Both musically and visually, this second album in Bowie famous Berlin trilogy clearly shows the influence of Krautrock and German electronic music (even including a track titled "V-2 Schneider" as a tribute to Kraftwerk's Florian Schneider). It is commonly known that the cover is inspired by a painting from German artist Erich Heckel (titled "Roquairol"). The strange and mechanical pose of Bowie on the cover perfectly fits the mood of this album : it suggests a dialectic between the heart and the mind, and the eyes of the artist evokes that of a robot.
A funny thing is to see all the outakes of the photographic session at Sukita studio in Japan (lots of them are available on the net), and see how close they came to create an attractive but yet average cover artwork. Talent is evident here, and you clearly get why the pair had remained close friends for 40 years...
Another interesting point here is to see how creative people like Bowie can be truly inspired by other artists : beyond the amusing name of the painting (not sounding that different from "Rock'n Roll" ;-), the end result is far from a simple copy or even a tribute. It really triggered Bowie and Sukita's own creativities.
Moreover, the final artwork has become a landmark in visual history, and most people only know "Roquairol" because of it! The same can be said about Iggy Pop's "Idiot" album cover, that was inspired by the same source as it was produced by Bowie at the same time.
After having became famous in the early 70' by his impersonation of the excesses of Glam Rock, the choice of a black & white image, the simplicity of the pose, as much as the absence of any over the top make-up clearly created a stark contrast with his previous albums. It certainly created some confusion among his fans, as much as the music itself : the singles extracted from this album were among the least successful in his career, including the title song "Heroes", even if it was to become one of his most respected achievement.
One comment about the lay-out : the framing is simply perfect, and even if the location of the typography seems a bit too close to the hand of Bowie, this slight unbalance reinforces the dynamic of the pose created by David leaning his head.
Final touch of grace : the spotlight on his face either makes him look even more robotic, and creates an eye-catching point in the image.
|The back cover : seems like all creative energy had been used for the front ;-)|
On the audio-visual side, the music video of Heroes remains a fantastic moment of simplicity and intensity. A guy, some powerful backlights, lots of smoke, and true sincerity in action.