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Machinery and Propaganda

Propaganda – p: Machinery

Another hope feeds another dream
Another truth installed by the machine.
A secret wish the marrying of lies
Today comes true what common sense denies.
#Propaganda #pMachinery

We have already said several times how the months between Christmas 1984 and Live Aid, which was in July 1985, were probably the heyday of the 1980s. Not only huge productions by all the great artists, but also many new experiments and groups who achieved well deserved success and visibility. Those were the days of Go West and We Close Our Eyes, Hong Kong Syndikat and Too Much, Belouis Some and Imagination, Paul Hardcastle and 19, Marillion and Kayleigh, Tears for Fears and Shout, and of course, Propaganda.

After a few years of experience in Germany, Propaganda, originally from Düsseldorf, had moved to England where they had obtained a contract from ZTT Records, the music company of Trevor Horn. After the experience with Buggles for Video Killed the Radio Star and with Yes, he was now a full-time producer. And with his record company he had launched, for example, the huge success of Relax by Frankie Goes to Hollywood.

And so, since 1984 Propaganda had started working on their first album. In fact they had already launched two hits: a more sophisticated one, Dr. Mabuse, in 1984, and then a more sensational one in April 1985, and we are obviously talking about the beautiful Duel, which will forever remain their iconic song.

In reality Duel was perhaps the most commercial and catchy song of this sophisticated and absolutely innovative group. In fact their music was clearly inspired by the new wave atmospheres that were now going out of fashion, but their talent was able to make these atmospheres more and more intriguing.

The month of July 1985 was the moment of their consecration, first with the release of the album A Secret Wish, and then, in the last days of the month, with the release of the beautiful p: Machinery, impressive already from its title.

The album A Secret Wish was excellent: one of the absolute masterpieces of the 80s like Forever Young by Alphaville or Welcome to the PleasureDome by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Then of course there were the great albums of Duran Duran, of Madonna, of Springsteen, but there were also these absolute semi-unknown masterpieces like this.

The title of the album, however, is inspired by a verse of the song p: Machinery. A song that takes up the vein of alienation and massification that we had already found in masterpieces such as Another Brick in the Wall by Pink Floyd, or in Radio Ga Ga by Queen, especially in its video.

p: Machinery (p: stands for Propaganda) tells of a world dominated by machines, which decide the fate and the lives of lines of exhausted human beings, with the noises of machines that become screams and orders to be carried out in days are in no way different from nights.

The song begins with a four-word mantra repeated four times, exactly as if they were work instructions: power – force – motion – drive. Machines decide what is true, and all that is out of common sense becomes reality. A masterpiece of Orwellian desperation, between the anguish of Metropolis and those post-apocalyptic nightmares that were so fashionable in the mid-80s.

The video is a masterpiece, but it is not as we might expect reading the text, which could introduce scenarios like those of Radio Ga Ga, or of The Wild Boys by Duran Duran.
Polish director Zbigniew Rybczyński shows us a very sensual Claudia Brücken dressed in white, who acts as the presenter at a puppet show. The puppets, however, are people tied to the threads, and are obviously the other members of the group, Susanne Freytag, Ralf Dorper and Michael Mertens. The three puppets are dressed in black tuxedos, and are alive: while tied and shaken by threads and ropes, they show emotions and above all a resigned desperation for the things they are forced to do. A disturbing video, but certainly a masterpiece.

At the end a detail also shows us the puppeteers, and reveals that the puppets are linked to instruments that recall the three colors red, green and blue, which could constitute a link with the computer world, even if this interpretation could be taken for granted today, but could have been completely false in the 80s.

It must be said that Rybczyński then directed other great videos of the 80s, such as Alive and Kicking and All the Things She Said for Simple Minds, or Opportunities for Pet Shop Boys.

p: Machinery had a great success, in Europe and also in the United States, but unfortunately it marked the beginning of the end for Propaganda. In fact, within a few months Propaganda came in touch with a lawyer who explained how their contract with ZTT Records was not fair at all, and how they ran the risk of making records forever without earning anything. Propaganda sued Trevor Horn’s company, and it took two years to come to a resolution.

But in the meantime the 1980s were changing, and the members of the group also went their separate ways.

We will hear more of Claudia Brücken, who will compose a duo together with the Scottish Thomas Leer, which will be called Act (which if I remember correctly meant Alliance of Claudia and Thomas). We will then find it again in Snobbery and Decay but the successes of Propaganda will remain a distant memory.

However, Propaganda finally reunited and still perform as xPropaganda, but they remain a true symbol of the 80s: a single album but beautiful and full of masterpieces, three singles, two of which are incredible, and an indelible presence in the hearts of the dinosaurs of the 80s.

Propaganda on Wikipedia

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