Heroes (David Bowie album)

For other uses, see Heroes (disambiguation).

David Bowie
Released 14 October 1977
Recorded July – August 1977 at Hansa Studio by the Wall, West Berlin
Genre Art rock, experimental rock, ambient, krautrock
Length 40:36
Label RCA
Producer David Bowie, Tony Visconti
David Bowie chronology

Singles from "'Heroes'"
  1. "Heroes" b/w "V-2 Schneider"
    Released: 23 September 1977
  2. "Beauty and the Beast" b/w "Sense of Doubt"
    Released: 6 January 1978

"Heroes"[1] is the twelfth studio album by David Bowie, released in 1977. The second installment of his Berlin Trilogy with Brian Eno (the other releases being Low and Lodger) "Heroes" developed further the sound of Low.[2] 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 US to record his parts in one day.[3] It was named NME Album of the Year.

Production and style

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."[4] David 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! – whose guitarist Michael Rother had originally been approached to play on the album[5] – while "V-2 Schneider" is inspired by and named after Kraftwerk's Florian Schneider.[6] Earlier in 1977, Kraftwerk had name-checked Bowie on the title track of Trans-Europe Express. The cover photo by Masayoshi Sukita 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.[7]

Brian Eno called up Robert Fripp and invited him to play guitar on the album. Fripp, who had considered himself retired from music, said "Well, I don’t know because I haven’t played for three years, but if you’re prepared to take a risk, then so am I."[8] Upon arriving at the studio, jetlagged from his flight in, he played on the track "Beauty and the Beast" and his first take was used in the song's final mix.[8]

Though "Heroes" included a number of dark and atmospheric instrumentals such as "Sense of Doubt" and "Neuköln", it was regarded as a highly passionate and positive artistic statement,[4][6] particularly after the often melancholy Low.[9] This relative optimism was evident not only through "'Heroes'" the song but in the rocking opener "Beauty and the Beast" (released as the second single in January 1978), the raucous "Joe the Lion" and the light-hearted closer "The Secret Life of Arabia". The lyrics for "Joe the Lion", written and recorded at the microphone "in less than an hour" according to Visconti, typified the improvisational nature of the recording.[10]

Release and aftermath

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars[11]
Robert Christgau (B+)[12]
Rolling Stone (1978) (favourable)[13]
Rolling Stone (2004) 4.5/5 stars[14]
Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music 5/5 stars[14]
Martin C. Strong 9/10[14]

"Heroes" was marketed by RCA with the catchphrase, "There's Old Wave. There's New Wave. And there's David Bowie..."[6] It enjoyed a positive critical reception on release in late 1977,[3] Melody Maker and NME both naming it 'Album of the Year'.[15][16] It reached #3 in the UK and stayed in the charts for 26 weeks, but was less successful in the US where it peaked at #35. The album was released in Germany with the track "Heroes/Helden", the lyrics sung partly in German. Its influence is enduring: John Lennon said that when making his album Double Fantasy in 1980, his ambition was to "do something as good as 'Heroes'."[3][15]

A number of the album's tracks were played live at Bowie's concerts the following year, the Low and Heroes World Tour captured on record as Stage (1978). Philip Glass adapted a classical suite, "Heroes" Symphony, based on this album, a companion to his earlier Low Symphony. The title track has been covered by numerous artists, and has been frequently used as an encore by recent incarnations of King Crimson, while The Secret Life of Arabia was sung by Billy Mackenzie in 1982 on the British Electric Foundation LP Music of Quality and Distinction. Several tracks were used in the film Christiane F. Bowie performed as himself in the film.

The cover of Bowie's 2013 album, The Next Day, was an altered and obscured version of the Heroes cover.

Track listing

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

Side one

  1. "Beauty and the Beast" – 3:32
  2. "Joe the Lion" – 3:05
  3. "'Heroes'" (Bowie, Brian Eno) – 6:07
  4. "Sons of the Silent Age" – 3:15
  5. "Blackout" – 3:50

Side two

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


"Heroes" has been rereleased on CD four times to date. The first CD issue was by RCA in 1984. It was reissued in 1991 by Rykodisc (with two bonus tracks). In the late 90's, Ryko released it on a 20-bit SBM Gold numbered edition. It was released again in 1999 by EMI/Virgin (featuring 24-bit digitally remastered sound and no bonus tracks).

1991 reissue bonus tracks

  1. "Abdulmajid" (Previously unreleased track, recorded 1976–79) – 3:40
  2. "Joe the Lion" (Remixed version, 1991) – 3:08


Technical personnel



Year Chart Position
1977 UK Albums Chart 3
1977 Billboard Pop Albums 35
1977 Norway 13
1977 Austria 22
1977 Sweden 13


Year Single Chart Position
1977 "Heroes" UK Singles Chart 24
1977 "Heroes" Austria 19
1977 "Heroes" Netherlands 9
1978 Beauty and the Beast UK Singles Chart 39


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