In my book songs don’t come more epic than this. “Heroes” (always with the deliberate affectation of quotation marks) is arguably the highpoint of Bowie’s hugely influential “Berlin period”, which spawned the Low, “Heroes” and Lodger albums. Arguably it is the highpoint of Bowie’s entire career (I, for one, would certainly argue that).
Inspired by the clandestine meeting of two lovers in the shadow of the Berlin Wall, next to the Hansa studios where the song was recorded, producer Tony Visconti has claimed to be that inspiration, viewed by Bowie in an embrace with backing vocalist Antonia Maaß (Visconti was married to Mary Hopkin – of Those Were The Days fame – at the time). A relative failure on its release (peaking at #24 in the UK singles charts, not charting at all in the US) the song has – over the years – come to be viewed (quite rightly) as a classic, a signature tune of Bowie, often cited highly in best song/single lists. And all that despite the misguided mawling it received at the hands of X-Factor in 2010 (and no, I’m *not* going to link to that!).
For me this has to be *the* Bowie performance. The huge wall of sound that wraps the song powers on and on, overlaid by what is probably the most emotive vocal performance Bowie has ever given. Gradually building and increasing in intensity throughout the song (and the 6-minute album version is the best to appreciate this) it reaches an almost painfully emotional crescendo about half-way through, and then continues to give and give. The video (see below) contrasts the huge sound of the song with a simple, effective, single-take.
So, an obvious choice for a ukulele song(!). Well, maybe not. But strip away that wall of sound, and at it’s heart there is a simple and effective song that tugs at the heart-strings, and just works. Here’s one version, but there are quite a few others out there on YouTube.
There’s two song sheets here. One for the single version (which is shorter) and one for the full length album version. Take your pick. Nothing really much to say about them, other than to highlight the possible backing vocal repeats on the “Standing by the wall” verse, and the abrupt stop on the short version (a single D chord on “day”) which I think works quite well.
[UPDATE : Listen to *my* version of “Heroes” here!]