“Heroes” is the twelfth studio album by british rock/pop/everything artist David Bowie. Is it the second if his “Berlin Trilogy”, recorded in 1977 following Low and preceding the 1979 release of Lodger.
The second collaboration between Bowie and producer extraordinaire Brian Eno, Heroes is recorded exclusively in Berlin and the influences of German synth pop artists like Krafwerk are noticeable. In this record, Bowie takes a step towards more experimental rock and the eletronic sounds that would come to dominate the 1980s.
The album did well in the charts and was a critical and commercial success, with NME naming it the album of the year. It also spawned one of Bowies most recognised songs: Heroes.
Background & structure
Just as they had done in with Low, “Heroes” follows the same structure of songs with vocals on one side, and the other side made up purely of instrumental tracks. As someone who prefers music with vocals, this was disappointing to me. The first side’s vocals are fiery and passionate, with Bowie channeling his Krautrock influences as well as his friend Iggy Pop. Additionally, King Crimson’s guitaris Robert Fripp lends an extra dimension to these first tracks.
Many view this album as Bowie maturing as an artist, as he moved away (literally) from the hedonistic rock persona of the mid-70s to a more thoughtful and matured musician. Bowie moved to West Berlin to detox after becoming addicted to drugs while living in Los Angeles. Gone was the glam rock star, and for me these albums recorded are Bowie’s last great and groundbreaking records before becoming a more mainstream pop artist during the 1980s.
The title track: a story of two doomed lovers
Although “Heroes” would not become Bowie’s most successful album, the title track would definitely go on to me one of his most acclaimed songs.
A six-minute love ballad tells the story of two lovers meeting in secret, sharing a kiss beneath the Berlin Wall and enjoying this moment of heroism just for one day. Bowie was inspired to write this song after seeing his producer, Tony Visconti (married) kissing another woman (singer Antonia Maaß). Bowie wanted to keep this a secret from Visconti’s wife, so he wrote a song about it and anonymised the characters. Great way to keep a secret Bo 🙂
Not my favourite Bowie album, but ‘Heroes’ is my favourite Bowie song. Fun fact, the song was also released with Bowie singing in German and French. The German version ‘Helden’ is shorter, but also worth a listen.