Striking a deliberately anti-American posture on the eve of a historic concert in communist-run Cuba, Welsh rockers The Manic Street Preachers said on Friday they hoped their Havana gig would irritate U.S. authorities.
Asked at a pre-concert news conference if they might have problems visiting the United States after becoming the biggest Western band to play Cuba in two decades, guitarist Nicky Wire replied with a grin: "Probably. I hope so!"
Although Washington's four-decade embargo may have dissuaded some foreign bands, perhaps mindful of the American market, from coming to Cuba in the past, people who are not from the United States face no direct consequences for travelling here.
In the most high-profile Western rock concert in Cuba since U.S. star Billy Joel performed in 1979, the Welsh group will play for free on Saturday night at the Karl Marx theatre to unveil a new album, Know Your Enemy, the cover of which shows a Cuban flag.
"It is so aesthetically beautiful. In a graphic sense, it looks fantastic," Wire, whose idea it was to play in Cuba, said of the red, white and blue national flag.
"Also, it was a little gesture of solidarity."
If President Fidel Castro turned up at their gig, "it would be the greatest honour of our lives," Wire said.
Western rock music was frowned on as a "decadent influence" in the early decades after Castro's 1959 Cuban Revolution, and some Cubans today recall being harassed for wearing long hair or being caught listening to the Beatles behind closed doors.
That attitude has relaxed of late and Castro himself even recently inaugurated a statue honouring slain Beatles star John Lennon as a fellow "revolutionary" persecuted by the CIA.
The Manic Street Preachers, admirers of Cuba's anti-U.S. stance, plan to visit the Lennon statue, in a Havana park, on Saturday prior to the invitation-only concert.
MANICS' HOMAGE TO ELIAN
Among various positive references to Cuba on the new album is a song called "Baby Elian" referring to last year's custody dispute over six-year-old shipwreck survivor Elian Gonzalez.
The song refers to the United States as "the devil's playground" and, taking the official Cuban line on the seven-month-long saga, says Elian was "kidnapped to the promised land."
"It is just inspired by American control of the media," Wire said of the song. "The world is being brainwashed by the American control of the media. It's so one-sided."
Continuing the anti-American theme, the band agreed on the U.S. public's "bad taste" in music, groaned at a reference to American teen-age pop diva Christina Aguilera, and praised Cuba for resisting the influences of its powerful northern neighbour.
"Cuba has stayed independent, you can tell. There is more American culture in England than here. I think Cuba has fought very hard to keep its independence," Wire said.