"Heroes" (David Bowie album)

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The album cover features a black and white photograph of Bowie's face with his hands held up
Studio album by
Released14 October 1977 (1977-10-14)
RecordedJuly–August 1977
StudioHansa Tonstudio, West Berlin, Germany
David Bowie chronology
David Bowie Narrates Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf
David Bowie studio albums chronology
Singles from "Heroes"
  1. ""Heroes"" / "V-2 Schneider"
    Released: 23 September 1977
  2. "Beauty and the Beast" / "Sense of Doubt"
    Released: 6 January 1978

"Heroes" is the 12th studio album by English singer-songwriter David Bowie, released on 14 October 1977 by RCA Records. It was the second installment of his "Berlin Trilogy" recorded with producers Brian Eno and Tony Visconti, following Low (released earlier that year) and preceding Lodger (1979). Of the three albums, it was the only one wholly recorded in Berlin. "Heroes" continued the ambient experiments of its predecessor, albeit with more pop elements and passionate performances, and featured contributions from King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp.[5]

"Heroes" was the most well-received work of Bowie's Berlin Trilogy by music critics on release, and was named Album of the Year by NME and Melody Maker. It was also a commercial success, peaking at number 3 on the UK Albums Chart. The title track remains one of Bowie's best known and acclaimed songs.[6] The album has been reissued multiple times and was remastered in 2017 as part of the A New Career in a New Town (1977–1982) box set.

Like Iggy Pop's The Idiot (co-produced and co-written by Bowie), the "Heroes" album cover is an allusion to the painting "Roquairol" by Erich Heckel.[7][8] An altered and obscured version of the album's cover artwork later appeared as the artwork for Bowie's 2013 album The Next Day.

Production and style[edit]

Recorded at Hansa Tonstudio in what was then West Berlin, "Heroes" reflected the zeitgeist of the Cold War, symbolised by the divided city. Co-producer Tony Visconti considered it "one of my last great adventures in making albums. The studio was about 500 yards [460 metres] from the Berlin Wall. Red Guards would look into our control-room window with powerful binoculars."[9] Earlier in 1977, Kraftwerk had name-checked Bowie on the title track of Trans-Europe Express, and he again paid tribute to his Krautrock influences: the title is a nod to the track "Hero" on the album Neu! '75 by the German band Neu! – whose guitarist Michael Rother had originally been approached to play on the album[10] – while "V-2 Schneider" is inspired by and named after Kraftwerk's Florian Schneider.[11] Despite the German influences, the album was recorded with Bowie's British and American collaborators, with no input from German musicians other than backing vocalist Antonia Maass.

Masayoshi Sukita's cover photo was inspired by German artist Erich Heckel's Roquairol.[12] Bowie said that the quotation marks in the title "indicate a dimension of irony about the word 'heroes' or about the whole concept of heroism".[13]

Brian Eno instigated Robert Fripp's involvement. "I got a phone call when I was living in New York in July 1977," the guitarist recalled. "It was Brian Eno. He said that he and David were recording in Berlin and passed me over. David said, 'Would you be interested in playing some hairy rock 'n' roll guitar?' I said, 'Well, I haven't really played for three years – but, if you're prepared to take a risk, so will I.' Shortly afterwards, a first-class ticket on Lufthansa arrived."[14] Upon arriving at the studio, and suffering from jet lag, Fripp recorded a guitar part for "Beauty and the Beast": this first take was used in the song's final mix.[citation needed]

Although "Heroes" continued Bowie's work in electronic[15] and ambient music styles[16] and included a number of dark and atmospheric instrumentals such as "Sense of Doubt" and "Neuköln", it was regarded as a highly passionate and positive artistic statement,[9][11] particularly after the often melancholy Low.[17] The lyrics for "Joe the Lion", written and recorded at the microphone "in less than an hour" according to Visconti, typified the improvisational nature of the recording.[18]

Eno employed his Oblique Strategies cards during the recording of the album. Stories suggest they were used during the recording of instrumentals such as "Sense of Doubt".[19]

Release and impact[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic5/5 stars[20]
Blender4/5 stars[21]
Chicago Tribune3/4 stars[22]
Christgau's Record GuideB+[23]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music5/5 stars[24]
Entertainment WeeklyA−[25]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide4.5/5 stars[28]

RCA Records marketed "Heroes" with the slogan "There's Old Wave. There's New Wave. And there's David Bowie ..."[11] It enjoyed a positive critical reception on release in late 1977,[6] Melody Maker and NME both naming it "Album of the Year".[30][31] It reached No. 3 in the UK and stayed in the charts for 26 weeks, but was less successful in the US where it peaked at No. 35. The album was released in Germany with the title track renamed ""Heroes"/"Helden"" and partly in German. An early instance of the album's enduring influence is John Lennon's comment in 1980 that, when making his album Double Fantasy, his ambition was to "do something as good as "Heroes"."[6][30] Rolling Stone highlighted Eno's contribution, contending that after Bowie's "auteurist exploitation" of the former on Low, "Heroes" "prompts a much more enthusiastic reading of the collaboration, which here takes the form of a union of Bowie's dramatic instincts and Eno's unshakable sonic serenity".[32] The Village Voice critic Robert Christgau was less receptive to Eno's contributions, particularly the second side's instrumentals, saying that they are "interesting background" but "merely noteworthy as foreground, admirably rather than attractively ragged", in comparison to "their counterparts on Low".[33] In the Voice's annual Pazz & Jop critics poll, "Heroes" finished 21st in the voting for 1977's top album.[34]

Several songs from the album were played live on Bowie's Isolar II Tour in 1978, released on the live album Stage the same year, and again from a different venue in 2018 with Welcome to the Blackout. Philip Glass adapted a classical suite, "Heroes" Symphony, from this album as a companion to his earlier Low Symphony. The title track has been covered by numerous artists, for example as an encore by subsequent incarnations of King Crimson, and Billy Mackenzie sang "The Secret Life of Arabia" in 1982 for the B.E.F. LP Music of Quality and Distinction. Several tracks were used in the film Christiane F. Bowie performed as himself in the film.

The cover of Bowie's 2013 album, The Next Day, is an altered and obscured version of the "Heroes" cover. This version has "Heroes" crossed out and Bowie's face obscured by an opaque white box reading "The Next Day".

Track listing[edit]

Original release[edit]

All tracks are written by David Bowie except where noted.

Side one
1."Beauty and the Beast" 3:32
2."Joe the Lion" 3:05
3."'Heroes'"Bowie, Brian Eno6:07
4."Sons of the Silent Age" 3:15
5."Blackout" 3:50
Total length:19:49
Side two
1."V-2 Schneider" 3:10
2."Sense of Doubt" 3:57
3."Moss Garden"Bowie, Eno5:03
4."Neuköln"Bowie, Eno4:34
5."The Secret Life of Arabia"Bowie, Eno, Carlos Alomar3:46
Total length:20:30 (40:19)


"Heroes" was first released on CD by RCA Records in the mid-1980s. It was reissued in 1991 by Rykodisc with two bonus tracks. The 1991 edition was released in the UK on CD, cassette and LP by EMI Records, and was subsequently rereleased on a numbered 20-bit SBM AU20 Gold CD edition. A further CD release in 1999 by EMI/Virgin, without bonus tracks, featured 24-bit digitally remastered sound.

In 2017, the album was remastered for the A New Career in a New Town (1977–1982) box set released by Parlophone that September.[35] It was released in CD, vinyl, and digital formats, as part of this compilation and then separately in February 2018.[36] A volume shift in the 2017 remaster of the song "Heroes" received ire from fans and critics, but Parlophone proceeded to describe as intentional and unalterable,[37] because of damages in the original master tapes. After the critical voices would not lessen, a statement was released on the official Bowie website announcing corrected replacement disks for the "Heroes" CD and LP;[38] the replacement disc offer lasted until June 2018.[39] The amended remaster featured on the replacement discs was also used for the standalone CD and LP release of "Heroes" in February 2018.[40]

1991 reissue bonus tracks
11."Abdulmajid" (Previously unreleased track, recorded 1976–79; composed by Bowie and Eno)3:40
12."Joe the Lion" (Remixed version, 1991)3:08


Charts and certifications[edit]


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  2. ^ Blackard, Cap; Graves, Wren; Manning, Erin (6 January 2016). "A Beginner's Guide to David Bowie". Consequence of Sound. Archived from the original on 25 March 2016. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
  3. ^ Peraino, Judith A. (2015). "Synthesizing Difference: The Queer Circuits of Early Synthpop". In Kaliberg, Jeffrey; Bloechl, Olivia Ashley; Lowe, Melanie Diane (eds.). Rethinking Difference in Music Scholarship. Cambridge University Press. p. 307. ISBN 9781107026674. Also in 1977, David Bowie joined forces with Brian Eno to create his own electronic 'art pop' for Heroes ...
  4. ^ Rule, Greg (1999). Electro Shock!. Miller Freeman Books. p. 233. ISBN 9780879305826. Low, Heroes (Rykodisc). Groundbreaking ambient electronic work from one of pop's most enduring icons.
  5. ^ Pegg, Nicholas (2006). The Complete David Bowie (4th ed.). London: Reynolds & Hearn Ltd. p. 312. ISBN 1-905287-15-1.
  6. ^ a b c Pegg, Nicholas (2000). The Complete David Bowie. pp. 307–309.
  7. ^ Cascone, Sarah (12 January 2016). "Take a Peek at David Bowie's Idiosyncratic Art Collection". ArtNet. ArtNet. Archived from the original on 21 August 2019. Retrieved 9 April 2020.
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  9. ^ a b Buckley, David (1999). Strange Fascination – David Bowie: The Definitive Story. pp. 320–325.
  10. ^ Snow, Mat (2007). MOJO 60 Years of Bowie, "Making Heroes". p. 69.
  11. ^ a b c Carr, Roy; Murray, Charles Shaar (1981). Bowie: An Illustrated Record. pp. 91–92.
  12. ^ "UNCUT interview". Bowie Golden Years. 1999. Archived from the original on 14 September 2010. Retrieved 19 July 2015.
  13. ^ Shaar Murray, Charles (1977). "NME interview". Bowie Golden Years. Archived from the original on 14 September 2010. Retrieved 20 August 2007.
  14. ^ Hughes, Rob (February 2015). "Prog? It's a prison". Classic Rock. p. 73.
  15. ^ Bloechl, Olivia et. al. Rethinking Difference in Music Scholarship. Cambridge University Press, 2015. p. 307
  16. ^ Mastropolo, Frank. "The History of David Bowie's Berlin Trilogy: 'Low,' 'Heroes,' and 'Lodger'". Ultimate Classic Rock. Archived from the original on 29 March 2016. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
  17. ^ "Low". Bowie Golden Years. Archived from the original on 28 February 2017. Retrieved 12 June 2007.
  18. ^ Pegg, Nicholas (2000). The Complete David Bowie. p. 112.
  19. ^ "Carlos Alomar's Golden Years with David Bowie (Interview)". Rock Cellar Magazine. 11 February 2016. Archived from the original on 13 February 2016. Retrieved 11 February 2016.
  20. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Heroes – David Bowie". AllMusic. Archived from the original on 17 June 2012. Retrieved 18 January 2010.
  21. ^ "David Bowie Part 1: The 1960s and '70s". Blender (47). May 2006.
  22. ^ Kot, Greg (10 June 1990). "Bowie's Many Faces Are Profiled on Compact Disc". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on 16 April 2016. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  23. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). "David Bowie: "Heroes"". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the '70s. Ticknor and Fields. ISBN 0-89919-026-X. Retrieved 18 January 2010.
  24. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). "David Bowie". The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0-85712-595-8.
  25. ^ Robbins, Ira (1 November 1991). "Heroes". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on 19 October 2016. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  26. ^ Fadele, Dele (11 September 1998). "David Bowie – Station To Station/Low/Heroes/Stage". NME. Archived from the original on 17 August 2000. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  27. ^ Dombal, Ryan (22 January 2015). "David Bowie: "Heroes"". Pitchfork. Archived from the original on 24 January 2016. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
  28. ^ Sheffield, Rob (2004). "David Bowie". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 97–99. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  29. ^ Griffiths, Nick (September 1991). "David Bowie: Low / Heroes / Lodger". Select (15): 80.
  30. ^ a b Sandford, Christopher (1997). Bowie: Loving the Alien. Time Warner. pp. 182–193. ISBN 0-306-80854-4.
  31. ^ Gittens, Ian (2007). "Art Decade", MOJO 60 Years of Bowie. pp. 70–73.
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  33. ^ Christgau, Robert (26 December 1977). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Retrieved 12 July 2020 – via robertchristgau.com.
  34. ^ Anon. (23 January 1978). "The 1977 Pazz & Jop Critics Poll". The Village Voice. Retrieved 12 July 2020 – via robertchristgau.com.
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  50. ^ Oricon Album Chart Book: Complete Edition 1970–2005. Roppongi, Tokyo: Oricon Entertainment. 2006. ISBN 4-87131-077-9.
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  52. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – David Bowie – Heroes". Hung Medien. Retrieved 18 August 2018.
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  58. ^ "Dutch charts jaaroverzichten 1977" (ASP) (in Dutch). Archived from the original on 12 May 2014. Retrieved 2 April 2014.
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  61. ^ "British album certifications – David Bowie – Heroes". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 31 January 2014. Select albums in the Format field. Select Gold in the Certification field. Type Heroes in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.