piano player for our new band. We asked Jane to come to the tryouts to get her opinion about who might be our best choice. Instead, thank god, she asked if she could join the band. (One of many subsequent bands to follow and lucky us, Jane has played keys on all Nickel & Dime Band recordings.)
Our hot, smart and fearless manager, Billie Best, was getting connected all over town. ‘BCN in particular. Ron Alexenberg saw the band and signed us up (Epic/Handshake) with Bill Pfordrescher producing.
We recorded tracks at the Hit Factory and mixed it elsewhere. ‘BCN had played “Over The Hill” as a cassette during drive time.
We filled the clubs, everyone knew the song. We opened for the last J. Geils tour, and felt like big shots.
But, in typical music biz fashion, Handshake went bankrupt and we had no label. But we still had a pile of new songs and went back into the studio with Phil Adler to record Professionally Damaged.
We were lucky to have another radio hit with “Hunger Strikes.” It was 7 minutes long. ‘BCN tried to edit it shorter, but gave up and we were once again all over town with that song.
Trouble was on the horizon, however. We began to head into cliché coke addled territory, dealing and using, losing our minds, our money, and our inter-band friendships. BA came to a screeching halt. It was a good run.
(by Rick Berlin)
Published on April 18, 2023