Berlin was formed in Orange County, California in the late 1970s. Their first single, "A Matter of Time," was released in 1980 on I.R.S. Records and featured replacement vocalist Virginia Macolino on lead vocals after Terri Nunn had temporarily left the band to pursue an acting career (Nunn at one point auditioned for the role of Princess Leia in the movie Star Wars). They were then signed to independent label Enigma Records where they had their first significant hit: the controversial synth-driven "Sex (I'm A...)" (1982), which was banned by some radio stations due to its graphic lyrics. Later they had two other hits: "The Metro" and "No More Words", whose subsequent video saw Terri Nunn and bandmates re-enact a Bonnie and Clyde-style car chase and shoot-out. "Take My Breath Away" (from the movie Top Gun) became their best-selling single in 1986 and a huge international hit, but also their last hit.
Aside from Nunn, the core members of the band were founding member John Crawford (primary songwriter, bass guitar and synthesizer), and David Diamond (Synthesizer & guitar). Other members of the band included Ric Olsen (lead guitar), Matt Reid (synthesizer), Rob Brill (drums: 1982–1987) and Rod Learned (drums: 1979–1982). Berlin's breakout EP, 1982's Pleasure Victim, featured core members Nunn, Crawford, and Diamond, as well as drummer, synthesist and producer Dan Van Patten and guitarist Chris Ruiz-Velasco, the latter two founding members along with Crawford. As Pleasure Victim took off, however, Van Patten and Ruiz-Velasco parted ways with Nunn, Crawford, and Diamond. Berlin officially disbanded in 1987, partly due to the lack of success of their album Count Three & Pray despite the success of "Take My Breath Away". Nunn retained the legal rights to usage of the band's name after legal wranglings with the founding member of the group, John Crawford. Nunn recreated Berlin (with a new lineup of musicians) in 1999.
In 2000–2001 Berlin contributed to several artist tribute albums. The only track to make it on to a full Berlin release is a cover of Marilyn Manson's "The Dope Show", which is included on Berlin's 4play album as well as the Marilyn Manson tribute album Anonymous Messiah (2001, Vitamin Records). Other tributes include material by Madonna and Blondie.
The classic version of Berlin was featured on the VH1 show, Bands Reunited where all members (except for Rob Brill) agreed to not only reunite as friends but as a band. They played one show at The Roxy in California to a sold-out crowd.