Back in July 2015, I wrote about Propaganda and their debut single Dr Mabuse, released in February 1984. The piece made passing reference to the fact that the follow-up single, Duel, didn’t get released until much later largely as a result of ZTT having to concentrate on the phenomena that was Frankie Goes To Hollywood. I always meant to do a follow-up posting but never quite got round to it until now.

Duel is a lovely bit of electro-pop that fitted in just perfectly with so many of the other musicians I was developing a love for in the mid-80s, and in particular Pet Shop Boys. There was also something quite erotic about the vocal delivery of Claudia Brucken, but visually it was the other female in the band – Susanne Freytag – who really did it for me. The band actually were on UK telly quite a bit around the time of Duel, including a couple of live songs that were aired on Whistle Test on BBC 2 during which they proved, as a live act, they could cut it, albeit there were some backing tapes involved. It was also interesting to see Derek Forbes, formerly of Simple Minds, making an important contribution to the live sound.

It turned out to be the band’s best-selling single in the UK reaching #21 in May 1985 but I always felt the group never got the success it really deserved as the media by now were setting out on a ZTT backlash, sick to the back teeth of FGTH, and arguing that their success was down to the production skills of Trevor Horn and Stephen Lipson and the hype-skills of Paul Morley rather than any talents the musicians might have.  It seemed to be implied that Propaganda were no different despite the fact that anyone who saw them perform on Whistle Test and indeed The Tube on Channel 4 would know these were bona-fide musicians and singers.

The band toured for much of 1985, promoting debut album A Secret Wish. A remix album was issued just before Christmas but the band were strangely absent throughout 1986 and out of the blue came the news that Claudia Brucken was leaving to pursue a solo career.  It turned out that the group had been taking legal action against ZTT as they were unhappy with the details of the recording contract and the label had counter-acted with action that prevented them going elsewhere.  The new-look group did get a move to Virgin Records in 1988 but without the sort of attention foisted on them when they first burst onto the scene,

The 7″ version of Duel appeared on the debut album:-

mp3 : Propaganda – Duel

The 12″ had an extended version along with an industrial version on its flip side:-

mp3 : Propaganda – Duel (Bittersweet version)
mp3 : Propaganda – Jewel (cut rough mix)



  1. I have this 12″, and that’s as far as I got in my youth, but I did dig a little deeper the two-disc reissue of A Secret Wish in 2010. Probably haven’t appreciated the bells and whistles of the deluxe edition the way a big fan would, but I really do like the original album more than I thought I would. As a big fan of OMD, I always meant to get around to Claudia’s work with Paul Humphreys, but I never did.

  2. Great track, and like you I wonder why they didn’t become as big as they really should have. I’ve always thought p:Machinery was their crowning glory myself, but the whole of that first album was brilliant.

  3. I’ve always thought this cut rough-mix of ‘Jewel’ is mighty fine, much much better than the regular 45 flipside – version, in fact even better than ‘Duel’ itself: listen to it, folks, shouldn’t you know it already: great of JC to have offered it here!

    There was a most brilliant club where I used to go to in the mid-eighties, and the DJ always used to segue this (cut rough-mix) from Soft Cell’s ‘Martin’ into Einstürzende Neubauten’s ‘Yü-Gung’, followed by, I think, Neon Judgement’s ‘TV Treated’: each time a perfect 30 minutes in my life, to be sure!

  4. Much as I like Duel, I have to agree with Robster that p:Machinery is their defining track.

  5. Interesting post. (Sorry, that’s the way those spammer robots start their comments, isn’t it. I’m not here to plug my company which sells duelling swords, honest.)

    I remember the song well and liked it at the time. I didn’t know that their success had been tied so much to their record company and the press reaction to FGTH. How bizarre.

  6. A Secret Wish is the best album that ZTT released and Duel is the best single released on the label as well. Duel is high in my Top 50 At 50 and is certainly one of the highlight Pop singles of the 80s. Duel still manages to make the hair on the back of my neck stand at attention when I hear it and the endorphins kick in for a bit of pleasurable euphoria.
    A Secret Wish is full of wonderful music and even with all the concentration on beating FGTH until the last drop of blood was secured, a number of pretty amazing remixes surfaced from the album. It’s an album with more than just “Fairlight Pop” – as P:Machinery and Dr. Mabuse prove. Some of the same production tricks used with Frankie and even earlier with ABC are really refined on A Secret Wish. I even rate their take on Sorry For Laughing by Josef K – it certainly lined a few members pockets with some songwriting royalties…

  7. Propaganda were great, and as already said, sadly underrated. At my place Dr Mabuse, especially in 12″ version(s), is the defining track. Superb.

  8. This was the single that first alerted me to the charms of Propaganda. I saw a bit of the viddy on “London Calling,” on US MTV, I think, and that was it! I had that 12″ in house within days. The whole ABBA In Hell concept of that 12″ was brilliant. It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship… With Claudia Brücken, anyway. That second Propaganda album was diabolical! Oh, and total agreement with my friend Echorich for rightly calling “A Secret Wish” the apex of ZTT, though I’m with martin as i also consider “Dr. Mabuse” as their defining track!

    Back to “Duel,” I always found it kind of disappointing that there was only one remix of it, in a move very much against the ZTT raison d’être. “Bejewelled” didn’t count, by my reckoning. It was a mashup, albeit one of the first. While the 12″ was necessary, the 2×7″ with two extra tracks/mixes [“Lied,” “The Lesson”] was mandatory and I even managed to track down a copy of the “Do Well” cassette singlette. This was duly digitized years ago.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.