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Sunday, 18 February, 2001, 16:37 GMT
Hain helped Manics' Cuban trip
Manic Street Preachers in Havana,Cuba AP
The Manics in Havana ahead of their historic concert
Energy Minister Peter Hain was instrumental in helping the Manic Street Preachers play their historic concert in Cuba.

The Neath MP was working as a minister in the Foreign Office when the Welsh band first proposed the Havana gig.

The boys from Blackwood played to an audience of 5,000 Cubans - including President Fidel Castro - in the Karl Marx stadium in Havana on Saturday.


Peter Hain MP: Helped
They had paid just 25 cents, or 17 pence, to hear the band whose last gig was their Millennium Eve performance at Cardiff's new Millennium rugby stadium.

Among the songs they showcased was one about the Cuban boy Elian Gonzalez who was at the centre of a custody struggle with the US last year.

The Manics were faced with a Communust regime which has spent years trying to clamp down on the influence of Western rock music.

Western rock music had been frowned upon as a "decadent influence" in the early days after President Castro's regime.

But that attitude has relaxed of late, with American singer Billy Joel performing there two decades ago.

More recently Castro even honoured murdered Beatle John Lennon.

So one-time anti-apartheid campaigner Mr Hain stepped in to help by convincing the Cubans that the Manics could end the long-standing ban against rock groups.

The 51-year-old MP struck up a friendship with the Manics during the campaign for the Welsh Assembly- which he led for Labour and the band supported.

Now moved to the industry ministry in the last minor government reshuffle, Mr Hain said he looked forward to hearing their new album Know Your Enemy and admired their "radicalism".

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See also:

18 Feb 01 | Americas
Manics play to Castro
20 Dec 00 | Wales
Manics create Havana history
08 Sep 00 | Wales
Stadium pies given red card
03 Mar 00 | Wales
Welsh hopes for Brits glory
04 Sep 00 | Wales
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