On this day in music history, David Bowie released his twelfth studio album, “Heroes”, the second installment of his Berlin Trilogy recorded with Brian Eno.
This week, we’ll be continuing to discuss both new contemporary releases, as well as older classics that deserve to be remembered. There’s a wealth of great music out there, and we’re constantly doing our best to find the best of it all to share with you. To kick off this week of music, we’re starting with the anniversary of a classic Bowie album, and the title track that is currently sitting at the top of his most popular songs on Spotify.
Upon its initial release, the title track single, “Heroes” wasn’t a huge hit in either the United Kingdom or the United States. However, since its release, it has become one of David Bowie’s signature songs. The album was later named by NME as Album of the Year.
But before we get too ahead of ourselves, let’s first take a look at the album itself. After all, today is its forty-second birthday.
Heroes (the album)
“Heroes” was released on October 14th, 1977 on RCA Records. The album was recorded with Brian Eno and Tony Visconti. It is the second installment in the Berlin Trilogy, a collection of three consecutively released studio albums by Bowie. The complete Berlin Trilogy consists of “Low” (1977), “Heroes” (1977), and “Lodger”(1979). All three albums were recorded while Bowie lived in West Berlin after moving there in 1976. The Berlin Trilogy saw Bowie experimenting with electronic, ambient, and world music elements. The project also included collaboration with both Brian Eno and Tony Visconti.
The musical approach to “Heroes” was one of minimalism and ambiance, with more elements of pop and rock than its predecessor, “Low”. This lean toward rock and pop was undoubtedly influenced by contributions from King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp.
“Heroes” (the song)
“Heroes” was co-written by David Bowie and Brian Eno, and produced by Bowie and Tony Visconti.
While the song may not have made a huge impact on its initial release, over the years, its significance is irrefutable. David Bowie’s performance of “Heroes” ten years later in West Berlin is considered to be influential in the eventual fall of the Berlin Wall. In fact, upon his death, the German government released a statement officially thanking and crediting him with helping bring down the wall.
The following statement was released as a tweet by the German Foreign Office in 2016.
“Good-bye, David Bowie. You are now among Heroes. Thank you for helping to bring down the wall”.
“Heroes” is one of Bowie’s most covered songs. The most recent cover from Peter Gabriel was used this year at the end of the last episode of Stranger Things: Season Three.
“Heroes” tells the story of two lovers on opposite sides of the wall, who find comfort in being together, even though their time can’t last. This can be seen most clearly in the lyrics of the refrain.
“Though nothing will keep us together
We could steal time, just for one day
We can be heroes, forever and ever
What d’you say?”
The lyrics also make direct references to the Berlin Wall. No cryptic metaphors to parse through here.
“I, I can remember (I remember)
Standing, by the wall (By the wall)
And the guns shot above our heads (Over our heads)
And we kissed, as though nothing could fall (Nothing could fall)”
Even though the song is about two doomed lovers finding solace for one day, “Heroes” has a hopeful feel to it. The music is appropriately grand and heroic, with just a tinge of the sadness of reality behind Bowie’s voice.
I think “Heroes” is definitely one of those songs that grows on you with each successive listen. In all honesty, before today I had only heard the song once after watching the third season of Stranger Things, and didn’t think much of it at the time. But after learning about its historical and cultural significance, I have a newfound respect for it, as well as for the power of music. But even without that, the song itself is still a powerful work of art. It still stands up after all these years.
That about does it for our discussion today. I hope you enjoyed listening to and learning a little bit about David Bowie’s “Heroes”. We’ll be back tomorrow with another song to help get you through the week.