Written by: David Bowie, Brian Eno
Recorded: July-August 1977
Producers: David Bowie, Tony Visconti
Released: 23 September 1977
Live In Berlin (1978)
Welcome To The Blackout (Live London ’78)
Serious Moonlight (Live ’83)
Glass Spider (Live Montreal ’87)
BBC Radio Theatre, London June 2000
A Reality Tour
Nothing Has Changed
David Bowie: vocals, piano, ARP Solina String Ensemble, Chamberlin, tambourine, tape reel
Robert Fripp: lead guitar
Carlos Alomar: rhythm guitar
George Murray: bass guitar
Dennis Davis: drums
Brian Eno: EMS VCS 3 synthesizer, guitar treatments
Tony Visconti: vocals, tambourine, tape reel
Peter Burgon: vocals
A tale of two lovers meeting under the Berlin Wall, “Heroes” was recorded in the German city in the summer of 1977, and became one of David Bowie’s best-loved songs.
They use “Heroes” for every heroic event, although it’s a song about alcoholics. We did it on twenty-four tracks in Hansa Studios in Berlin. With all of the backing vocals and instruments on it, we only had one track left for the vocal. So Bowie would do a take and listen to it and he’d say: ‘I think I’ve got one better.’ And I’d say, ‘Well, you know we can’t keep that take.’ This was before digital recording. So he’d pull his socks up, take a deep breath, and go and do a better take than the one he did before. And that was it, it was gone, the previous vocal was gone. We kept doing that. Having experience in the studio, you have to know when to say, ‘I think we’ve got the take.’ There’s no way of going back to take five or take two; they were gone, evaporated. I did a lot of records that way. That’s when you work as a team, as a producer, coach, singer, artist. Everybody’s on the same page and everyone is just hyped up with adrenaline.
David Bowie: A Life, Dylan Jones
The music was co-credited to Bowie and Brian Eno, with lyrics by Bowie alone.
“Heroes” was an instrumental during Eno’s time working on the album, with Bowie only writing and recording the vocals once most of the musicians had departed.
I was only involved in “Heroes” to do the backing track. He wrote the lyrics and the melody after I’d left – as he did for all the other tracks. And when I left, I already had a feeling about that track – it sounded grand and heroic. In fact, I had that very word in mind. And then David brought the finished album round to my place and that track came up and it said, ‘We can be heroes’ and I was absolutely … it was such a strange feeling, you know. I just shivered. When you shiver, it’s a fear reaction, isn’t it?
David Bowie: A Life, Dylan Jones
Although it was only a minor hit upon its release, “Heroes” garnered greater significance in later years.
Recording something in a studio, and then putting it to a live audience, it becomes a different animal. And it certainly did, that one particularly; I hadn’t anticipated the way it would become that kind of anthemic thing. Now, of course, to play the thing is going to be rather odd because it’s setting up a series of associations which are no more. And to play it in Berlin, which I will be doing, will be particularly odd. I’m not quite sure what that song means any more, which is kind of exciting… I can’t contain myself about that one. I’m really looking forward to playing it in Berlin.
Q magazine, April 1990