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David Bowie – “Heroes” (1977)

September 16, 2013

[Album 237/1001]DavidBowieHeroesCover

Starting with the obvious: it’s Bowie, therefore it’s not quite like anything else and it’s well worth a listen.

The more interesting discussion is how it compares to the formidable Bowie catalogue.

– It’s not dissimilar to the structure of Low: another part of the “Berlin Trilogy,” songs on side one, primarily soundscapes on side two.  Though the atmosphere throughout “Heroes” is generally more positive.

– Guest guitarist Robert Fripp may be renowned for his innovative stylings but it is a simple two note lead pattern that might also be his most devastatingly effective.  The title track hook is one of the greats, made even more impressive learning that he recorded all his parts for the entire album in one day.

– From what I gather, the quotes around the album title are intended to question the notion of heroism, the qualities that make a true hero.  The song itself has been covered plenty of times and chances are that its inclusion in films may be miles away from the intended context of the original (unless Bowie had penned “Heroes” with ‘summoning courage to battle Godzilla’ or ‘Keanu Reeves leading a group of loveable football misfits’ in mind).  Whether the song was meant to be inspirational, it’s undeniably uplifting.  The kilometres I ran while listening to this track were noticeably faster than my others!

– The solid opener Beauty & The Beast is quite different from the Disney film title track, much to my daughter’s confusion when I would sing it around the house.

– Is there anything Bowie can’t do?  He sings, writes, co-produces & plays guitar/keyboard/saxophone/koto (thanks to Bowie, I now know what a koto is, The National Instrument of Japan!).  The major difference between him & other artists who seemingly do everything is that even though he could do it all himself, he wisely surrounds himself with people like Tony Visconti, Brian Eno, and the aforementioned Robert Fripp.

– The album trails off slightly after the beautiful Moss Garden but there’s more than enough in the opening eight tracks to consider it among his finest.  Ziggy & Hunky Dory are pretty high benchmarks but this one’s not too far off.

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From → 1970s

16 Comments
  1. Excellent write-up on an album that may or may not be my favorite part of the “Berlin Trilogy.” When I revisited the Bowie catalog nearly two years ago & wrote my 9-part series on it, this was the era of his career I was the least familiar with. At the end of the series it became (along with “Station Station”) one of my favorite portions of his catalog and on any particular day might be my favorite. I closed out my assessment of “Heroes” with the following: “Like its predecessor, this is not an easy album to digest, but its beauty is revealed a little more with each listen.” I stand by that comment, and based on your review we’re pretty much in agreement. The album gets overshadowed by the title track but the rest shouldn’t be overlooked.

    • Thanks Rich – and I’d agree wholeheartedly with your closing quote. I think that’s part of the beauty of Bowie – several of his records gets better with each listen.

      I just picked up Station to Station at a recent vinyl show for $7 (yay!) and am now looking for an excuse to work it into the listening rotation. I think in October I’ll look at back-to-back records, thus allowing me to check out both that and Young Americans!

  2. I really like this album, more so than some of his better known classics.

  3. I love Bowie (Labyrinth anyone?)! But for some reason I don’t know a lot of his songs. So sad. Will have to give this album a listen.

    • Love Labyrinth – This one may not feature the tight pants/big hair/contact ball juggling, but still well worth exploring!

  4. I’ve only heard occasional songs from this but I’m sure I read that ‘summoning courage to battle Godzilla’ was the main inspiration behind the making of this album. That said, I prefer his “Mothra” period. If you would like a more appropriate movie with Heroes in the soundtrack can I recommend the movie “Radio On”? It’s a fairly bleak black-and-white British road movie from the late 70s and has lots of great music on it.

    • I think it’s safe to say there’s a good chance he did have giant lizards on the brain after all! I’m not familiar with Radio On, great music definitely can make a movie for me. Most recently, “The World’s End” was certainly enhanced by its soundtrack.

      • Maybe Bowie is one of David Icke’s lizard people… he does have funny eyes after all!

        I wouldn’t say Radio On is a great movie but worth a watch as the atmosphere really goes with the music. You can usually find it to watch online. I think Daily Motion has the whole movie!

      • Withnail and I was always a favourite movie of mine for the music.

      • I hadn’t heard of Withnail & I before either – though the rotten tomatoes score of 93 looks promising!

      • Withnail and I is one of my favourite films… it’s fantastic. And the best use of Hendrix in a movie.

  5. like so many of Bowie’s songs, “Heroes” is massively misunderstood. its inclusion in Crapzilla and The Longest Crap are indicators of that. but one place it’s actually used very well is in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. a group of misfits (and pretty far from popular kids) latch onto it as their anthem, which is something Bowie would likely highly endorse.

    • I haven’t seen that one yet, heard lots of good things about it though. I remember hearing Green Day’s lead singer interviewed about their song ‘time of your life’ – he wrote it pretending to be OK after a breakup and the world seems to feel it fits better as a clipshow of fond memories/graduation anthem!

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