In 2006, anthropology professor Alexei Yurchak (born in Leningrad, present-day Saint Petersburg) released a list of music groups vetoed in the 1980s by Soviet authorities on the radio, with the name of each band and, next to it, the reason for the censorship. The list, viral on social networks in Spain by the classification of Julio Iglesias as “neofascist”, can be seen as a piece of the other great wall that the USSR raised against the capitalist block: a cultural iron curtain in the middle of a Cold War that He, of course, also got rid of propaganda. Today, these types of files that document the degree of paranoia reached on both sides against the enemy are pure kitsch, vestiges of a past time where the tension of the struggle between the superpowers prevented the perception of the ridiculousness of many of its aspects. But, after the inquiries made by the journalist Patrick Radden Keefe about one of the groups on that list, Scorpions, there will be those who believe that the alleged Soviet overprotection fell even short.
The whistle at the beginning of Wind of change, pure CIA signature stamp.
Throughout the eight chapters of the Wind of change podcast, Keefe, one of The New Yorker’s most recognized firms, investigates the connection between the Scorpions song of the same name and the CIA. The starting point: a source of American intelligence close to the journalist – who, of course, refused to offer recorded statements – who claimed to have heard a superior say that the CIA had composed the successful issue of the German gang. A stimulating but clearly insufficient revelation, in which the journalist tries to scratch moving earth, sea and air, interviewing a hundred people or going to Kiev (Ukraine) to see a performance by the group. As frustrating as it may sound, Keefe doesn’t come up with anything conclusive, but the trip is worth it as a study of the cultural influence and impact a mere rock ballad – the kind of songs Scorpions reigned in – can leave behind. as a look at the last bars of a mega-state that, before its dissolution, already had an opening process underway that the massive actions of the Teutonic group in the country themselves prove.
The song, Wind of change, was released in 1990, one year after the end of the Soviet Union and one year after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Set in Moscow, the lyrics, which leave little room for misinterpretation, speak of the decline of an era and the dream of eastern citizens to join the rest of humanity, “as brothers.” Klaus Meine, vocalist of Scorpions and official author of the song, assured that the idea had come to his mind as a result of the group’s concert at the Moscow Music for Peace Festival, held in the summer of 1989 at the Lenin Stadium (Today, Luzhnikí Olympic Stadium): “I noticed a renewed energy among the Soviet youth. They wanted to be part of the rest of the world and this motivated and inspired me. ” It was not the first time that Scorpions had trodden the Communist federation: two years earlier, they had become the second western rock group to perform in the USSR, after Uriah Heep. And in 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev, the leader who ended the union of republics and changed socialist doctrine for the market economy, invited the band to perform the song on Red Square, opposite the Kremlin.
“In 2020, we look back and clearly see that the Berlin Wall was going to fall and the Soviet Union was going to collapse. But the CIA did not take it for granted. There was a feeling that the Soviet Union was going to last forever and the CIA had to do everything it could to undermine it, ”explains Patrick Radden Keefe.
With these data, it seems absurd to think that the CIA really needed to mount any operation with Scorpions to convince the Soviet population to open up to the world: the same authorities had been wide open for years. But in the podcast, Patrick Radden Keefe warns of the possibility that, with that point of view, we fall into the fallacy of the historian: “In 2020, we look back and we clearly see that, of course, the Berlin Wall was going to fall and the Soviet Union was going to collapse. But the CIA back then didn’t take it for granted at all. There was a feeling that the Soviet Union was going to last forever and the agency had to do everything it could to undermine it. “
In addition to being suspected of countless operations outside the law – from international drug trafficking to the organization of assassinations, with a special focus on the Cuban leader Fidel Castro, on whom hundreds of assassination attempts have been documented – the CIA As Wind of change recalls, it was far from foreign to the production of cultural works of war. Two film adaptations of George Orwell, The Farm Rebellion (1955) and 1984 (1956), were fueled and supervised by American intelligence with a heavy anti-communist message. Keefe, however, cautions that in many cases the CIA is also delighted to magnify its legend and take false credit for itself, as many films loosely based on actual events have taken it upon themselves to do (case of Oscar Argo winner Ben Affleck). , which oversized the Agency’s role in rescuing six American diplomats in Iran in 1981, under the command of Ayatollah Khomeini). The great secret operations of the entity are, in short, at a fuzzy intermediate point between “think badly and you will succeed” and the most delirious urban legend.
A tension that Keefe’s podcast feeds on, given the weak connections (despite the enormous documentary effort) he manages to muster. The journalist confirms, for example, that before a Scorpions performance in Memphis, a CIA agent visited the band at his hotel and asked the singer, Klaus Meine, to whistle for the beginning of Wind of change, a requirement that the German vocalist satisfied, but that would not have to mean anything. And it establishes a somewhat stronger link between the celebration of the 1989 Moscow Music for Peace Festival and the intelligence service through Doc McGhee, manager of Scorpions who, precisely, organized the event (in theory, an anti-drug festival) As a service to the community after he was convicted of smuggling more than 18,000 kilos of marijuana into the United States.
Following the launch of the podcast series on May 11, Klaus Meine has caught up with the rumor about the CIA’s hand behind Wind of change and has naturally denied it. Meine said that journalist Patrick Radden Keefe interviewed him months ago and was stunned when, in the middle of the meeting, he asked him if he had ever heard the theory that the agency had composed the song. “I found it a lot of fun and laughed out loud,” he told the American online radio show Trunk Nation this week. “The story is very funny and crazy, but it is not true. As you would say, it is a fake news ”.
You can follow ICON on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or subscribe to the Newsletter here.