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Wanted dead or alive: Propaganda

Calculating, grandiose, humourless—but still Germanys greatest ‘pop export. But where are Claudia and her cohorts now? Read on…

Teutonic Ice Maidens alter. The 80s and everything clean, digital, cool and calculated was de rigueur. This was the shiny new age where everyone was modern and we were yuppies. Oh yes, we were. And we wanted Alles in ordnung. Enter ZTT, the record company run by ex-NME hack and be-suited post-modern ironicist Paul Morley and ex-Buggle Trevor Hoen, a man so adept at polishing the charcoal of rude talent into the shiny diamonds of pop hits that his studio wizardry ushered in a whole new era in sound.

Propaganda provided a perfect canvas for ZTTs arch manipulations. The German four piece (Claudia Brücken—vocals, Michael Mertens—percussion, Susanne Freytag—keyboards and Ralf Dorper—keyboards) arrived in Britain in 1983 and had an early hit in March 1984, with Dr Mabuse which made the Top 30. A year later, by which time ZTT had sold enough Frankie Goes To Hollywood records to settle the balance of payments deficit for a year, they released Duel, the single that everyone knows and the one that has accompanied more than one car advert and style show. It made Number 21 but was the last time we were to see Propaganda in the Top 30. The 1985 album A Secret Wish reached number 16 and was followed a few months later by the comparatively poor and blatantly self-indulgent remix album Wishful Thinking. Dig a little and many people will admit to having A Secret Wish in their collection.

However, it was the beginning of the end. For touring, the band employed any number of out-of-work ex-Simple Minds players (Derek Forbes and Brian McGee) and Japans Steve Jansen while internal friction led to the departure of not one, not two, but three of the original members, leaving only Mertens on board.

Next up, completing a rather natty little ZTT ritual, band and label slugged it out in the courts until the band managed to extricate themselves from ZTTs grasp. Claudia Brücken decided to stay with ZTT—not entirely surprising given that she had married Morley. While she formed Act with Thomas Leer, Propaganda were now fronted by one Betsi Miller. Their ‘comeback album, 1990s 1-2-3-4, featured Freytag and Dorper back on board with help from Howard Jones and Pink Floyds Dave Gilmour. It was released on Virgin, but stalled at Number 46. Act made one chart appearance—Snobbery And Decay got to Number 60 in May 1987—before Brücken abandoned Leer for a solo career, debuting with Love And A Million Other Things, produced by Pascal Gabriel, in 1990—which also tanked.

Dorper, meanwhile, concentrated his efforts on the German synth/metal pioneers Die Krupps, finding new friends among the like of Metallicas Lars Ulrich and Faith No More.

The latest news is that Propaganda are back, not that theres any more information beyond that bald fact. Check out development at their website.