Sunday, 8 January 2012

Me, Dave and "Heroes"

Because it's his birthday...

Widely acknowledged as Bowie's finest moment, "Heroes" makes a pretty strong case for being my favourite song of all time; romantic, modern, ironic, iconic - it's such a remarkable piece of music. But it wasn't the studio version that I first liked, it was the pretty awesome Live Aid version from 1985.

I liked Bowie when I was younger, you know, in the way that young kids "love" bands - I liked the stuff I heard on the radio but it never went any further than that. But then his Live Aid performance changed everything, no doubt helped by Thomas Dolby on keyboards trying his best to emulate Billy Currie's synth sounds. This was "charming" Dave Bowie - not the androgynous alien of the 70s - turning one of his minor hits into a stadium anthem.

So, a few months later, and unlike the rest of the world after Live Aid who seemed intent on re-buying Queen's Greatest Hits, I decided that I had to get the Bowie album that had "Heroes" on it, which was helpfully also called "Heroes". I told one of my brothers of this exciting news, but he advised me to get Ziggy Stardust instead, as that was “a classic” album. Ignoring his advice I bought "Heroes", not being quite prepared for what the album had in store for me....

Where were all the uplifting pop songs? What about the sing-a-long choruses? Most songs on side one seemed to be immersed in an atonal wall of noise, whilst side two was mostly electronic instrumentals – like a darker take on side 2 of Kraftwerk’s Autobahn...BUT, my what songs! And what a noise! I didn't have a clue what was going on, but I liked it. Twenty six years later I'm still trying to get my head round this album - each listen feels as though I'm hearing the album for the first time, with new sounds, melodies and words jumping out. It is arguably his finest and most influential achievement...well, one of them anyway.

And who was this Eno person that kept cropping up on in my record collection? First with Ultravox! Then on a couple of Talking Heads records and U2's The Unforgettable fire and now this? I really must find out more.

People often talk about "life changing" music, by which they usually mean "a record that I really really like", but then I wonder what my life would be like now if I hadn't heard this song in 1985, or what would have happened if I'd followed my brother's advice. I'd certainly have a very different record collection.