David Bowie is regarded as one of the greatest and most influential songwriters of the 20th century. His innovative work is highly acclaimed by critics, fellow musicians, and his vast audience.
Following his “Thin White Duke” era of the mid-70s, David Bowie was ready to put the drug-fueled Los Angeles lifestyle behind him. He took up sanctuary in Berlin in the latter part of 1976, where he’d end up making a trio of albums called the “Berlin Trilogy.” Even though all three albums were tied to the city where he took up residence, Heroes was the only one recorded solely in Berlin.
Berlin was a creatively charged place in the ‘70s when Bowie began living there. He quickly took an interest in the German music scene, which included bands like Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, Cluster, Harmonia, and Neu!.
Bowie met renowned musician Brian Eno in 1976, and the two began work on the first of three albums from the Berlin period. Tony Visconti handled the production, and Low was released in January 1977. The album is grounded in art rock and experimental rock, and features Bowie’s very first explorations of electronic and ambient styles, thanks to Eno’s influence.
Again sharing co-production with Visconti and songwriting with Eno, Bowie began work on Heroes (album) in the summer of 1977. This album incorporated more pop and rock elements than Low, partly due to King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp’s involvement.
“Heroes” was recorded at Berlin’s Hansa Studio 2, nicknamed “Hansa by the Wall” for its proximity to the structure that divided East and West Berlin. Hansa was a former concert hall used as a ballroom by Gestapo officers during World War II. The hall was eventually converted into a recording studio in 1974, initially regarded for its incredible acoustics, and now for a rich history of amazing albums made there.
Bowie’s vocals for the track were recorded after the session musicians had finished their parts and left Berlin. The day they overdubbed vocals, Bowie suggested to Visconti that they take an afternoon break. He hadn’t written any lyrics yet, and was feeling tense as the time to deliver drew near.
That’s when Bowie looked out the window at Hansa and saw Visconti with his lover, instantly inspiring the lyrics to the song. By the time Visconti returned, Bowie was finished and ready to record. The entire process from writing lyrics to recording final background vocals was completed in about 5 hours.
Even though the title track was initially unsuccessful as a single, “Heroes” became one of Bowie’s best-known and most acclaimed hits. It routinely makes “all-time” lists as one of the greatest pieces he ever recorded.
Surely its power and legacy is undeniable. Bowie’s performance of “Heroes” on June 6, 1987 inwas considered a catalyst to the later
Upon hisin January 2016, the German government thanked Bowie for “helping to bring down the Wall,” adding “you are now among Heroes.”
Click here to learn more about Berlin’s Hansa Studio: https://producelikeapro.com/blog/the-world-famous-hansa-studios-in-berlin-studio-tour/
Watch the video below to hear more about David Bowie’s Heroes!