The Ongoing History of New Music, episode 895: The great KGB punk conspiracy

You may be aware of a podcast that came out in the spring of 2020 that sought to get to the bottom of a certain musical mystery. Winds of Chain explores the possibility that a metal power ballad was a contributing factor to the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 90s.

“Wind of Change” was a global hit for The Scorpions, who were formed in Hanover in what was then West Germany. The Scorps sing in English, but they also recorded a Russian version under the title “Veter Peremen.”

Estimates are that the single sold 14 million copies. It’s the best-selling single by any German artist. And because it was such a big hit in the USSR, the band presented Mikhail Gorbachev a gold record. Even today, the song is a massive hit among several generations of fans in Eastern Europe.

Rumours swirled about this song for years. It is said that it was a product of a CIA operation designed to destabilize Soviet society with its messages of change and revolution. The theory goes that it worked so well that the Soviet Union crumbled by the end of 1991.Did the CIA commission someone to write “Wind of Change,” get the Scorpions to record it, leading to the end of the USSR from within?

If you want to know more, you’ll have to listen to that podcast. But I can tell you that this wasn’t the first tie rock music was used by a foreign intelligence operation to drive a wedge into a specific society. The popular music of the West–especially that of the USA–was feared by Soviet bloc authorities. But at the same time, the Soviets knew that music could be used as a weapon against the West.

Here’s another theory. Could it be that punk rock was actually a KGB plot against us? Here’s what we know–or at least what we think we know.

Songs heard on this show

  • Viletones, KGB
  • Talking Heads, Life During Wartime
  • Aquarium, Ashes
  • Kino feat. Tsio/Peremen!
  • Vibrators, Disco in Moscow
  • Sex Pistols, Anarchy in the UK
  • Clash, I’m So Board with the USA
  • Crass, Bloody Revolution
  • The KGB, Back in the USSR

Need a playlist? Here you go from Eric Wilhite.

The Ongoing History of New Music can be heard on the following stations:

We’re still looking for more affiliates in Calgary, Kamloops, Kelowna, Regina, Saskatoon, Brandon, Windsor,  Montreal, Halifax, Charlottetown, Moncton, Fredericton, and St John’s and anywhere else with a transmitter. If you’re in any of those markets and you want the show, lemme know and I’ll see what I can do.

If you ever miss a show, you can always get the podcast edition available through Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your on-demand audio.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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