David Bowie’s “heroes”: a track-by-track guide
In some ways David Bowie embraced continuity for his 12th album, 1977’s “Hero.”
Coming as the second installment of what has become his Berlin trilogy, “Hero” used the talents of Brian Eno and Tony Visconti, just like on the first LP, Moo. With guitarist Carlos Alomar, bassist George Murray and drummer Dennis Davis, Bowie maintained a similar sequencing structure: the more traditional songs on side one with mostly instrumental tracks on side two.
But Bowie wasn’t the type to repeat himself. “Hero” featuring a new guest: King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp. “I got a phone call when I was living in New York in July 1977”, Fripp recalled in 2014. âIt was Brian Eno. He said he and David were recording in Berlin and passed me. David said, âWould you be interested in playing hairy rock ‘n’ roll guitar? I said, ‘Well, I haven’t really played in three years, but if you’re willing to take a risk, I will too.’ Shortly afterwards, a first class ticket on Lufthansa arrived. “
“Hero” was also the only LP in the trilogy to be recorded exclusively in the city of Berlin, just a few hundred yards from where the wall that separated East and West Germany stood.
“Every afternoon I would sit at [a] office and see three Russian Red Guards looking at us through binoculars “, Visconti later remembered, “with their STEN rifles on their shoulders, and barbed wire, and I knew there were mines buried in that wall, and this atmosphere was so provocative and so uplifting and so scary that the band was playing with so much energy. . “
Most fans know “Hero”‘title track, but the entire album offers a full glimpse into Bowie’s creative consciousness, as you’ll see in the track-by-track guide below.
1. “Beauty and the Beast”
Fripp barely had time to pack his bags after arriving in Germany before starting to work in the studio. âEno said, ‘Why don’t you hook up? “”, Recalled the guitarist in the book of 2017 David Bowie: One Life. âSo I plugged in Eno’s magic suitcase, his VCS3 synthesizer. They hit the roll, play, then bar three, and Skysaw guitars and that right into Beauty and the Beast. that you hear on the disc, the first track of “Hero,” is the first note I played on the session. “
2. “Joe the Lion”
There are few tangible references to real life in “Hero,” but a notable exception occurs on the second track of the LP. “Joe the Lion” alludes to American performance artist Chris Burden, whose work centered on personal danger and self-inflicted injury. His best-known work, 1971’s To pull, implied that Burden was shot in the arm by his assistant at close range. In the song, Bowie refers to another track, the one from 1973 Trans-fixed, in which Burden was crucified on the hood of a Volkswagen Beetle. “Hang me on my car, and I’ll tell you who you are“Bowie sings.
The title song at “Hero” started humbly. âI didn’t have a melody, so I only sang the lines I had written for four or five bars at a time,â he said. The observer in 1977. “After singing a line, I would breathe and do the same again, and so on until the end. I never knew the full melody until I had finished the song and played it back. ” Inspiration for lovers of the song “by the wall” came from within: Bowie had seen Visconti, who was married at the time, kiss singer Antonia Maass as he gazed out the studio window towards the Berlin Wall. Bowie kept his friend a secret and painted a lyrical image of two unrequited lovers who over time became one of rock’s most beloved hymns of hope.
4. “Son of the silent age”
“Sons of the Silent Age” stands out from the rest of the album: it is the only song written before the start of the recording sessions. Bowie saw the album as a conglomerate of everything he and his collaborators had spontaneously come up with. “There was no reason for the album to be called “Hero,”” he said NME. “It could have been called The sons of the silent ages. It was just a collection of stuff that I, Eno, and Fripp put together. “
By his own admission, Bowie chose to work exclusively in Berlin, in part in an attempt to get on the road to recovery from his drug addiction. But he ended up trading one addiction for another, then battling alcohol abuse. With its references to “rotten wine,” “Blackout” may have been partially inspired by this personal issue, but according to Bowie, it was also in response to a major blackout that occurred in New York City in. July 1977. “This is indeed the case. talk about power cuts”, he said. noted later admitting that his memory of the period was unreliable. “I can’t honestly say it was New York, although it’s quite likely that image got locked in my head.”
6. “V-2 Schneider”
This is where things get weird. Like on Moo, Bowie switched to predominantly instrumental tracks for the second side of “Hero.” The surprisingly accessible saxophone riff that leads Side Two, however, came about just as spontaneously as the lyrics Bowie recorded on Side One. “It was more an idea of ââa sequence,” he said. Recount Melody maker in 1978. âExcept we reversed the riff at the start, purely by accident. I started playing the saxophone riff on the offbeat instead of the offbeat. But we kept going. So now you get this awesome intro where everything is upside down – beautiful! Can’t write that – so I stuck with that and built it out of that sense. “
7. “Sense of doubt”
“Sense of Doubt” used one of Eno’s productivity solutions: Oblique Strategies Cards, a game developed by Eno and artist Peter Schmidt designed to induce creativity using prompts and phrases like that “Ask your body”, “Try to pretend!” and “What would your closest friend do?” The sparsely arranged “Sense of Doubt” features only Bowie and Eno, who took turns drawing cards and building the song around a basic four-note descending riff. âIt was like a game,â Eno said in the 2008 book. On a Distant Beach: The Life and Times of Brian Eno. âWe took turns working on it; he was doing an overdub, and I was doing the next one. The idea was that everyone should observe their oblique strategy as closely as they could. And, in the end, they were completely opposed to each other. Sure enough, mine said, âTry to make everything as similar as possibleââ¦ and his said, âEmphasize the differences. “”
8. “Moss garden”
âMoss Gardenâ is also the result of the chance interaction of Bowie and Eno. Bowie had told Eno about a Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan known for its lush moss gardens, and the couple got to work. âI was just playing with this chord sequence on the Yamaha synthesizer,â Eno said. NME in 1977. “And I said,” Let us know when you think it’s long enough, “you know, and I kind of went on. And then David looked at the clock and said: “Yeah, that’ll probably be fine,” and we stopped. And, on the record, that’s exactly where the play ends. I find that very, very curious. It’s so random in a way. “
Bowie became acutely aware of the complexity of Berlin while living in the city: she was flourishing in art and youth in a certain sense, but she was still recovering from WWII and facing deep-rooted issues. immigration and poverty – all with a crumbling wall. the center of it. “[Berlin] is a city of bars where sad and disillusioned people can get drunk, âBowie said. Melody maker in 1977. “You never know how long it’s going to stay there. You imagine it will go very quickly. That’s one of the reasons, of course, why I was drawn to the city., ‘and it is the district of Berlin where the Turks are chained in bad conditions. [Bowie misspelled the neighborhood’s name with one “L” instead of two.] It is truly an isolated community. It’s very sad. Very very sad. And that kind of reality obviously contributed to the mood of the two Moo and “Hero.”
10. “The Secret Life of Arabia”
âThe Secret Life of Arabia,â which features co-writing credit for guitarist Carlos Alomar, was another act of improvisation on the album. “It’s hard to believe that ‘Beauty and the Beast’ in ‘The Secret Life of Arabia’ were just backing tracks arranged on location without any knowledge of the titles, vocal melodies or lyrics,” he said. stated Visconti in the box notes of the 2017 set A new career in a new city (1977-1982). “Somehow it was mutually felt where the vocals would and wouldn’t be. Emotional musical textures, not songs, were being recorded.”
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