Construction of the Berlin Wall began 55 years ago today. The wall and the city it divided became highly symbolic of a lot of political and cultural issues beyond its brutal reality, some hearkening back to Berlin’s pre-Nazi Weimar reputation as a place on the edge of catastrophe.

We’ll begin with this evocative performance of Lou Reed’s “Berlin” in Paris in 1972, with John Cale on the piano and Nico looking on.

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Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.