“Heroes” wasn’t one of David Bowie’s biggest chart hits, but it’s undeniably one of his best works of art.
And I will never listen to it the same way again after paying a visit to the legendary Hansa Studio in Berlin and hearing the story of how it came together.
As told by our tour guide, the Berlin Wall could be seen from the control room window of Hansa Studio and, after kicking out the band so he could spend some time working on the lyrics, Bowie spotted a couple kissing by the Wall.
It ended up being producer Tony Visconti (who was married at the time) and a German woman named Antonia Maass. Two lovers who came together in the shadow of the wall:
I, 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
Oh, we can beat them
For ever and ever
With all that’s happened in Berlin, standing in the studio where this incredible song of hope and redemption was recorded was one of the most emotional moments of my visit.
It should be noted that the recording space wasn’t a traditional studio, it’s more like an ornate ballroom. The control room wasn’t even connected to the performance space, so they used video feeds to communicate with each other.
Of Bowie’s “Berlin trilogy,” only Low, partly influenced by Dusseldorf’s Kraftwerk, and Heroes were recorded at Hansa Studio. (The third is Lodger)
So, how did Bowie end up at a Berlin studio in the first place?
After partying it up in LA during the making of Station to Station, he needed to detox. The story goes that he was also following his muse at the time, a cabaret performer, club owner and famed transexual Romy Haag.
More Hansa history:
It must be noted that Iggy Pop also recorded The Idiot and Lust for Life in this special space.
Other artists made their way there to record key albums in their catalogue; Depeche Mode’s 1983 release Construction Time (which includes “Everything Counts”) as well as Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (The Firstborn Is Dead and Your Funeral…).
The Pixies recorded Bossanova at Hansa in 1990, but it was U2 that put the studio back on the map in a major way.
They recorded Achtung Baby there, and Anton Corbin’s video for the track One features footage of the band preforming inside Hansa.
Bono wrote the lyrics, which were inspired in part by the German reunification.
Photos by Jason Bentley.