For those following along with this series of covers of the songs from Bowie’s “Heroes,’ album, you might have noticed I skipped over the song, “Blackout.” That’s because I have been basing this sequence on an article that appeared in the on-line publication, Time Out, which also skipped “Blackout” perhaps by mistake. The song appears after “Sons of the Silent Age,” and was the last song on side 1 back when “Heroes” was an actual record.
It turns out that there aren’t a lot of easily accessible covers of this song, so Momus makes his return with this rather faithfully performed rendition and uninspired video. Its fine to listen to this and not really watch the video, which I’m not going to attempt to dissect.
I’m not exactly sure why this song is covered more. Its one of my favorite from the album, and really one of my favorite overall. This is largely simply because of how it sounds.
Lyrically, “Blackout” is a little more obvious than some of the other songs on “Heroes.” Bowie takes advantage of the double-meaning of the word, “blackout,” to evoke both the lights going out, as had recently happened in New York City, leading to chaos at the time, as well as the loss of consciousness perhaps induced by drug use. Is there concrete all around or is it in my head?
That said, most of the other lyrics of “Blackout” are obtuse. What I think Bowie is doing is creating lyrical chaos around the center of the song, which is the sequence in which he pleads, “ If you don’t stay tonight; I will take that plane tonight; I’ve nothing to lose, nothing to gain; I’ll kiss you in the rain.” This sequence both echos Bowie’s song, “Stay,” as well as “Heroes” itself— “ I can remember; standing, by the wall; And the guns, shot above our heads; And we kissed, as though nothing could fall.” “Heroes” is not a concept album and its songs are not meant to be heard as part of a coherent narrative, but its interesting to think of it as if it were. Could the circumstances that limit the lovers to being heroes just for one day possibly be voluntary? Could the proposition to be heroes be part of the same proposition to stay tonight, before going separate ways? Is everything else— the wall, the blackout, the stalking, screaming panthers— is that all so much background noise getting in the way of this fundamental decision of whether to stay or go? It kind of works.
Anyway, beyond all that, as I said, I like the way this song sounds.