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Music / "Heroes"

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"Just for one day".

"Heroes"note  is the twelfth studio album by David Bowie, released in late 1977. It was his second collaboration with Brian Eno, with whom he previously worked on Low in late 1976 and would work again on Lodger in late 1978/early 1979note , and as such is the second part of what critics and fans call the "Berlin Trilogy" of his Krautrock/art rock/proto-Post-Punk albums. As with Low, "Heroes" consists of ambient-inspired art rock, with lyrical songs encompassing side A and instrumentals occupying most of side B. However, "Heroes" is considerably more accessible than its predecessor; while Low was proto-Post-Rock with minimalist lyrics, the songs on "Heroes" are familiarly Bowie-esque art rock, among other things featuring stream-of-consciousness lyrics with word salad tendencies that presage Lodger. It garnered good marks from critics, making it the only one of the trilogy to receive that upon its original release; its stature has only grown since, with the album now regarded by both fans and critics as one of Bowie's finest; furthermore, the title track is now one of the candidates to be Bowie's Signature Song.


Interestingly, "Heroes" was released exactly nine months to the day after Low: Low was released on January 14, 1977, and "Heroes" on October 14, 1977.


Side One

  1. "Beauty and the Beast" (3:32)
  2. "Joe the Lion" (3:05)
  3. ""Heroes"" (6:07)
  4. "Sons of the Silent Age" (3:15)
  5. "Blackout" (3:50)

Side Two

  1. "V-2 Schneider" (3:10)
  2. "Sense of Doubt" (3:57)
  3. "Moss Garden" (5:03)
  4. "Neuköln" (4:34)
  5. "The Secret Life of Arabia" (3:46)


Bonus Tracks (1991 Reissue):

  1. "Abdulmajid"
  2. "Joe the Lion (remix)"

Tell you who you are if you trope me to my car:

  • The Ace: By his own account, Robert Fripp hadn't played guitar in years when Brian Eno brought him in to play on the album. He was incredibly jet-lagged when he arrived in Berlin from New York. Regardless, his first take was used in the final mix of "Beauty on the Beast", and it's impossible to imagine the title track without his distinctive guitar sound.
  • Alliterative Title: "Beauty and the Beast" and "Sons of the Silent Age".
  • Ambient: The second side of this album mostly falls into this genre.
  • Berlin Wall: The title track has two lovers meet each other next to "the wall", which was inspired by this one (see below).
  • Book-Ends: This album, like its predecessor, Low, contains some strange examples. "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Secret Life of Arabia" provide an example of stylistic bookends: they are unusual, catchy dance songs on an album that is, overall, fairly subdued. "V-2 Schneider" and "Secret Life" also bookend the album's B-side as vocal pieces on an otherwise instrumental album side. "Secret Life" also serves as the latter half of an unusual example of bookends between albums: Low opened with "Speed of Life", and the first verse of "Secret Life" opens with the line "I was running at the speed of life."
  • Bottle Episode: All action takes place in Berlin and it was recorded there too. (Consequently, its the only Berlin Trilogy album that can make this claim).
  • Cold War: This album breathes this atmosphere.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The black-and-white cover.
  • Echoing Acoustics: The Title Track indulges in this with the instrumentation and plays with it on Bowie's vocals, which were recorded using a series of microphones placed at increasing distances from him in an orchestra hall. As the song progressed, the recording would switch from the closest microphone to the farthest, forcing Bowie to sing louder and louder until he was practically screaming, thus capturing the natural echo of the recording area.
  • Epic Rocking: "'Heroes'" runs six-plus minutes on the album; most people are more familiar with the shorter single edit that leaves out the first two verses.
  • Face on the Cover: A Masayoshi Sukita photograph of Bowie striking a pose with his hands, with the white levels upped to the point where Bowie's face appears almost like he's wearing a blank mask. For reference, here is the untouched version of the photo.
  • Fading into the Next Song: Tracks two through four on the second side fade into one another.
  • Gratuitous German: Heard and seen all over the album.
  • Hero for a Day: Literal line in the refrain of "'Heroes'".
    We could be heroes... just for one day
  • In the Style of...: "'Heroes'" replicates the "Wall of Sound" production style of Phil Spector.
  • Krautrock: The music is inspired by artists as Kraftwerk and Neu!.
  • Lighter and Softer: "Heroes" is nowhere near as dour as Low was, both musically and lyrically. Rather, tracks on the album tend to range between bouncy & eccentric and ethereally subdued.
  • Location Song: "'Heroes'", about two lovers meeting at the Berlin Wall.
  • Mood Whiplash: The B-Side of the album embodies this, with the Lighter and Softer "V-2 Schneider", "Moss Garden" and "The Secret Life of Arabia" alternating with the Darker and Edgier "Sense of Doubt" and "Neuköln".
  • Spell My Name with an "S": "Neuköln" was named after the German neighbourhood of "Neukölln". YMMV on whether the spelling was intentional or not.
  • Name and Name: "Beauty and the Beast"
  • Named After Somebody Famous: "V-2 Schneider" is named after Kraftwerk member Florian Schneider.
  • One-Word Title: "'Heroes'", as well as the tracks "Neuköln" and "Blackout".
  • Real Life Writes the Plot:
    • The line "Someone fetch a priest" on "Beauty and the Beast" came from producer Tony Visconti's idiosyncratic curse "Someone fuck a priest."
    • The lovers by the wall in "'Heroes'" — whom Bowie claimed at the time of release were inspired by an anonymous couple he saw by the Berlin Wall — were actually inspired by the then-married Visconti and a woman he was having an affair with.
  • Record Producer: As with the other Berlin Trilogy albums, many people think Brian Eno was the producer. Bowie's frequent collaborator Tony Visconti actually produced, although Eno was an important contributor. This mistake tends to be further exacerbated by the fact that Eno would take many of the techniques used on "Heroes" to the three albums he actually did produce with Talking Heads during and after the Berlin Trilogy.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: "Joe the Lion" is the No Celebrities Were Harmed version of Chris Burden, an artist who once had himself crucified on a Volkswagen ("Nail me to my car/And I'll tell you who you are"). Burden and this incident are directly mentioned in the liner notes of a later Bowie album, Outside.
  • Sarcastic Title: "'Heroes'" is in Scare Quotes most likely because its inspiration was only heroic in a very superficial sense: Bowie once saw producer Tony Visconti embracing backing vocalist Antonia Maass by the Berlin Wall after he left work, but Visconti was married to another woman at the time and they both worked right next to the wall anyway. Whether this is actually significant to the song's content isn't really certain, however.
  • Scare Quotes: Both the album and its title song have quotation marks as part of the title.
  • Separated by the Wall: "'Heroes'" has mention of lovers and the Berlin Wall, but technically never specifies if they're separated by the wall (the real people that inspired it were not; they met on the same side).
  • Shout-Out:
    • The song is the centrepiece of the film Christiane F. (1981) and David Bowie even performs it live and integrally when the titular character visits one of his concerts.
    • Philip Glass's 4th Symphony "Heroes" was named after this album, down to the individual movements which were all named after, and based on the tracks "'Heroes'", "Abdulmajid", "Sense of Doubt", "Sons of the Silent Age", "Neuköln" and "V-2 Schneider". Earlier he also composed his 1st Symphony Low after Bowie's Low..
    • The cover of Bowie's album The Next Day is an altered facsimile of the "Heroes" cover.
    • "V-2 Schneider" is a shout-out to Florian Schneider of Kraftwerk
  • Special Guest: King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp plays on this album, most prominently on the title track. Fripp hadn't actually played for three years when Bowie called him to play on the album, so Bowie can be credited with bringing him out of retirement. (The first song he recorded for was "Beauty and the Beast". Naturally, he nailed it on the first take. While jet-lagged, no less.)
  • Time Marches On: If one interprets the wall in the title track to be the Berlin Wall (it did factor into the song's inspiration), that makes the song a bit dated since that wall fell on November 9, 1989 — but there are still many other walls in this world, literally and metaphorically.
  • Title Track: "Heroes"
    We could be heroes... just for one day
  • Translated Cover Version: Bowie recorded "'Heroes'" in English, as well as in French as "'Heros'" and German as "'Helden'".
  • Word Salad Lyrics: "Beauty and the Beast".
  • Your Cheating Heart: The lyrics to the title track were inspired by Bowie witnessing producer Tony Visconti embracing a woman he was having an affair with.

Alternative Title(s): Heroes


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