THERE IS A LIGHT THAT NEVER GOES OUT: Rick Berlin, Old Stag In Badville

Boston musical renaissance man Rick Berlin’s life and music reads like a novel by Kurt Vonnegut or John Irving: brimming with sublimely off-beat characters (including the protagonist himself), strange situations, bizarre circumstantial twists and turns, but above all, beating with life, a flawed, tender humanity, and a healthy sense of the absurd.

I had seen and heard Berlin’s brilliance many times up close, in different solo and band configurations when I decided, while covering the local music scene, first for the dearly departed Boston Phoenix, and then for the Boston Globe, that this remarkable singer-songwriter-writer-creator’s life needed to be told, talked about — and his music heard by as many people as possible.

I wrote what I thought was a definitive Globe profile piece on Rick back in 2006 … and then returned for a follow-up feature at my RPM: Life In Analog blog ten years after that. Little did I know then that, in 2023, Rick’s story would still be unfolding decades later; that he’d be continually adding new creative passages to his life and art many years from our first conversation.

Now, at 75, Berlin shows little signs of slowing down anytime soon. And this week’s glittery celebration of Berlin’s half-century in music featuring the major signpost bands of his life dating from the 1970s to the present day – Orchestra Berlin, Berlin Airlift, and the Nickel & Dime Band — just might be the biggest chapter yet. Although I’ve certainly learned not to call it a climax or a finale of any sort.

In anticipation of this well-deserved tribute and extravaganza, (details below), here are my original features on Berlin, both tied to a pair of superb albums he was releasing at each juncture, “Me & Van Gogh,” and “Old Stag,” as well as a disc review I did of Berlin’s similarly wonderful “Paper Airplane.” Think of them as I do now: merely an introduction to this singular artist.


With Orchestra Luna, Berlin Airlift, the Nickel & Dime Band, the Nervous Eaters, the Sheila Divine, and Hallelujah the Hills. At Brighton Music Hall. April 6 at 8 p.m. $20.

RPM: Jonathan Perry's Life in Analog

Rick45EvanScales Photo Credit: Evan Scales

Bruce Springsteen had the Badlands. Neil Young conjured Greendale. Lou Reed breathed life into Berlin. So it’s only fitting that a similarly singular artist who took his surname from that latter city, Rick Berlin, now has his Badville. After all, here’s a guy who’s resided inside a self-made, ever-mutating world of music, stories, and art longer than most of his cohorts in the Nickel & Dime Band have been alive.

Rick13NickelDime15Photo Credit: Tony Sahadeo

 The way he describes it in the notes to his band’s new EP of the same name, “Badville is a tattoo and a town located in the 4th dimension.” It’s also an attitude and a state of mind, a place populated by a cracked cast of characters: the lovelorn and the loveless; wry observers drinking rye whiskey. Bukowski would fit right in rubbing elbows with the depraved dreamers and scarred souls who sidle up for the last call ringing out…

View original post 1,866 more words

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Writings by (and about) Greil Marcus


A music blog. rock. punk. garage. power pop. vinyl. cd. dvd. bluray. books.

The Department of Tangents

Conversations About Comedy, Music, and Horror ETC

The Baseball Bloggess

Loves the 4-6-3 and the Serial Comma.

Let there be Elvis

Just another story for the great heap

Coco Crisp's Afro

A baseball publication that embraces the absurdity of life, the 8-1 putout, and the history of the OAKLAND Athletics (

Interesting Literature

A Library of Literary Interestingness


A topnotch site

Cardboard Gods

Voice of the Mathematically Eliminated

interrupting my train of thought

a website about a book by phil dellio

%d bloggers like this: