David Bowie : Heroes
On September 23, 1977 David Bowie released the greatest single of the year, "Heroes" b/w "V-2 Schneider". Though it's often thought of as an ass kicking song about two lovers taking on the world, upon closer inspection it's a sad tune about lovers hanging in there "just for one day".
The backing track Bowie sang on MARC sounded nothing like the final version.
Though not a big hit upon its release, "Heroes" is the high point of Bowie's Berlin trilogy. The song may have even got its name from the Neu song "Hero". You can hear the Velvet Underground influence as well. Songwriting credit goes to Bowie and Brian Eno. Producer Tony Visconti played a big role and even sings backing vocals. Carlos Alomar plays guitar. George Murray is on bass and Dennis Davis is on drums. But the most famous contribution is from Robert Fripp who layed down three guitar solos the first three times he heard the song. In the clip below Visconti says the solos were pretty but meaningless until he layered all three of them together. These master class stories always fascinate me.
All that was missing were the lyrics. Bowie asked Visconti and others to leave him alone so he could come up with something. Among the inspirations Bowie quoted is the Otto Mueller painting Lovers Between Garden Walls.
Another bit of inspiration came by accident when Bowie looked out the window and caught the married Visconti in an embrace with backing vocalist Antonia Maas. She would later help Bowie translate Heroes into "Helden", the German version.
Upon its release "Heroes" was not met with widespread praise. The NME's Charlie Gillett famously stated
"Well he had a pretty good run for our money, for a guy who was no singer. But I think his time has been and gone, and this just sounds weary. Then again, maybe the ponderous heavy riff will be absorbed on the radio, and the monotonous feel may just be hypnotic enough to drag people into buying it. I hope not".