Why the Iconic ‘Wind of Change’ Surprised Even Scorpions Fans in 1990
Nearly 30 years after the release of the Scorpions’ “Wind of Change,” the song stands as a monument of ’90s music. Like “The Humpty Dance” or “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “Wind of Change” had the sort of hook and memorable video that turned songs into worldwide hits in the peak MTV years.
If you grew up tuning in to MTV in those years, you couldn’t help but be mesmerized by Scorpions’ take on world events. After watching Tom Brokaw narrate the fall of the Berlin Wall, “Wind of Change” offered an instant soundtrack.
Three decades later, people still sing (and whistle) along to the iconic song written by Scorpions lead singer Klaus Meine. But fans of the West German rockers hardly saw the “Wind of Change” power ballad coming.
In a new podcast exploring whether the CIA wrote “Wind of Change,” you get a hint of why people ask such a question. To that point, Meine was writing the shallow, macho lyrics you’d expect from hair-metal bands.
The vulgar ‘Rock You Like a Hurricane’ hardly anticipated ‘Wind of Change’
In Wind of Change, the May 2020 podcast from New Yorker staff writer Patrick Radden Keefe, listeners hear about Scorpions’ rise in Hanover doing Beatles covers in the late ’60s through their embrace of hard rock and glam metal by the ’80s.
Markus Kavka, the German rock journalist who featured Scorpions on his Number One! show in the ’90s, described a band that no one took seriously in their home country. “Everyone was making fun of Klaus Meine’s [English] accent,” Kavka told Keefe.
But Scorpions kept plugging away and built up an audience outside of Germany. Then Germans began giving them a chance. However, nothing prepared them for “Wind of Change.” As Kavka explained, Scorpions specialized in “clichéd lyrics: women, motorbikes” in the ’80s.
Kavka then recited the impossibly vulgar lyrics to “Rock You Like a Hurricane” (starting with “The b*tch is hungry”). Needless to say, Meine didn’t seem ready to jot down the words to one of the era’s most memorable songs. But, according to Meine, that’s exactly what he did.
Klaus Meine drew inspiration from Scorpions’ 1st visits to Russia
These days, it’s hard for many to imagine what it’s like for a West German rock band to not be able to play (or even sell records) on the other side of a wall in Berlin. But that’s how Scorpions grew up and what they experienced on their path to worldwide fame.
So when the band got to play Russia in the late ’80s, the crowd’s reaction positively stunned Meine and his bandmates. “When we started our show with ‘Blackout,’ all the Red Army soldiers, all the security, they turned around to face the stage and started throwing their caps and jackets in the air,” Meine told Rolling Stone in 2015.
In short, it didn’t feel like any other gig. “It felt like the world was changing right in front of our eyes,” Meine said. As for the opening lyrics, he was trying to capture the feeling he had on a memorable boat ride during the group’s early visit to Moscow. (The band literally followed “the Moskva” River with soldiers and other bands on the way “down to Gorky Park.”)
While other bands (including Skid Row and Bon Jovi) played the same huge Moscow concert, it was a different story for Meine and Scorpions. “We saw so many changes from Leningrad in ’88 to Moscow in ’89,” he told Rolling Stone. “There was a feeling of hope. And that’s what I tried to express in the song.”