David Bowie: “Heroes” (Song)

“Heroes” is a song from the album of a same name in 1977 by David Bowie

8 January is David Bowie’s birthday and 10 January is David Bowie’s death date. I remember waking up early and read the tragic news that David Bowie had passed away unexpectedly, just days after releasing his final album on his 69th birthday, Blackstar (2016)

FR!DAY ! AM !N ROCK Salute to Davie Bowies
FR!DAY ! AM !N ROCK Staged this photo shoot upon hearing news of David Bowie’s death.

In that moment, a wave of emotions hit me But amidst the sorrow, I couldn’t help but feel in awe of David Bowie’s incredible dedication and passion for his craft. He worked tirelessly until the very end, unleashing his boundless creativity, and delivering his best work yet, even in the face of his own mortality.

David Bowie’s legacy serves as a reminder to all of us to live our lives to the fullest, to pursue our passions relentlessly, and to never give up on our dreams. May his spirit continue to inspire us all to be bold, creative, and unapologetically ourselves.

As a lifelong fan of David Bowie, He has always held a special place in my heart, ever since I was a child, thanks to the influence of DJ Taew Wassana Weerachatplee, who introduced me to his incredible talent.

Get ready to rock, today I’m diving into one of my all-time favourite songs: “Heroes”. This electrifying track is part of the iconic “Berlin Trilogy” – a trio of albums including Low (1977), “Heroes” (1977), and Lodger (1979) that showcase David’s innovative and experimental approach to music.

David Bowie
Robert Fripp, Brian Eno and David Bowie

Why Berlin?

Interestingly, the creation of this trilogy was born out of David Bowie’s struggle with addiction. During the recording of his previous album, Station to Station, David was heavily hooked on cocaine and has stated that he has no memory of making the album. But when he realized that he needed to make a change.

Another legendary musician who was also struggling with addiction: Iggy Pop, the former lead singer of the Stooges. Recognizing the severity of Iggy’s addiction, David took him under his wing and brought him on tour together.

David and Iggy recognized that if they remained in the United States, they would continue to be plagued by drug problems. So, they made the decision to relocate to Europe, eventually settling in Berlin.

Despite their struggles with addiction, David and Iggy were able to create some of their most innovative and ground-breaking music during their time in Berlin. Their collaboration is a testament to the power of artistic partnerships and the transformative power of music.

During their time together, Bowie produced Iggy’s first two albums, The Idiot(1977) and Lust for Life (1977). David’s influence on these albums is undeniable, as he had a heavy hand in shaping the music and sound. The result was a departure from Iggy’s earlier work, with a distinct style that was reminiscent of the Berlin Trilogy.

Berlin became David Bowie’s sanctuary, and it was there that he began to reclaim his creative spark. The “Heroes” album was a showcasing his raw talent and fearless experimentation with sounds and lyrics.

“Berlin was the first time in years that I had felt a joy of life,” David says, “and a great feeling of release and healing. It’s a city eight times bigger than Paris, remember, and so easy to ‘get lost’ in and to ‘find’ oneself, too.” David Bowie (Uncut – https://www.uncut.co.uk/features/david-bowie-remembers-berlin-cant-express-feeling-freedom-felt-98780/4/)

During his time in Berlin, David Bowie’s musical interests began to expand. He became drawn to krautrock, also known as cosmic rock, a West German experimental music genre, as well as ambient music from the British Isles. One of the pioneers of ambient music, Brian Eno, worked with Bowie on the Berlin Trilogy.

At Hansa Studio

Hansa Studio, a large former music venue that was converted by the Gestapo into a ballroom for officers during World War II. The studio’s walls and atmosphere were charged with excitement, terror, and inspiration. Tony remembers sitting at the table, observing Russian soldiers through binoculars while carrying a sten gun across his shoulder and being surrounded by barbed wire and landmines.

“Maybe I’d write out five or six chords,” Bowie told us, “then discipline myself to write something only with those five or six chords involved. So that particular dogma would dictate how the song is going to come out, rather than me and my sense of emotional self.” (from Classic Rock Magazine read more at https://www.loudersound.com/features/the-story-behind-the-song-heroes-by-david-bowie)

“Every song on Heroes starts with a backing track, and by that time, David had a great backing band,” Tony Visconti began on BBC Four Programme Music Moguls: Masters of Pop. “He had George Murray on bass. Carlos Alomar on guitar was with him for 30 years, starting with Young Americans and Dennis Davis on drums”

One of the musicians involved in the production of the album is Brian Eno, who uses EMS Synthi synthesizer that he connects to various parameters using small keys, dials, and switches all in switchboards. This synthesizer doesn’t feature traditional piano keys, but instead uses a joystick commonly found in arcade games to create unique sounds, such as the whirling effect heard in this track.

Tony Visconti, the album’s producer, recalls Brian’s unique approach to music-making and the distinctive sounds he contributed to the recording. One interesting tool they used during the creative process was “oblique strategies,” a set of cards developed by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt in 1975. Each card contains a vague instruction or expression that can be applied to many different situations, some of which are specific to music, while others are more general. Brian believed that these cards helped artists break through mental barriers and opened up new opportunities for creative exploration.

By incorporating a range of diverse influences and experimental techniques, David Bowie and his collaborators were able to create something truly unique and ground-breaking with the Berlin Trilogy. The result was a testament to the power of creativity and the importance of pushing artistic boundaries.

The Making of “Heroes”

This song features just two chords, G and D, and its musical roots can be traced back to “Success,” a track that David co-wrote and produced for Iggy Pop’s Lust for Lifealbum before embarking on his own “Heroes” project. Initially, David creates a basic musical structure using the piano, and then other musicians join in to build upon his foundation.

Tony reflects on the creation of “Heroes,” which was written and recorded in just two short weeks. During the recording process, David would sometimes play the piano live while Brian Eno observed from the sound room. Despite the high-energy atmosphere, the team was uncertain about what they had created since the song don’t have lyrics and even a title.

One day, Brian invited Robert Fripp, a renowned guitarist from King Crimson who had previously collaborated with him, to join them in the studio. Although Robert Fripp only had one week of free time in Berlin, he generously lent his guitar skills to the project.

Contrary to popular belief, the iconic guitar sound in “Heroes” wasn’t created using an ebow. It was actually Robert Fripp who masterfully generated that unforgettable guitar riff by manipulating the feedback from his guitar. He played around with different distances from the amp, intentionally creating a range of notes. For instance, if he was playing an A note, he might stand 4 feet away from the amp, or perhaps 3 feet for a different tone. To add another layer of sound, Brian utilized his EMS Synthi to transform Robert’s guitar into a new tone altogether.

But here’s the kicker: Robert played his solo part three separate times! He didn’t listen to the previous takes on repeat, but Tony managed to mix all three guitar parts together, and what emerged was a beautiful, harmonious melody that has become legendary in its own right.

A Couple of Lovers by The Wall

Seven songs were already in the works, yet “Heroes” remained without any lyrics. It wasn’t until a July afternoon in 1977 when David Bowie peered out the window of the Hansa Studio in Berlin and saw something that would change everything. Less than 500 yards away, a couple was locked in a passionate embrace near the towering Berlin Wall.

The sight of the couple’s tenderness in the face of such a formidable obstacle stirred something in David’s heart. He couldn’t shake the image from his mind and immediately put pen to paper, crafting lyrics that captured the raw emotion of that moment. The result was a powerful anthem of love and hope that has become an enduring symbol of the human spirit’s resilience in the face of adversity.

“I always said it was a couple of lovers by the Wall that prompted the idea for Heroes,” Bowie told Classic Rock in 2015, explaining its meaning. “Actually, it was [Bowie producer] Tony Visconti and his girlfriend. Tony was married at the time, so I couldn’t talk about it. But I can now say that the lovers were Tony and a German girl [Antonia Maass] that he’d met while we were in Berlin. I think possibly his 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.” (Classic Rock Magazine https://www.loudersound.com/features/the-story-behind-the-song-heroes-by-david-bowie)

But “Heroes” is not only about Tony kissing Antonia beside the Berlin Wall, but It also have more inspiration.

Otto Mueller’s painting, “Lovers Between Garden Walls” from 1916. The short story, “A Grave for A Dolphin,” by Alberto Denti di Pirajno. The story tells of an Italian soldier who falls in love with a Somali woman during World War II. The pair dream of a life together, free from the confines of war and racism. However, their love is ultimately blocked by the realities of the world around them.

Lovers Between Garden Walls
“Lovers Between Garden Walls” 1916 by Otto Mueller

This story, along with the image of the two lovers separated by the Berlin Wall, inspired David to create a song that captured the yearning for freedom and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of obstacles. Through the metaphor of swimming with dolphins, David conveyed a sense of hope and longing, while the presence of the Berlin Wall served as a powerful symbol of the barriers that can separate us.

The title of the song, “Heroes”, is actually enclosed in quotation marks to show irony. The lyrics suggest that the characters in the song are trying to stand against the world, but in reality, they are unlikely to succeed. 

The line “We can be heroes, just for one day” implies that although they may not win in the long run, they can still achieve something great and be considered heroes even if it’s only for a short time. 

This theme of temporary heroism in the face of adversity is a common theme in David Bowie’s work. Additionally, the song’s use of the Berlin Wall as a backdrop for the story of two lovers from opposite sides highlights the political and social tensions of the time. 

The song’s use of poetic imagery and symbolic language creates a sense of longing and desperation, while also hinting at the possibility of hope and change. Overall, “Heroes” is a poignant and powerful song that speaks to the human condition and the struggle to overcome obstacles in the pursuit of freedom and happiness.

David Bowie: “Heroes”

Released – 23 กันยายน 1977

Studio – Hansa (West Berlin)

Genre – Art rock

Length – 6:07 (album)/3:32 (single)

Label – RCA

Songwriters – David Bowie / Brian Eno

Producers – David Bowie / Tony Visconti

I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing will drive them away
We can beat them, just for one day
We can be heroes, just for one day

And you, you can be mean
And I, I'll drink all the time
'Cause we're lovers, and that is a fact
Yes, we're lovers, and that is that

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?

I, I wish you could swim
Like the dolphins, like dolphins can swim
Though nothing, nothing will keep us together
We can beat them, forever and ever
Oh, we can be heroes, just for one day

I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing will drive them away
We can be heroes, just for one day
We can be us, just for one day

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)

And the shame was on the other side
Oh, we can beat them, forever and ever
Then we could be heroes, just for one day
We can be heroes
We can be heroes
We can be heroes, just for one day
We can be heroes

We're nothing, and nothing will help us
Maybe we're lying, then you better not stay
But we could be safer, just for one day
Oh-oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh-oh, just for one day


“Heroes” was released in 1977 as a single, it only reached number 24 in the UK and didn’t even chart in the US. However, it gained more attention when David performed it at the Live Aid charity concert in 1985.

The song became an instant classic when David performed it live on the Potsdamer Platz, which is directly across from the Hansa Studio in Berlin where the song was created. It’s amazing how a song can go from being overlooked to becoming a timeless masterpiece!

“I’ll never forget that,” he recalled. “It was one of the most emotional performances I’ve ever done. I was in tears. They’d backed up the stage to the Wall itself so that it was acting as our backdrop. We kind of heard that a few of the East Berliners might actually get the chance to hear the thing, but we didn’t realise in what numbers they would. (From Classic Rock Magazine)

For me, “Heroes” became an anthem of love and perseverance that has resonated with people around the world for decades. It reminds me that even in the face of fear and oppression, there is always the possibility of hope and freedom.

In a dreamlike state, music fans were taken aback by the unexpected return of “Heroes” on streaming platforms after David’s untimely departure. As if in a trance, they found themselves streaming the song once again, causing it to skyrocket up the charts in numerous countries.

In honor of his legacy, FR!DAY ! AM !N ROCK has crafted this homage to the one and only David Bowie.

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