There’s no shortage of myths and hoaxes when it comes to rock and roll. Some people believe Elvis Presley is alive and well and living in Tweed, Ont. If you play a Led Zeppelin LP backwards you’ll hear satanic (and probably plagiarized) lyrics. Was the Canadian band Klaatu really the Beatles? And although Billy Joel insistently sang We Didn’t Start the Fire, the alleged arson is yet to be solved.
Speaking of open cases, with his new podcast Wind of Change, the New Yorker magazine investigative journalist Patrick Radden Keefe has his hooks into a doozy of an urban legend that involves Cold War psychological ops, the German hard-rock band Scorpions and a bat-crazy theory behind the song that might have helped break up the Soviet Union.
Scorpions singer Klaus Meine claims he wrote the band’s 1990 hit single Wind of Change. But podcast writer-host Keefe suspects the CIA was behind the politically anthemic power ballad. Hair-brained? Maybe. Hair band? Absolutely. But one doesn’t need to be a conspiracy nut or a German metal fiend to cotton to the addictive and surprisingly level-headed Wind of Change, one of three recommended podcasts this week.
Something new: Tired of earnest true-crime series and chat-happy celebrity interviews? Time for some divine intervention. The podcast Heaven Bent concerns itself with the Toronto Airport Vineyard, a small Christian church near Pearson International that held a revival in 1994 that lasted more than 12 years and spread worldwide. It was dubbed by the media as the Toronto Blessing, and it involved mass conversions, worshippers laughing themselves off their feet and, holy molar, gold teeth miraculously appearing in people’s mouths. In this week’s episode, host Tara Jean Stevens explores what are known as “gifts of the spirits”: healing, prophecy and speaking in tongues.
Something classic: Offering what it calls “cultural companionship,” BBC’s The Arts Hour mixes episodes devoted to authors, comedians, musicians and actors with artsy travelogues to exotic destinations. On its June 6 episode, hosts breeze though interviews with two-timing actor Mark Ruffalo (who plays twins in the HBO miniseries I Know This Much Is True), British YouTuber KSI (who convincingly swears he’s not talented), writer Curtis Sittenfeld (who imagines an alternative life for Hillary Clinton, as she might too) and the Oprah-endorsed author Tayari Jones. Half of the episode is given to a thoughtfully forthcoming Ricky Gervais, who doesn’t care if viewers call his hit Netflix series After Life a comedy or if they call it a drama. “As long as they think something,” the show’s director, writer and star explains. “As long as they feel something.”
Something conspiratorial: Released after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the hit Scorpions song Wind of Change used a poignantly whistling intro and optimistic lyrics about Gorky Park and a fate “in the air” to become the soundtrack to the freedom-hoping upheaval in Eastern Europe. Years after hearing through a credible (but third-hand) source that the song was written by the CIA as part of a plot to win over communist hearts and minds, journalist Patrick Radden Keefe decided to pursue the story in earnest. The curious eight-part Wind of Change documents an investigation not only into the song that may or may not have come in from the cold, but it also tells a broader story about the use of musicians such as Louis Armstrong as a front for sneaky pop-culture propaganda. What a wonderful world, indeed.