Now That Only Two of Them Are Still Living (If You Can Call it Living), Cubans Can Finally Meet the Beatles


Do you need another reason to flip off cool kids wearing Che Guevara t-shirts?

Blogger extraordinaire Alan Vanneman points to this article from The New York Times about how the tyrannical government of Cuba is finally allowing its prisoner-citizens to see Beatles cover bands only about 45 years after Beatlemania has bitten the dust:

The hair and accents were wrong, but the audience cared about just one thing: the house band was singing the Beatles, here, in a new bar called the Yellow Submarine, in Cuba, where such an act might have led to arrests in the mid-1960s.

Better yet, perhaps because of that history, the band played like rebels. Fast and raw, they zipped up and down the bass lines of "Dear Prudence" as if the song were new. They raced through "Rocky Raccoon," and when they reached the opening words of "Let It Be" — "When I find myself in times of trouble" — the entire crowd began singing along, swaying, staring at the band or belting out the chorus with their eyes closed in rapture.

"If there's no Beatles, there's no rock 'n' roll," said Guille Vilar, a co-creator of the bar. "This is music created with authenticity."

Maybe so, but Cuba's revolutionaries were not sure what to make of it when it first came out. Though today the bonds between counterculture rock and leftist politics are well established, back then, Cuban authorities — at least some of them — saw anything in English as American and practically treasonous. The Beatles, along with long hair, bell-bottom jeans and homosexuality, were all seen as cause for alarm or arrest at a time when green fatigues were a statement of great importance.

Cuba in the '60s and early '70s, says Mr. Vilar, a trained musicologist, "was a very serious place."

Not that it's a laff riot these days. No word yet on whether Havana will be hosting Beatlefest any time soon. Or whether the cultural thaw will allow for late-night viewing of the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band movie featuring the Bee Gees, Peter Frampton, Aerosmith, George Burns, Steve Martin, and dozens of others who went career-missing for years afterwards.

Whole thing here.

Just last year, Cuban authorities re-arrested the members of the rock band Porno para Ricardo for carrying "instruments of dubious origins," which sounds like a terrible Genesis album from right before Peter Gabriel flew the coop. Reason.tv spoke with the leader of the band, Gorki Aguila, between arrests back in 2009. If you care about music, freedom of expression, and a thousand other basic human rights, check it out:

And then listen to jazz great Paquito D'Rivera shred the killer chic that surrounds Che Guevara and Fidel Castro by describing those golden years when simply owning a freaking Beatles record could earn you a trip to the slammer:

In The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong with America, Matt Welch and I trace the weird, strange trip by which rock music helped topple the Soviet Union and why there are revolutions named after the Velvet Underground but none after Van Cliburn.

Check it out here.

NEXT: Supercommission Fail?

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  1. Okay, Reason. Someone go find Riggs. Kick his ass out of bed. AND GET UP THE FUCKING MORNING LINKS!!!

    1. “Oh my god, you need booze!”

      1. We can’t turn a Vanneman post into a de facto morning links?

        1. What we should do is never, ever comment on Vanneman posts, so maybe they will stop going back to that well.

          1. Could someone please explain Vanneman to me, please?

            Over the years I’ve dutifully read the links to his blog and reviews as my greasy haired Kochsucking superiors have implored me to do so, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why.

            Is he someone’s brother-in-law who needs blog hits so he’ll stop sponging off of his Reason employed relative?

            Hell, his posts here are about the level of a Tony, and Tony is a spoof designed to make liberals look stoopid.
            And, I don’t care how Me First’d up Dear Prudence is, it ain’t Rock ‘n Roll, nor does it encapsulate rock’s essence.

            1. He has to be someone they know socially. There’s no other explanation. Idiot brother-in-law sounds about right.

            2. All you need to know is VANNEMAN DELENDA EST.

  2. Noooo – not a thread about love/hate of the Beatles.

  3. Oh yeah, what about the “Van Guard of the Revolution”?

  4. What’s with the Genesis scorn? The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway is one of my acid-trip favorites. There’s nothing quite like Gabriel in a daffodil costume singing about slippermen and flies on windshields.

  5. I believe you meant to say “phony” Beatlemania…

    1. Yeah, I don’t get it…I mean who’d rather listen to the Beatles over CUBAN music? Buena Vista Social Club vs. the Losers of Liverpool? It’s not like having to choose between Coke or Pepsi ferchrissakes.

  6. I’m assuming the “blogger extraordinaire” is sarcasm or nepotism.

  7. As always, whenever commenting on an NYT article is permitted the ensuing discussion is bound to be precious.

    Wow, Cuba is so awesome! Check out those cool old cars! Isn’t the USA just a big ol’ imperialist meanie?

    1. Holy fuck:

      “Without official licensing…” I love it. I wish that the cultural chokehold of copyright came with an early expiration date, like patents. At some point, the Beatles should belong to all of us, to use as we see fit.

      How appropriate that one can now go to Cuba to enjoy the freedom of communal ownership of this precious cultural capital.

      1. Then. . .fucking. . .move. . .there. Of course, he’ll do no such thing. This kind of kneejerk anti-capitalist really just wants other people to live in such conditions, so he can visit them and admire their quaint lifestyles.

      2. I’m no fan of copyrights either but that doesn’t excuse the outright bans on music in Cuba for 45 years. I’ll take the stupid copyright system over that any day.

    2. The comments section to the NYT piece last week about Cuba moving to allow buying and selling of real estate was HILARIOUS.

  8. They do seem to know what they are talking about. WOw.


  9. Only two Cubans are still living?

  10. “If there’s no Beatles, there’s no rock ‘n’ roll,” said Guille Vilar, a co-creator of the bar.

    Fuck you sideways. With a Stratocaster.

    1. ^ THIS ^

  11. Che was correct in concluding Western Corporations were anti-democratic as they supported and actually paid for hard line regimes to keep wages low and labor in check in the Americas. He was certainly wrong about the benefits of ‘the revolution’. All he and the Castro family did was replace one despot with another in Cuba. I doubt Batista would have lasted as long as the Castro family. So, in Cuba, Che only help prolong suffering.
    The legend of Che is a romantic one. The reality of Che was murderous. Having said that, corporatocracy is no friend of democracy. Libertarians beware of fat cats bearing gifts.

    1. Well put, george. I’d reckon a lot of libertarians would agree with you on both points.

      Yes it was pretty despicable that Western corps supported repressive regimes in exchange for special favors. That’s the sort of business-in-bed-with-government mentality that most libertarians despise.

      Once Castro took power, Che had no problem slaughtering political opponents or supporting crackdowns on social freedom. Those guys really were just Bible thumpers without the Bible. Jerry Falwell with the Communist Manifesto instead of the Bible. That’s all they were — super-macho egomaniac bullies. Then Che also advocated nuking the United States. It’s funny how hippies lionize him — he loved war and killing. I’m willing to bet he really got off on putting other human beings to death. Being a doctor probably amplified it — he got the chance to play God with other peoples’ lives, and choose who got to live and who got to die. Congrats, man, you made Hippocrates very proud.

  12. Stages collapse at Cheap Trick and Flaming Lips shows. Coincidence? Merely “bad weather”? Or is it true what they say about the Red Chinese and their weather-control research? First target: Subversive Rock and Roll! YOU be the judge!

  13. A few years back, we went to a Who concert in San Jose. It was a fantastic show, but even so, we all agreed that the tour should have been called “Who’s Left.” At some point, in my opinion, a band loses too much critical mass of original membership to retain the name of old, unless continuity of membership has been very carefully managed. Once Lennon died, the Beatles could never get back together — perhaps with Julian Lennon picking up the baton from his fallen father, but things definitely would have been different; once Harrison passed, that was it. Queen has been a much different band without Freddie Mercury. Styx has survived on “simmer” without Dennis de Young (and by that, I mean that, despite still being an excellent group with the current lineup, they give short shrift to deYoung-era songs that many fans think “define” the band, and which they hope to hear in concert). Can there be a Creedence Clearwater Revival without John Fogerty, and by the same token, shouldn’t Fogerty on his own, or with new bandmates, work under a different name — his own, perhaps?

    1. And does anybody care?

  14. Actually, the Cuban government co-opted the Beatles a while ago. There’s been a John Lennon Park, complete with statue, in Havana since the year 2000: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Lennon_Park

  15. I thought there were more than two Cubans left. If one is Fidel, who is the other?

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