Undeterred by the “Heroes” single’s middling chart success, David Bowie undertook one of his biggest promotional campaigns since the heights of glam rock, submitting himself to a spate of television, radio, and press interviews and photo shoots.
On 20 October 1977 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
Bowie’s first public performance of “Heroes” was on 9 September 1977, shortly before the single’s release. He played the song on the final episode of the Granada TV series Marc, hosted by his friend Marc Bolan. It was first broadcast on 28 September, following Bolan’s funeral.
The Marc performance had Bolan on lead guitar, T. Rex’s Dino Dines on keyboards, Herbie Flowers on bass guitar, and Tony Newman on drums. Flowers and Newman had previously played on the Diamond Dogs and David Live albums.
The audio of the performance was released on a 7″ picture disc single on 22 September 2017, to commemorate the song’s 40th anniversary.
Bowie also performed the song on Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas on 11 September 1977, two days after the Marc appearance. This time, Bowie sang a new vocal over the single’s backing track.
Poor old Bing copped it as well just after I’d done this with him. I was getting seriously worried about whether I should appear on TV because everyone I was going on with was kicking it the following week.
On 19 October 1977, Bowie appeared on the BBC’s Top Of The Pops for the first time since 1973. For this a brand new studio recording was created, with Ricky Gardiner on guitar, Tony Visconti on bass guitar, and Sean Mayes on keyboards.
We recorded “Heroes” for Top Of The Pops at Good Earth Studios, Tony’s studio in London. There was a full band and it was recorded minus vocals. I was asked to reproduce Robert Fripp’s line. I did not realise at the time that he had used an Ebow. I did my best using feedback alone. As we went through the song, my amplifier started dying. As the song finished, so did the amp.
After the backing track’s completion Bowie overdubbed a new vocal, to which he mimed for the Top Of The Pops appearance. None of the other musicians appeared in the clip.
Bowie also shot a promotional clip for the song. It was filmed in Paris, and directed by Nick Ferguson.
The clip was a simple mimed performance, with Bowie – wearing the same bomber jacket he wore on the cover of “Heroes” – backlit by a stark white light. It was seemingly shot on a low budget, with just two camera angles and several lipsyncing errors by Bowie.