Wind of Change: All Episodes
May 22, 2020 8:10 AM - Subscribe

It’s 1990. The Berlin Wall has just come down. The Soviet Union is on the verge of collapse. A heavy metal band from West Germany, the Scorpions, releases a power ballad, “Wind of Change.” The song becomes the soundtrack to the peaceful revolution sweeping Europe — and one of the biggest rock singles ever. According to some fans, it’s the song that ended the Cold War.

Decades later, New Yorker writer Patrick Radden Keefe hears a rumor from a source: the Scorpions didn’t actually write “Wind of Change.” The CIA did.

This is Patrick’s journey to find the truth. Among former operatives and leather-clad rockers, from Moscow to Kiev to a GI Joe convention in Ohio, it’s a story about spies doing the unthinkable, about propaganda hidden in pop music, and a maze of government secrets. “Wind of Change.” An offbeat eight part investigation.
posted by computech_apolloniajames (3 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Spoiler warning because I binged the whole thing on Spotify. I don’t necessarily recommend that; I probably would have enjoyed it more hearing one part per week.

Anyway, it was great: good interviews and also just the right amount of behind the scenes stuff.

BUT, I can’t understand why they didn’t discuss what seems to me the most obvious answer to the big question: when The Old CIA Hand said that the CIA wrote Wind of Change, he (or whoever told him the story) meant that the CIA *caused* it to be written. (The other obvious answer is that the whole thing is bullshit propaganda, but they did discuss that.)

What I mean is that it seems pretty plausible that the CIA had a role in organizing the Moscow Music Peace Festival like they did with Nina Simone’s Africa shows. The well-known origin story of the song is that Klause Meine was inspired to write it by his experience in Moscow, so by having some part in organizing the festival, the CIA can say that they caused the song to be written.

CIA involvement in the festival is consistent with the suspicions around Doc McGhee’s plea deal and with McGhee sending someone supposedly with the CIA to hear Meine whistle the song after it became a hit and the CIA was taking credit for it.

And re. the plea deal, it seemed like Radden Keefe could have gone deeper. I may not be remembering it right, but did he press the prosecutor on why he would agree to the deal? (Remember the claim that Jeffrey Epstein got his outrageous plea deal because he was supposedly an intelligence asset.) Did they review court records about McGhee’s sentencing that might explain it?
posted by Xalf at 7:07 AM on May 23

One other thing, it was cool to learn about the song and how important it was to young people in that part of the world.

If you had asked me (a young person in the US at that time) to name the hit song that embodied the wind of change in 1990, I would have said Jesus Jones, “Right Here, Right Now.”

Did the CIA write that one too?
posted by Xalf at 7:16 AM on May 23

I mean, leaving aside the central and literal premise of "did the CIA write 'Wind of Change'?" it's easy to see the agency's fingerprints all over the Moscow music festival. No brainer.

Also, clearly there was intervention in Doc McGhee's case, no matter how they spin it. He is such a bad liar when the reporter isn't a music industry flack there to do a puff piece, which is hilarious given how managers are bullshit artists.

It was also easy to see how Klaus Meine is much more of an experienced interview subject and he and Radden Keefe have a great conversation.

But yeah, this story very much needs an in-depth longform piece, maybe even a book.

As I noted in the post, this didn't feel too padded out for time, which can an issue with podcasts (I don't listen to many, so I am not an authority on this). Almost every episode felt like a good story. Well maybe except the GI Joe one, which was interesting about the subculture of custom action figures, but no I don't believe that this guy knew anything about the CIA or the Scorpions.

When I wrote about this podcast on FB, somebody linked to a piece about Jackson Pollock and the CIA. This should have been included.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 4:44 PM on May 23

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