33 and ⅓ is a monthly music column by Ryan Lynch, exploring the records that keep him inspired in a cynical world.
Something in the night
Something in the day
Nothing is wrong but darling, something’s in the way
There’s slaughter in the air
Protest on the wind
Someone else inside me
Someone could get skinned, how?
(My, my) someone fetch a priest
You can’t say no to the beauty and the beast
I’m back and so is Bowie! Last week, I covered his 1977 masterpiece, Low. And don’t worry! Next week I’ll be talking about the final piece of the trilogy, Lodger.
But today is all about “Heroes.”
If Low was about facing your demons and recognizing where you went wrong, “Heroes” is all about what comes after that realization. From the opening track, “Beauty And The Beast,” I could feel Bowie’s desire to grow. But not by forgetting the past or ignoring your mistakes. Our flaws and origin stories are a part of us, whether or not we let them define us; ignoring them only makes it harder to prevent slipping back into those old habits.
I wanted to believe me
I wanted to be good
I wanted no distractions
Like every good boy should
Nothing will corrupt us
Nothing will compete
Thank god heaven left us
Standing on our feet
Beauty and the beast
Facing my struggles head on really is the only way I’ve found that helps me get over them. Pretending that you’re perfect just creates a cycle of constant avoidance and Bowie lays that out on this record. Like in “Joe The Lion,” a song that, to me, pretty clearly makes a case against the strong face we put all of our energy into maintaining instead of just letting everything in. It creates a cycle of “always on guard, always defensive” that isn’t good for anybody.
You get up and sleep
Joe the lion
Made of iron
I’ve always had trouble with letting little things go. I always hold grudges and because of that, the slightest things set me off. This has been a pretty constant theme of my arguments with those I care about, as I’m so often saying “No, it has barely anything to do with this thing, it’s a larger issue.” If I could just address the issues as they happened, instead of staying silent at the time, these things wouldn’t build up so badly and I wouldn’t put all of my stresses onto one innocuous event. Moments that seem trivial to others often become these huge turning points, character defining moments, or silent breakdowns for me.
Sons of the silent age
Listen to tracks by Sam Therapy and King Dice
Sons of the silent age
Pick up in bars and cry only once
Sons of the silent age
Make love only once but dream and dream
Don’t walk, they just glide in and out of life
They never die, they just go to sleep one day
Like Low, “Heroes” ends with several instrumental tracks that are just as beautifully constructed by Bowie and Eno as the ones from the last record. “Sense Of Doubt” is a terrifying and deep bass-heavy piece, but with swells of treble optimism. “Moss Garden” is an exploration of calm tranquility. “Neukoln” feels like a tense, dissonant sci-fi soundtrack that draws from both of the previous pieces. Just sit in a room and spend a few minutes with headphones on. I think this block is even more immersive and well-constructed than the ones on Low and are worth really diving into. They close the record with questions on where to go, like Low, but this time, I felt like some of the answers were hidden in there. Just waiting to be revisited and re-contextualized when I was ready for them.
Now, of course, I can’t leave without talking about the title track. But I’m going to break chronology again and talk about another song first, “Blackout.” It pairs well with my main takeaway from “Heroes,” that the only way to really accept and move on from your flaws is to take them one day at a time. One of the major beliefs I hold is that love is the most empowering force in the world. Sure, I’ve had plenty of times in my life where I projected way too much of my happiness and self-worth on a relationship, but that unhealthy dynamic too often overshadows the inspiration and strength that we can pull from love. “Blackout” sets up the co-dependence trap that so many of us have fallen into. We’re all waiting to be saved, waiting for a dramatic kiss in the rain that fills all the emptiness, but if you wait for someone else to do all the work, you’ll never get there.
If you don’t stay tonight
I will take that plane tonight
I’ve nothing to lose, nothing to gain
I’ll kiss you in the rain
Get me to the doctor
Get me off the streets
(Get some protection)
Get me on my feet
(Get some direction)
Hot air gets me into a blackout
Oh, get me off the streets
Get some protection
Oh, get me on my feet
That brings us to the title track, ““Heroes.”” This song means the world to me. What does it mean to be a hero? Is it always being perfect? Is it always being the strong one saving everyone? No. A hero is someone who loves. A hero is someone who lets themselves be loved. They draw on the strength from those that they love and that love them back. They lift each other up and work together. Everyday we fight the villainy of our own inner demons. We don’t always win, but together, we can learn how to not lose, just one day at a time. All it takes to be a hero is to do what you can, even if it’s just for one day.
I will be King and you will be Queen
Though nothing will drive them away
We can beat them, just for one day
It’s not about erasing or hiding your weaknesses. It’s about embracing them. Maybe as a cautionary tale. Maybe to see those same weaknesses in people we can help. Maybe just to remind yourself how far you’ve come and how strong you truly are.
And you can be mean and I’ll drink all the time
Cause we’re lovers and that is a fact
Yes, we’re lovers, and that is that
Though nothing will keep us together
We could steal time, just for one day
Even if we aren’t strong enough today; maybe today we just can’t fight. So? There’s no harm in trying. And that’s all a hero is. Someone who tries, no matter what. No one’s a hero until they try to be one.
I can remember standing by the wall
And the guns shot above our heads
And we kissed, as though nothing could fall
And the shame was on the other side
We can beat them, for ever and ever
We’re nothing, and nothing will help us
Maybe we’re lying, then you better not stay
But we could be safe, just for one day
So who can be a hero?
We can be Heroes – Just for one day – What d’you say?