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2023 Albums Thing #032 - David Bowie “Heroes”

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“Heroes” is the only one of the albums tagged as “The Berlin Trilogy” to have been completely recorded in Berlin. In style and structure it is not so very different to “Low”, a full side of songs and most of Side 2 taken up with instrumentals. Visconti and Eno were again here in a production/direction capacity. The band was made up of Alomar, Davies and Murray. There exists a tale that Bowie invited Neu! guitarist Michael Röther to join the sessions. Bowie insists Röther declined (although he also says the invite was for “Low” while Röther says it was for “Heroes”) and Röther claims the invite was rescinded in a phone call by one of Bowie’s staff. Either way we were certainly denied an intriguing collaboration. 

There is much to admire about “Heroes” but for me it is all about the title song. Back in the early 90’s I was out on tour with Kingmaker when on one late, no doubt boozy night the question was posed “If you could have been anywhere to witness any recording session which one would you be at ?” we all had our go at answering but the only response I remember was that of sound engineer Bo, who stared at the ceiling and said “in the control room at Hansa in Berlin when Bowie was recording THAT vocal”. He didn’t say which song, but I instantly knew what he meant, “Heroes”.

Reams and reams have likely been written about how Robert Fripp turned up and laid down that guitar part in one take, how Bowie wrote the lyrics at the last moment after spying Visconti and backing singer Antonia Maas stealing a private moment together in the shadow of the wall, about how Visconti set up microphones at different distances from his singer and gated them so they only opened when Bowie sang loud enough and so also caught the ambience of the room…the recording process is legendary. What came together out of that session is one of the greatest pieces of recorded music in human history, the full 6+ minute album version is nothing short of astonishing. 

I’m going to leave this write up there, I need to go listen to what I’ve just been eulogising, you should too…here you go…

“Heroes” - https://youtu.be/O1PDiYYjWo8

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