Tuesday, December 9, 2008

"Heroes" David Bowie & Brian Eno

While it failed to chart in the US and only reached 24 in the UK, David Bowie's and Brian Eno's collaborative single "Heroes" has become one of Bowie's most enduringly popular songs, widely regarded as one of the top 100 pop songs of all time. The track features inspirational lyrics and innovative recording methods, and this as well as its conception in Berlin in 1977 as a love song for a couple separated by The Wall has secured it a place in the cultural history of the Twentieth Century.

Originally conceived as an instrumental track, "Heroes" was the intended title for the peice even before Bowie composed the lyrics. The guitars, percusion, synthesizers and intentional feedback and reverb (see Wikipedia) give the song a Phil Spector-like "Wall of Sound" effect. Bowie, not the most dynamic of singers, begins the song merely speaking the lyrics. He is recorded with one microphone for the introduction. As the power of his voice grows, another microphone was opened up at twenty feet, and as he belts out the climax a third mic is recording him at a fifty foot distance. Although Bowie goes from talking to yelling without passing through what could truly be called song, this lends his performance an everyman atmosphere which only heightens the epic effect.

The song has been recorded in English and German as well as several other languages and the conservative American magazine National Review has listed it as 21st in its list of all time conservative rock songs. It has continued to be adapted for use in commercials and as a theme for popular TV shows until today. When it was released, even though its creators realized its epic romantic and triumphant nature, they did suffer from this moral cowardice; they added scare quotes to lend the title an ironic air. Given their achievement, I vote we forgive them. Given the end of the Cold War, the fall of The Wall, and the triumph of freedom, I suggest we imagine the quote marks as pairs of fingers raised in a double sign of victory.

Here is the original video with the English lyric studio-version release:

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