Track Work – David Bowie – Heroes

Like the rest of the world I was gutted by the news of David Bowie this week, but I also was thrilled by the non-stop out-pouring of love and memories and personal stories I’ve seen.

This week for Track Work I chose Heroes because it’s one of my fave songs Bowie did. One of the first memories I have as a kid of something happening in the world that I was able to comprehend as a big deal was the Berlin Wall. The Wall coming down was my intro to Europe, to World War 2, to beginning to understand politics and history, to thinking about life beyond the small infrastructure I had grown up in. It had an effect on me as it had an effect on many who lived through it, and for Bowie who recorded 3 albums in Berlin, it had an enormous impact and Heroes is part of the result of that impact.

The first time I heard Heroes, I heard the unfortunate “radio single” which is a chopped up abbreviated version. The full song is incredible in the way the dynamics and instruments build up around Robert Fripp’s iconic sounding guitar. Bowie starts out singing contemplative and remorseful and at about the 3 minute mark hits the last verses an octave up with a sound in his voice that’s both filled with frustration and love. Backing vocals kick in, a tambourine emerges to further push the energy, the whole song swells up and out after the 3 minute mark and keeps growing as items are added into the mix.

I love how the song builds, I love the space all of the instruments occupy in my head.  If you’re learning to mix a song, this is a great place to start to learn about bringing in and taking things out of a mix to compliment the emotion and vibe of the song.

In the studio you have Tony Visconti, Brian Eno, Colin Thurston, and David Richards and a bunch of fabulous musicians. The album Heroes was recorded at Hansa by the Wall (Berlin), mastered by the legendary Greg Calbi (Sterling Sound prior was Record Plant) and mixed at the legendary Mountain Studios.