Podcast Corner: Scorpions, the CIA and Wind of Change

Podcast Corner: Scorpions, the CIA and Wind of Change
Patrick Radden Keefe's podcast looks the role of a Scorpions hit in the Cold War. Picture: Jovan Nenadic

If you've listened to any classic-rock radio over the past few, well, decades, chances are you'll have heard Scorpions' 'Wind of Change'. 

The power ballad probably wormed its way into your head and wouldn't leave - you might even be whistling its hook right now. Did you know the CIA was behind the song?

That the US spy network's psy-ops department actually came up with the German hair-metal band's biggest hit in a propaganda bid to get behind the Iron Curtain at the tail end of the Cold War in 1990, in a bid to influence the east's youth to call for change? 

Well that's actually a conspiracy theory espoused by investigative journalist Patrick Radden Keefe in the new eight-part podcast, Wind of Change, which is one of the big releases of the year, coming via a partnership between Pineapple Street Studios, Crooked Media, and Spotify - all episodes are available on Spotify now; it's dropping weekly elsewhere.

The show sounds like an instant word-of-mouth success a la Pineapple's Missing Richard Simmons. But like that series, Wind of Change is a bloated damp squib. Keefe clings to his theory over the six hours of total running time and wills it to be true. 

He talks to Klaus Meine of Scorpions, who wrote the song, in January 2020, and saves the results for the episode-eight finale.

"I wanted to gather as much evidence as I could, even circumstantial evidence," he says, as the listener ponders what evidence he actually has. We won't spoil what Meine says to the charge.

But the journey to get to that conference room in Hannover is entertaining, featuring stories and chats with drug titans, spies, CIA experts, and 80s bands. 

Episode five, 'Follow the Moskva', tells the story of the drink- and drug-fuelled plane ride (Ozzy Osbourne stars) to the Soviet Union in 1989 for the Moscow Music Peace Festival.

The spies Keefe talks to, meanwhile, say sure, the theory might be true - we already know about Argo, which is mentioned throughout the series, in which the CIA staged a Hollywood film production to get hostages out of Iran.

Ben Affleck directed the Oscar-winning film of said story in 2012. Is Keefe's pursuit really more outlandish?

Wind of Change sounds great on paper, and has enough interesting bits to keep you wondering what outlandish tale you'll hear next, but ultimately it could have been a one-hour thrill ride rather than this eight-episode conspiracy-theory meander.

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