A man whistles, melancholy.
He whistles again for it to count and brings back the melody.
Its whistle then rises in register as if it had turned to ask you “do you like my whistle?”, while the intensifying tinkle of a fretboard lets you know that it is not whistling alone.
Love it or hate it, you know you know how it goes.
It’s because in the annals of rock music there is no song more instantly recognizable or linked to one of the most seismic geopolitical shifts of the 20th century – the fall of the Berlin Wall – than that of Scorpions. Wind of change. Only thing? It was written about something entirely different. Confused? You are not alone.
Let’s say this first: wind of change is arguably one of the most monumental and well-recognized power ballads of all time, and it’s also arguably the commercial pinnacle of Scorpions, who at the time had already been responsible for more success than their Hanover’s humble origins might have suggested in 1965.
Sure, Blackout was tall, but wind of change alone sold over 14 million copies. If the story of this anthemic juggernaut was all about sales, no one would care, but it’s no mere song.
At its core, it’s a simple track about a changing world, and it’s inspired by what Scorpions witnessed when they performed at the Moscow Music Peace Festival in August 1989 in front of 300,000 fans at the stadium. Lenin alongside Ozzy Osbourne, Motley Crue, Cinderella, and Skid Row. Moved by the experience and the fervor of the crowd, Klaus Meine began to write. Not the most confident guitarist, the singer instead whistled the main melody.
What resulted was a moving snapshot of a unique moment in time as the world watched and awaited the outcome of Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbaciev’s doctrine of Glasnost and Perestroika. No one knew where this was heading, but after decades of Cold War anxiety, it was a time charged with optimism and a growing belief in new possibilities, and Scorpions had just written a song to match the air of time, but no one knew – yet.
And while it’s only possible to speculate what that Soviet experience meant for Vince Neil or Sebastian Bach, there’s no doubt it would have resonated with a West German band growing up in the shadow of the Iron Curtain. in the Reich’s generational memory.
Perhaps that’s why a fun but intriguing take on the song’s origin – 2020s wind of change podcast (opens in a new tab)who posits that the CIA has something to do with wind production wind of change, could possibly be taken with a pinch of salt. Unless…
“It’s because the story is good, the story is great!” said Rudolf Schenker.
“We live in crazy times,” says Klaus. “When I was confronted with this [CIA] theory, I burst out laughing. You know, it’s really crazy. But this podcast has become very, very successful around the world between New York and Sydney, Australia. And you could hear everyone saying, “You have to listen to this podcast”, you know, as crazy as it is, you know?
“Patrick Radden Keefe, a journalist who works for the new yorker – he came all the way to Germany, just to tell me in the middle of the interview, ‘Klaus, did you hear the story that the CIA wrote wind of change?’ And I was like, ‘What?! Repeat that?’ But then I said, if that’s true, that just proves the power of music.
Contributing to this myth is of course the fact that the Berlin Wall fell a few months after the Moscow Peace Festival in November 1989, but wind of change was not released until a year later as 1990s track four Crazy world album. Even then, it was not released as a single until January 1991 in Europe – the album’s third after provoke me, please me and send me an angel.
“It came out a lot later because, like we’ve always said, ‘Hey, we’re a rock band, you know, the first single off the album would be a rocker. The second single would be another rock song , you know? said Klaus. “And then someone understood, ‘okay, maybe wind of change could be a good single. But that had nothing to do with marketing. At the time, nobody said ‘you know, since the fall of the Berlin wall, this would be a great song for this moment’. Nobody said that.”
It was no doubt wind of changeThe promotional video for , however, used turmoil footage, including the fall of the Berlin Wall, which captured imaginations across time zones and instilled important sentiment. Politically, massive changes were underway. Communism was collapsing and the Soviet hammer and sickle would fly over the Kremlin for the last time in December of that year. Finally, there was a song to match, and it came from a very real place.
“We grew up in the shadow of the Berlin Wall, sort of, you know,” Klaus says. The country divided and the Berlin Wall was just a fact, it was a fact of our lives as German citizens. In the beginning, when we were doing concerts in Berlin, you had to go through the transit highway, and the first checkpoint – Helmstedt – is only 100 km from where we grew up. People were getting killed, shot when they tried to cross from East to West, you know, and of course that’s a different story from an English point of view, or a British point of view, or an American point of view.
“That was our reality. And that was after the war, when the country was divided into all these different areas, and when the wall came down, it was such an emotional moment, in European history, in the world. You can never write a song for, for a historical event like this, it’s impossible. But the reason or the fact that wind of change, for so many people, brings back memories of this historic moment.
So what wind of change that is, 30 years later? Although inseparable from this moment of transformation, more recently Klaus Meine told the Ukrainian TCH (opens in a new tab) that the recent Russian invasion left him with mixed feelings about the song.
“Now is not the time to romanticize Russia with lyrics like”Follow the Moskva / Down to Gorky Park‘, I wanted to make a statement that we support Ukraine in this very difficult situation,” he said. “So many years later now, I think the song has lost its meaning of being an anthem of peace, of being a song of hope. I had to change those lyrics.”
“Listen to my heart / It says Ukraine” Klaus sings now. “Waiting for the wind / For a change.“
Scorpions’ latest album, Rock Believer, is out.