Cover artwork

The photo shoot which yielded the “Heroes” album cover took place two months before the recording sessions commenced. David Bowie and Iggy Pop travelled to Japan in April 1977, after the end of Pop’s US tour.

Their visit to Japan was primarily a holiday, although they also undertook some promotional duties for The Idiot.

Bowie and Pop were invited to Tokyo’s Harajuku Studio by photographer Masayoshi Sukita, who had previously photographed Bowie in 1972 and 1973. Stylist Yasuko ‘Yacco’ Takahashi also assisted on the shoot.

The photos were meant to have a ‘punk’ feel. David-san had asked Yacco to get as many leather jackets as possible and instead of shooting on a straight white background, I included the door edge to break the image up and give a rougher feel. Elegantly wearing several layers of leather jackets, it reminded me of Kenneth Anger’s movie Scorpio Rising. The whole session was over in an hour. Afterwards, I selected about 20 photos to give to David-san, including the shot on the “Heroes” LP sleeve. When he contacted me to say he wanted to use it, I was delighted.
Masayoshi Sukita, 2011
Speed Of Life, Masayoshi Sukita and David Bowie

In addition to the “Heroes” images of Bowie, Sukita took a number of photographs of Iggy Pop, one of which was used on the cover of his 1981 album Party.

For some of the photographs, Bowie struck a pose inspired by Erich Heckel’s 1917 painting Roquairol. One such image was selected for the cover of “Heroes”.

Bowie and Pop knew Heckel’s artwork from visits to Berlin’s Brücke Museum, where it was displayed along other Expressionist paintings and woodcuts. Bowie had even bought the reproduction rights, intending to use the image on the cover of Pop’s The Idiot, though the decision was instead made to have photographer Andy Kent shoot Pop in a similar pose.

In 2001 Bowie confirmed that Roquairol had been the inspiration behind the “Heroes” image, along with another Heckel work, a woodcut print titled Young Man.

Bowie also clears up conflicting stories over the “Heroes” sleeve pose. Some claim it derives from a self-portrait by a Brücke Museum artist, Gramatté, while others insist it shares its inspiration with Iggy’s The Idiot cover in Erich Heckel’s portrait of a mad friend, Roquairol. “I couldn’t stand Gramatté,” he says today. “He was wishy-washy. I’ve seen the Gramatté, but no, it was Heckel. Heckel’s Roquairol, and his print from around 1910, Young Man, were a major influence on me as a painter.”
Uncut, April 2001

The cover of “Heroes” was adapted by designer Jonathan Barnbrook for Bowie’s 2013 album The Next Day.