October 14, 1977 – David Bowie: “Heroes” is released.



ON THIS DATE (34 YEARS AGO)
October 14, 1977 – David Bowie: “Heroes” is released.
# ALL THINGS MUSIC PLUS+ 5/5
# Allmusic 5/5 stars
# Rolling Stone (see original review below)
# Billboard (see original review below)

“Heroes” is an album by David Bowie, released on this date in 1977. The second installment of his ‘Berlin Trilogy’ with Brian Eno (the other releases being Low and Lodger) “Heroes” developed the sound of Low in a more positive direction. Of the three albums, it was the most befitting of the appellation “Berlin”, being the only one wholly recorded there. The title track remains one of Bowie’s best known, a classic story of two lovers who meet at the Berlin Wall. The album is considered one of his best by critics, notably for the contributions of guitarist Robert Fripp who flew in from the U.S. to record his parts in one day. John Lennon was quoted as saying that when making his album Double Fantasy in 1980, his ambition was to “do something as good as “Heroes”.” It was named NME Album of the Year.

Recorded at Hansa Tonstudio in what was then West Berlin, “Heroes” reflected the zeitgeist of the Cold War, symbolised by the divided city. Co-producer Tony Visconti considered it “one of my last great adventures in making albums. The studio was about 500 yards from the wall. Red Guards would look into our control-room window with powerful binoculars.” Bowie again paid tribute to his Krautrock influences: the title is a nod to the track “Hero” on the album NEU! ’75 by the German band Neu!, while “V-2 Schneider” is inspired by and named after Kraftwerk’s Florian Schneider. Earlier in 1977, Kraftwerk had name-checked Bowie on the title track of Trans-Europe Express. The cover photo was inspired by German artist Erich Heckel’s Roquairol, as was that of The Idiot, one of Bowie’s collaborations with Iggy Pop that was released the same year.

“Heroes” was marketed by RCA with the catch phrase, “There’s Old Wave. There’s New Wave. And there’s David Bowie…” It enjoyed a positive critical reception on release in late 1977, Melody Maker and NME both naming it ‘Album of the Year’. It made #3 in the UK and stayed in the charts for 26 weeks, but was less successful in the U.S. where it peaked at #35.

ORIGINAL ROLLING STONE & BILLBOARD REVIEWS
Heroes is the second album in what we can now hope will be a series of David Bowie-Brian Eno collaborations, because this album answers the question of whether Bowie can be a real collaborator. Like his work with Lou Reed, Mott the Hoople and Iggy Pop, Low, Bowie’s first album with Eno, seemed to be just another auteurist exploitation, this time of the Eno-Kraftwerk avant-garde. Heroes, though, prompts a much more enthusiastic reading of the collaboration, which here takes the form of a union of Bowie’s dramatic instincts and Eno’s unshakable sonic serenity. Even more importantly, Bowie shows himself for the first time as a willing, even anxious, student rather than a simple cribber. As rock’s Zen master, Eno is fully prepared to show him the way.

Like Low, Heroes is divided into a cyclic instrumental side and a song-set side. “V-2 Schneider” is an ingeniously robotic recasting of Booker T. and the M.G.’s — at once typical of Bowie’s obsession with pop dance music and a spectacular instance of an Eno R&B “study” (a going concern of Eno’s own records). “Sense of Doubt” lines up an ominously deep piano figure with Eno synthesizer washes, blending them into “Moss Garden,” an exquisitely static cut featuring Bowie on koto, a Japanese string instrument. Low had no such moments of easy exchange; Bowie either submitted his voice as another instrument for Eno to play the part of art-rock keyboard player.

The most spectacular moments on this record occur on the vocal side’s crazed rock & roll. Working inside the new style Bowie forged for Iggy Pop, “Beauty and the Beast” makes very weird but probable connections between the fairy tale, Iggy’s angel-beast identity and Jean Cocteau’s Surrealist Catholicism, a crucial source for Cocteau’s film of the tale.

For the finale, Heroes explodes into a trilogy of dark prophecy: “Sons of the Silent Age,” “Heroes” and “Black Out.” It’s a Diamond Dogs set that, this time, makes it into the back pages of Samuel Delaney’s post-apocalypse fiction, pushed by a brilliant cerebral nova among the players. Bowie sings in a paradoxical (or is it schizo?) style at once unhinged and wholly self-controlled. With a chill, the listener can hear clearly through Bowie’s compressed lyrics and the dense sound.

We’ll have to wait to see if Bowie has found in the austere Eno a long-term collaborator who can draw out the substantial words and music that have lurked beneath the surface of Bowie’s clever games for so long. But Eno clearly has effected a nearly miraculous change in Bowie already.
– Bart Testa, Rolling Stone, 1/12/78.

*****
Bowie’s newest is a musical excursion into a realm only Bowie himself can define. His songs are comprised of disparate images, haunting melodies and orchestrally chilling arrangements. Bowie’s lyrics are filled with dark forebodings buried in synthesizer electronics, courtesy of Brian Eno. His vocals have taken on various intonations, sounding erratic yet controlled. Side one is more restrained, despite interludes of confusion, while side two is mostly an instrumental journey comprised of synthesizer, percussion, light sax and guitar orchestrations. This represents an extension of Bowie’s cosmic rock vision and an extension of Low. Best cuts: “Heroes,” “Joe The Lion,” “Blackout.”
– Billboard, 1977.

 TRACKS:
All lyrics written by David Bowie; all music composed by David Bowie except where noted.

Side one
“Beauty and the Beast” – 3:32
“Joe the Lion” – 3:05
“Heroes” (Bowie, Brian Eno) – 6:07
“Sons of the Silent Age” – 3:15
“Blackout” – 3:50

Side two
“V-2 Schneider” – 3:10
“Sense of Doubt” – 3:57
“Moss Garden” (Bowie, Eno) – 5:03
“Neuköln” (Bowie, Eno) – 4:34
“The Secret Life of Arabia” (Bowie, Eno, Carlos Alomar) – 3:46

1991 reissue bonus tracks
“Abdulmajid” (previously unreleased track recorded 1976–79) – 3:40
“Joe the Lion” (remixed version 1991) – 3:08


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