Black Grape were an English rock band formed in 1993 by vocalist Shaun Ryder and dancer Bez, formerly of Happy Mondays. They recruited rapper Kermit and drummer Ged Lynch of the Manchester-based group The Ruthless Rap Assassins, plus guitarist Wags from The Paris Angels and American producer/multi-instrumentalist Danny Saber. This was the third single from their debut album, It's Great When You're Straight... Yeah, which was a critical and commercial success, topping the UK album chart in August 1995. Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich listed it as his favorite CD of 1996.
This song lampoons society's obsession with celebrities. Ironically, Shaun Ryder became a national celebrity in 2010 after becoming the runner-up in the British TV Show, I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! He told Q magazine in a 2011 interview: "With Kelly's Heroes I was writing about the worship of celebrities and what a dangerous and disappointing thing hero worship can be. That makes me laugh now. Fifteen years later and look at the culture we've got. Celebrities on every street corner and in every f--kin' jungle."
Ryder's lyrics were derived mainly from nonsense rhymes and humorous catch phrases. This song title was borrowed from 1970 war film, Kelly's Heroes about a group of World War II soldiers who go AWOL to rob a bank behind enemy lines.
Ryder changed the opening lyric from, "Don't talk to me about heroes - Most of these guys snort cocaine," to the less controversial, "Don't talk to me about heroes - most of these men sing like serfs," shortly before recording the song.
Black Grape's Shaun Ryder and Kermit revealed to NME that this was originally a rap track, inspired by Wu-Tang Clan, full of "hip-hop grooves." However, once they delivered the demo to their label it was decided the vibe needed to be changed. The management felt the band needed more of a "domestic rock" sound so they could break America.