Alyson’s Archive #5 – David Bowie, “Heroes” and Seasonal Duets

Think back forty years ago, to this week in December 1977. I’m pretty sure I would have been busy at school sitting mock exams ahead of the Christmas break (luckily we got them out of the way beforehand so had the luxury of no holiday revision). But what else would I have been doing? Oh yes, that’s right, I would have been picking up my monthly copy of Words magazine, of which a couple of issues have already been shared in this series.

On the cover was none other than Mr David Bowie, as 1977 was a pretty good year for him having released two successful albums, “Low” at the start of the year and “Heroes” right at the end. Hard to believe that he left us nearly two years ago now. I started this blog on the day we heard of his death and despite never having really been a Bowie fanatic, he has appeared on these pages many times now. He obviously infiltrated the “tracks of my years” in a stealthy fashion without me having realised, and the song Heroes from that second album is one of my all-time favourites.

Heroes by David Bowie:

I’ve visited the soundtrack to the film Moulin Rouge! twice before in this blog (here and here) but as it’s coming up to Christmas (and the sumptuous red dress and glittering lights in this clip remind me of the festive period), I can’t help but share the Heroes portion of the medley performed by the two main characters, Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman. A total of 13 songs were melded together to create a cornucopia of love-songs, but for me, Bowie’s Heroes worked the best.

But as usual I’ve become side-tracked – Getting back to the magazine, the music journalist who wrote the column on December’s “Cover Star” seemed to get it just right. To quote from the piece, “Of all our current top rock stars, David Bowie is the one most likely to remain a major musical force decades hence… .” And they continue, “Listening to this [Heroes], you realise that Bowie’s strength and durability lies in the fact he refuses to fit neatly into any specific category. He will constantly surprise even his most dedicated followers, while maintaining an unvarying high quality of performance.” As I’ve discovered from this series, we didn’t always get it right back in the day and the slightly disparaging remarks in my 1978 journal about artists who went on to great things, proves this – Sorry Squeeze! Likewise the music journalists often got it wrong themselves and many of the stories printed in these vintage mags were about people who are now residing at Her Majesty’s pleasure. Makes for a somewhat excruciating read.

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You can’t have failed to notice that Bing Crosby also appears in the picture above – As I’ve already mentioned the “C” word in this post there is no point in holding back any longer. My first festive offering for this year is therefore going to be that very unusual foray into the 1982 UK Singles Chart by David Bowie. As explained in the column above, it came about as a result of this guest appearance on Bing Crosby’s 1977 Christmas Show. Poor Bing died a month later, before it was aired on television, but if you can get past the highly scripted, faux exchange at the start, it is a remarkable piece of archive material, especially as both “boys in blue” have now passed on. It is unlikely that Bing even knew who David Bowie was before recording the show but once the Peace On Earth counterpoint was written for the duet, Bowie got on board. It was apparently available as a bootleg single for several years before the record company decided to release it as a bona fide single, complete with dialogue. Bowie was unhappy with this move however and it probably led to him leaving RCA soon after.

Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy by David Bowie and Bing Crosby:

So, “What’s It All About?” – As of this last weekend the festive madness has begun, but it seems to be impossible to opt out. I’ve also just discovered that the online retail store named after a vast South American river is almost out of everything that darling daughter requested on her Santa list (yes he still visits 22-year-olds apparently), so a trip to the shops seems to be on the cards. Looks as if Mr WIAA and I will have to be “Heroes”, just for one day.

Oh and one more thing, the reason this particular cover jumped out at me is possibly because there is currently a 10 foot tall picture of David Bowie residing at the entrance to our local shopping centre – Forty years on, and two years after his death, his images still exude “cool” which has obviously made him the perfect candidate for a certain watch-maker to use as inspiration for their latest timepiece.

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Until next time….

Heroes Lyrics
(Song by David Bowie/Brian Eno)

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, forever 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, forever 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, forever 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-oh, oh-oh-oh-oh

Postscript:

Just in case you’re curious as to what else we were listening to in December ’77 (other than David Bowie) here is a copy of the Words contents page which includes two sets of lyrics. How many of these (without Googling) would you remember?

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The Name Of The Game by Abba:

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was recorded for the film of the same name and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might finally work out the answer to his question, "What's it all about?"

18 thoughts on “Alyson’s Archive #5 – David Bowie, “Heroes” and Seasonal Duets”

  1. Just a couple of days ago, I did something that I had never done before. I told a woman (whom I had just met on the day, though I knew who she was before) that she reminded me of David Bowie. The reason were her differently coloured eyes, but it turned out that she was a Bowie fan. Actually, there is some similarity beyond the eyes as well.

    I won’t mention anything else. Maybe she’ll read this and chime in.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. David Bowie is male and you told a woman she reminded you of him – Brave man!! Then again the eye thing would have done it and DB did dress very flamboyantly in the early days in man-dresses so not too far-fetched really. My daughter used to have a boyfriend with differently coloured eyes and I was also, of course, reminded of Bowie. Doubt if she’ll ever stumble upon this place however so I think you’re safe.

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  2. I enjoyed perusing that Table of Contents, Alyson, though I can’t say that I recognized more than a handful of the songs. It doesn’t matter though because I love poring over music-related lists anyway. Have you ever seen the book “1,001 Songs (You Must Hear Before You Die)?” I picked up a copy recently at 75% off, and it kept me out of trouble for a few days.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know what Marie – I pride myself on remembering most chart music from the ’70s but I was the same, only recognised around 7 of them! I bought the 1001 Albums You Must Hear…. but haven’t seen the songs one yet – Will definitely have to get that one too though as like you I love pouring over such lists. Thanks for dropping by.

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  3. Our choir have got a gig on Saturday. The second half will be given over to Xm*s carols. And yes, we are singing Little Drummer Boy. It is a great song – as Bing and Dave demonstrated all those years ago.

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    1. Good luck with the concert – I am full of admiration in that you have all these great hobbies such as the choir and the script-writing course. As I think you know I gave up work a few months ago after a horrible restructuring but as I still have a fair few responsibilities I feel the focus still has to be on earning money so I am holding off embarking on such things, which had originally been the plan.

      As for Little Drummer Boy, apparently DB really didn’t like it which is why they wrote the Peace on Earth “counterpoint” (that was a new word for me but you’ll no doubt know it). What a strange time for him though – He must have popped across from a life in Berlin making all these great albums to take part in a Christmas Show with Bing Crosby. Says a lot about the man though.

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  4. I love seeing these old magazine snippets – things always appear more dated than I expect them to (probaby because somehow if they were in my lifetime it doesn’t seem possible that they can look so ancient…. I’d better start getting used to it…) Shockingly I recognised very few of those song titles from December ’77 and was unable to name their artists. Only six, in fact! I guess it was because at that time I cared so little about chart music (or at least any chart music that wasn’t punk or new wave) so it just didn’t stick. So if you ever fancy posting the answers, or songs themselves, I’m intrigued!

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    1. Actually I only recognised seven of them myself and I was chart obsessed in those days. It seems that the most familiar songs were printed on pages 1 and 2 but by the time we reached the back pages it was all stuff that only made it to the lower reaches of the charts. Yes, I’ll leave it for a couple of days and then list the songs/names – Btw, Didn’t I Blow Your Mind This Time is not by the person/group you probably expect.

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    2. As it turns out many of these songs didn’t ever make the charts at all! They must have chosen the songs well in advance and then just hoped they would before the magazine was printed. Other then the two already shared the only others to have reached the charts were:
      Belfast – Boney M
      Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue – Crystal Gayle
      Virginia Plain – Roxy Music
      Turn To Stone – ELO
      Goin’ Places – The Jacksons
      Dancin’ Party – Showaddywaddy
      I Believe You – Dorothy Moore
      Slip Sliding Away – Paul Simon
      Baby, Baby My Love’s All For You – Deniece Williams
      Only The Strong Survive – Billy Paul
      My Baby Left Me – Slade

      Not surprising we didn’t get many of these!

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      1. Thanks for publishing those artists, I really had no recollection of quite a few of them. I’d got Boney M, Crystal Gayle, ELO, Paul Simon, Roxy Music – but the others here were quite a surprise, even though they’d reached the charts, they just haven’t stuck with me at all.

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        1. Hi – You got the same five as me then! The other artists were familiar but not their songs and this was the time when The Jacksons had moved label and were no longer the Jackson Five but Michael hadn’t left yet to become a global phenomenon so the song wasn’t really a hit.

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  5. Another excellent trip down memory lane, Alyson, though I’m not happy with the David Bowie watch in any way. It seems a horrible cash in to me, and anyone who can spend £1500 on watch… Grrr.

    Still, I always loved Bowie & Crosby, even though I’m doing my best to avoid Christmas tunes… I’m happy to let that one slip through.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I actually just added that bit about the watch ad yesterday as the massive image of him hits me every time I go shopping and has obviously made an impact. Like you I would not be buying one of these expensive watches though – Grrr indeed. As I have very slim wrists I am able to buy a kid’s watch if need be (and pretend it’s for my daughter!).

      As for the song, I remembered it from years ago but didn’t realise until I revisited the magazine that it had been recorded in ’77 but it wasn’t released as a single by the record company until ’82. Bit like Laughing Gnome which was released during the Ziggy years – All very odd. Yes, been trying to hold off on Christmas tunes but as of this week you can’t avoid them – will no doubt be dropping back before the big day with another one or two.

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