The Original vs. The Cover – “Heroes”

Welcome back to The Original vs. The Cover. We are now going to look at the classic David Bowie song “Heroes” that was recorded by Bowie back in 1977 during his Berlin era. The cover song we are battling against is The Wallflowers’ version they recorded for the movie “Godzilla” back in 1998. Two powerhouse performances going up against each other and which one will win? We will see.

The song was written by David Bowie and Brian Eno and was inspired by Bowie’s producer, Tony Visconti as he embraced his lover as they were standing next to the Berlin Wall. The song is about two lovers coming together when one was from the East side of the Wall and the other from the West. They will let nothing stop them from being together, not even the Berlin Wall. It is a beautiful sentiment. Now the song was released in 1977 and the song did fairly well going to #12 in the UK and was platinum status in the UK as well. It didn’t really do much in the States, but I still remember hearing the song. It has made many lists as one of the greatest songs of all time (which doesn’t bode well for The Wallflowers, but we will see.

DAVID BOWIE

David’s version was inspired musically by The Velvet Underground’s song “I’m Waiting for the Man” as the tempo and rhythm of the song plod along in the same fashion. The song and a lot of David’s music from the Berlin Era is very experimental. The drums, the keyboards and the guitars are arranged to be a little noisy in an anthemic sense to give it a rich, full texture, but the coolest part of the song is how they recorded the vocals.

The vocals are done in what is known as gating. Three microphones were placed at different intervals from David. The first at 9 inches from David, the second at 20 feet and the third at 50 feet. As David sang each verse, a different microphone would be used and as each verse came, the first microphone would be shut off and the second opened. As he sang each verse he had to sing louder and with more energy giving the song the effect it as if each verse was more important and sung more powerful as the song builds and builds. It makes David’s vocal so effective in their delivery in bringing emotion and power to the song. I have to say it is quite brilliant.

THE WALLFLOWERS

David’s song is one of his most covered songs, but I think the most famous is probably done by The Wallflowers. The band kept that same plodding pace, but the sound of the instruments is brought to the 90’s and modernized with a fuller band sound and a I think the drums and guitar are even more robust sounding then the original. They seem more alive and gives the song a more rock sound.

On the vocals, Jakob Dylan doesn’t use the same technique as David, but he is able to project his voice with each verse driving the song to be more powerful and emotional as it went on. Jakob and the band didn’t really change much on the song as they understood the importance and gravity of the song and were able to capture that feeling and yet I felt they made the song their own and make it sound like a Wallflowers’ song.

THE VERDICT

I have to admit they are both fantastic versions of the songs. As much as I love the musical stylings of The Wallflowers and Jakob Dylan’s vocals, there is no denying David Bowie’s legendary vocals. David Bowie is my choice of the winner for the best version of this song. I mean, it is David Bowie no less. He is a legend for a reason. Plus the pain staking efforts they went through to get the sound they wanted alone makes this song the best version. David Bowie, Brian Eno and Tony Visconti brought us one of the greatest songs of all time so naturally it is my pick. Now, if you like The Wallflowers version, I can see why you’d pick it as it is great in its own right.

I am really interested in hearing what everyone else thinks of these two songs.  Let me know which version you like the best and why.  Feel free to leave a comment and talk about the song and tell me how right or wrong I am on this one.  Thanks for stopping by and have a great day.

LYRICS:

“”Heroes””

I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing will drive them away
We can beat them, just for one day
We can be Heroes, just for one day

And you, you can be mean
And I, 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
We can be Heroes, for ever and ever
What d’you say?

I, I wish you could swim
Like the dolphins, like dolphins can swim
Though nothing, nothing will keep us together
We can beat them, for ever and ever
Oh we can be Heroes, just for one day

I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing will drive them away
We can be Heroes, just for one day
We can be us, just for one day

I, I can remember (I remember)
Standing by the wall (by the wall)
And the guns shot above our heads (over our heads)
And we kissed, as though nothing could fall (nothing could fall)
And the shame was on the other side
Oh we can beat them, for ever and ever
Then we could be Heroes, just for one day

We can be Heroes
We can be Heroes
We can be Heroes
Just for one day
We can be Heroes

We’re nothing, and nothing will help us
Maybe we’re lying, then you better not stay
But we could be safer, just for one day

Oh-oh-oh-ohh, oh-oh-oh-ohh
Just for one day

Written by David Bowie and Brian Eno

40 thoughts on “The Original vs. The Cover – “Heroes”

  1. Three microphones at different spots to create a certain vocal sound? I did not know that! Thanks for the info John! I’ve always wondered though why Bowie posed in that position for album cover. Seems like a weird position for his hands and the eyes are freaking me out too!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. “‘Heroes'” reached only number 24 in the UK charts, and failed to make the US Billboard Hot 100 when it came out.

    It wasn’t until the 90s that the song started to get some traction around the world.

    So my vote goes to The Wallflowers. They brought that song massively back into the public conversation.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Sarah HATES the Wallflowers version. I remember how upset she was when it came out because most thought it was a Wallflowers song. Every time the Bowie version comes on I comment on how he is covering the Wallflowers, lol.

    Personally, I think it is a good cover but not as good as Bowie’s original. It’s his song and the Wallflowers don’t really do much to make it their own.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Bowie all day long, but I don’t mind the Wallflowers version… I may be forgiving of it because I like the band in general otherwise! There’s also a cool Bowie version of it on the Bridge School Concerts CD.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I liked the version Queen did with Bowie and Mick Ronson at the Mercury tribute concert. But of these I’ll take the original. I think the Wallflowers could have been on our one hit wonders show!

    Liked by 2 people

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