Saturday, 9 March 2013

Cassette experiment day 24 - David Bowie "Heroes"

1977 was a strange old year. I was an awkward 13 year old (is there any other kind?), all adidas T-shirts and Dr Martens and only just starting to develop my own musical tastes.
At the time I was probably only aware of two songs by David Bowie, ‘The Laughing Gnome’ (frequently played by Ed ‘Stewpot’ Stewart) and ‘The Jean Genie’ from my Hot Hits album (volume 16 I think) bought from the Value Stores Supermarket in Chester Road. For the uninitiated the 1970s Hot Hits (and better known Top of the Pops) LPs featured poor cover versions of current chart hits with what was known in the Benny Hill 70s as a ‘scantily clad’ young lady on the front cover. I remember one (perhaps a little too well) that featured one of these aforementioned ‘ladies’ slowly pulling down the zip on her wetsuit – very classy.
As a consequence I only discovered most of the great albums from this era non-contemporaneously. This meant that while I discovered and listened to all of the albums by, say, Depeche Mode, in chronological order from ‘Speak and Spell’ and could appreciate their development musically, their high points and their lows, I just didn’t have this luxury with artists like David Bowie or Roxy Music (or even The Beatles). My first David Bowie album then was ‘Lodger’ (perhaps not the most advisable place to start) and my first Roxy Music album was ‘Flesh and Blood’. I subsequently discovered both of these artist’s finest as and when I came across them in second hand stalls and record stores across the North East.
Until yesterday I’d always considered “Heroes” (which I only have on tape) to be a good, but not great, David Bowie album. Yesterday, however, I changed my mind and the reason for doing so was the rather grand concept of realising for the first time its historical musical context.
I realised for the first time while listening to the ‘Sense of doubt/Moss Garden/Neuk├Âln’ section on side 2 that no other popular artists of the time were either willing or able to take such a radical sidestep as David did on “Heroes” and ‘Low’ (both released in the same year can you believe!).
It’s been rumoured that David’s new album (to be released in the next couple of days and with a cover that references the cover of “Heroes”) has much in common with his ‘Berlin trilogy’. Let’s hope so – my fingers are firmly crossed.
Label – RCA
Year - 1977