The release was moderately successful, peaking at number eight in Ireland and nine in the Netherlands, and making the top 20 in Austria, Australia, Belgium, Germany, and the UK, where it reached number 24.
In the US the single was a commercial failure, going no further than number 126 on the Record World singles chart.
Undeterred, Bowie undertook one of his biggest promotional campaigns since the heights of glam rock, submitting himself for a spate of television, radio, and press interviews and photo shoots. On 20 October he explained to the Melody Maker’s Allan Jones why he was now so keen to promote his music, in contrast to the muted fanfare for Low.
The only reason I’ve decided to do these interviews is to prove my belief in the album. Both Low and “Heroes” have been met with confused reactions. That was to be expected, of course. But I didn’t promote Low at all, and some people thought my heart wasn’t in it.
This time I wanted to put everything into pushing my new album. I believe in the last two albums, you see, more than anything I have done before. I mean I look back on a lot of my earlier work, and although there’s much that I appreciate about it, there is not a great deal that I actually like. I don’t think they are very likeable albums at all.
There is a lot more heart and emotion in Low, and especially the new album. And, if I can convince people of that, I’m prepared to be stuck in this room on the end of a conveyor belt of questions that I’ll do my best to answer.
Melody Maker, 29 October 1977
The “Heroes” album was released on 14 October 1977. It fared somewhat better than the single, peaking at number three in the UK and the Netherlands, reaching number six in Australia, and going top twenty in Austria, France, New Zealand, and Sweden. In the US it was less successful, going no further than number 35.
It was backed by a strong promotional campaign from RCA, which used the slogan “There’s New Wave, there’s Old Wave, and there’s David Bowie.” The statement cleverly positioned Bowie as in a class of his own, creating timeless music untouched by prevailing fashions.
In January 1978 RCA also issued the US promo album Bowie Now, which collated eleven songs from Low and “Heroes”. The album was reissued on white vinyl on 21 April 2018 for the annual Record Store Day event.
Both Eno and Bowie were actually shrewd about not being governed by the rules of the marketplace. Professionals would take close care of what was possible in the marketplace and act accordingly. The other approach, the approach of the artist not the professional, is to produce the work and then see what you have to do to deliver it, knowing that the world will act against you.
David Bowie: A Life, Dylan Jones
A follow-up single, ‘Beauty And The Beast’, with the b-side ‘Sense Of Doubt’, was released on 6 January 1978 in the UK, US, Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands. It was not a success, reaching only number 39 in the UK.
A five-minute edit known as ‘Disco Version’, which repeated a portion of the song to extend the running time, was released as a 12″ single in the US and Spain with ‘Fame’ on the b-side.
Reissues, remixes, remasters
“Heroes” was first released on compact disc by RCA in 1984. It was reissued on CD, cassette and vinyl in 1991 by Rykodisc/EMI with two bonus tracks: the newly-titled instrumental ‘Abdulmajid’, and a remix of ‘Joe The Lion’ by David Richards.
Another reissue by EMI/Virgin came out in 1999, with no bonus material. This was part of the David Bowie Series, which featured 24-bit digitally remastered audio.
“Heroes” was included in the 2017 box set A New Career In A New Town (1977–1982), on vinyl, CD and digital download, and as a standalone the following year.
A mastering error causing a volume shift on the title track drew ire from customers, but which Parlophone blamed on damaged original master tapes. The label eventually agreed to issue replacement discs for a limited time.
A New Career In A New Town (1977–1982) also contained a four-song EP containing the German and French album and single versions of the song “Heroes”.