“Wind of Change” was the perfect song at the perfect moment for Scorpions — a lighter-waving ballad whose lyrics captured the zeitgeist at a time of immense political upheaval, and became an anthem for the end of the Cold War in the bargain.
In fact, partly due to the its video, “Wind of Change” is commonly associated with the fall of the Berlin Wall — but as the band members told Rolling Stone in a recently published oral history of the track, it was actually inspired by events that took place well before the Wall started coming down in late 1989.
According to guitarist Rudolf Schenker, “Wind of Change” has its roots in the band’s Soviet Union tour stop while promoting 1988′s Savage Amusement album — a visit that was supposed to include Moscow dates that were, he recalls, canceled by officials who thought “maybe a riot could happen.” The group ended up adding extra dates to its Leningrad run instead, and even though the trip didn’t turn out exactly the way they’d planned, they came away energized.
“It was a dream come true to play in Russia … because of our German history, we did so many bad things in Russia that we wanted to do something good,” explained Schenker. “We wanted to show the people in Russia that here is a new generation of Germans growing up, and they’re not coming with tanks and guns and making war — they’re coming with guitars and rock ‘n’ roll and bringing love!”
When the band went back to the USSR the following year for the Moscow Music Peace Festival, singer Klaus Meine was struck by how much things had changed since their last visit — and inspired by the crowd’s affection.
“There were so many emotional moments in Moscow,” he recalled. “I guess it could have been Bon Jovi or Mötley Crüe, any of these guys who had gone home inspired by what they saw, but for them it was like, “Hey! We rocked the Soviet Union, dudes!” For us maybe it was different. We saw so many changes from Leningrad in ’88 to Moscow in ’89. That was the inspiration for ‘Wind of Change.’”
That’s only the beginning of a long story that continues with a fateful boat trip, lots of whistling and Scorpions making surprising inroads at new radio formats with their 11th studio album while coming away with a track that remains a high point of a distinguished career. The rest of it is well worth reading.