Album cover, RCA Records
On the 23rd of September 1977, David Bowie released the song ‘Heroes’, which became one of Bowie’s signature songs. Co-written by Bowie and Brian Eno, the track features King Crimson guitarist, Robert Fripp.
The song was taken from his 12th studio album “Heroes”. Co-produced by Bowie and Tony Visconti, the track was recorded in 1977, at Hansa Studio 2 in West Berlin. Bowie improvised lyrics while standing at the microphone.
Released by RCA Records, as the album’s lead single, the reviews for the song were mostly positive. Bowie promoted the song with a music video and sang it on television programmes, including Marc Bolan’s Marc and Bing Crosby’s Christmas special. Bowie also released German and French-language versions of ‘Heroes’. The song reached the top 20 in multiple European countries and Australia.
Bowie wrote ‘Heroes’ during his Berlin days. He moved to Berlin in 1976, where he rediscovered his musical charisma. Brian Eno moved to Berlin with Bowie, and worked on his albums: Low, Heroes, and Lodger.
The Story Behind The Song
The song portrays the narrative of a German couple who are desperate to stay together despite the political context of the day, and they meet every day under a gun turret on The Berlin Wall. Bowie was inspired by his famed producer Tony Visconti’s love affair with support singer Antonia Maass, states Far Out Magazine.
“I’m allowed to talk about it now. I wasn’t at the time,” Bowie said to Performing Songwriter in 2003, and added “I always said it was a couple of lovers by the Berlin Wall that prompted the idea. Actually, it was Tony Visconti and his girlfriend. Tony was married at the time...
I did ask his permission if I could say that. I think possibly the marriage was in the last few months, and it was very touching because I could see that Tony was very much in love with this girl, and it was that relationship which sort of motivated the song”, Bowie revealed.
Heroes – The symbolic anthem of Berlin
During this troubled period when Berlin remained divided, Heroes became the symbolic anthem that captured the city. Bowie’s unifying rendition of the track at the Berlin Wall, just two years before its demolition in 1987, was a touching moment.
1987 – Berlin concert
For a single night, the music brings these two opposing sides together.
“When we did ‘Heroes’, it felt anthemic, almost like a prayer,” Bowie said to “Rolling Stone”. “I’ve never felt it like that again. That’s the town where it was written, and that’s the particular situation it was written about. “
“It was one of the most emotional performances I’ve ever done.” Rolling Stone reports Bowie said back in 2003.
“I was in tears. There were thousands on the other side that had come close to the wall. So, it was like a double concert where the wall was the division. And we could hear them cheering and singing from the other side. God, even now I get choked up. It was breaking my heart and I’d never done anything like that in my life, and I guess I never will again. It was so touching.”