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Bowie Reborn: How was Heroes, the second album of his famous Berlin trilogy, conceived?

“Heroes” was released on October 14, 1977 and became the second album of the so-called “Berlin trilogy” | Font: Facebook David Bowie

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Is it possible to be at the peak of success and at the same time plunge into personal hell? Perhaps the history of many artists will tell us that this is so; but few managed to get out of this deadly dissonance alive. One of them was David Bowie.

In January 1976, their tenth album was released. “Station to Station”hit the top five on the UK and US charts despite controversy caused by “Thin White Duke”his new alter ego, who was accused of pro-fascist positions, and the lyrics of the album, with references to creativity Friedrich Nietzsche and occultist Aleister Crowley.

However, the physical and mental state Bowie was on the verge of collapse. His extreme thinness was the result of a lethal diet of “milk and cocaine” and his comments in interviews at the time indicated that his mental clarity was failing.

With this scenario Bowie He made the decision that saved his life: to go to West Berlin, get clean from drugs and give his career a new direction. In early 1977, accompanied by Iggy Pop, he arrived on German soil and began one of the most transcendent phases of his career.

Bowie and Iggy Pop arrived in Berlin to detoxify and re-energize their careers.
Bowie and Iggy Pop arrive in Berlin to detoxify and re-energize their careers | Font: Facebook David Bowie

the sound of the future

The choice of Berlin as a destination is not accidental. The social climate of the city, divided between the capitalist and socialist axis, had the necessary tension to allow creativity to flow; but, in addition, the emerging sound of the so-called kraut-rock with bands such as Dog, tangerine dream, Noah! D kraftwerkhinted at the future of music. And an avant-garde artist like Bowie could read these signs.

“For many years, Berlin It seemed like a kind of sanctuary. It was one of the few cities where I could move almost anonymously. I’m broke; living was cheap. For some reason, the Berliners did not care. Well, in any case, it was not an English rock singer, ”the musician recalled in an interview years later.

Bowie came to Berlin to study the kraut rock sound of bands like Kraftwerk.
Bowie came to Berlin to study the kraut rock sound of bands like Kraftwerk | Font: Getty Images

To give direction to his new worries, he met with Brian Eno, a former Roxy Music who also experimented with sound and invited him to take part in the recording of his new material. That’s how he was born in January 1977″Short”, an album more focused on electronics and sound environment building.

Despite expectations Bowiewho preferred to tour as a backing musician for Iggy Pop instead of promoting your album, “Shortwas a success. It peaked at No. 2 on the UK Albums Chart and No. 11 on the US Chart. Confident of being accepted, in July of that year he began work on his next work.

“We Can Be Heroes”

The recording of “Heroes” took place between July and August 1977 at Hansa Studios, which was housed in an old concert hall used by the Gestapo during World War II. Production led Tony Visconti and the same BowieIn addition to contributions from Brian Eno and guest musician, the legendary Robert Fripp King Crimson band.

The production, unlike Lowe, was entirely made in Berlin and was able to masterfully convey the spirit that the city was experiencing at the time, marked by the tension of the wall that separated its inhabitants, who, despite this, refused to stop dreaming of the best. And one more thing: the Hansa workshops were located near the Berlin Wall.

Curiously, this wall was the inspiration for the most representative song on the album and one of the most famous of the band’s career. Bowie: “Heroes”.

Robert Fripp, David Bowie and Brian Eno work at Hansa Studios while filming
Robert Fripp, David Bowie and Brian Eno at work at Hansa Studios during the filming of Heroes | Font: Getty Images

The song in question was conceived as an instrumental track. However, one of the cold Berlin evenings, when Bowie writing texts in the studio, he looked out the window and saw Tony Visconti, his producer, is hanging out with a local singer. At some point, they stopped and kissed next to the Berlin Wall.

“Tony was married at the time and I could never tell who he was (…) It was very touching because I could see that Tony was very fond of this girl and it was this relationship that motivated the song. he said. Bowie several times later on this episode.

With this idea in mind, Bowie he wrote one of the most dramatic and hopeful lyrics in his catalogue: “I’ll be king / and you’ll be queen / nothing can stop us / we can beat them, just for one day.”

The song begins with masterful guitar playing Robert Frippwho also played on other tracks on the album, and synthesizers Brian Enoin front of Bowie’s broken voice.

Upon release on October 14, 1977Heroeswas very well received by critics and the public. It reached number 3 in the UK charts and spent 26 weeks among the best sellers. However, the title track, which became the first single released in September of that year, was not a big success and only reached number 24 in the UK charts.

Over the years, however, the theme has become an anthem. Just look at the crowd first living aid sing it in unison or listen to dozens of inversions that artists of different generations have made of the song to see for yourself.

In addition, the album as a whole was a key influence on the emerging post-punk at that time and the whole world. new-romantic which came soon after. An avant-garde work that reminds us of that genius Bowie reinvent yourself and add influence to your sound.

“There’s the old wave, there’s the new wave… and there’s David Bowie.” was the slogan under which the album was promoted at the time of its release. Forty-five years later, its sound continues to confirm the eternity of the genius of its author.

Source: RPP

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