A report by Kory Grow for Rolling Stone.
“If you look at the first five years of CBGBs and Cuba, there might be an analogy to be drawn,” Blondie guitarist Chris Stein tells Rolling Stone. “Both were very isolated. One of the strong points of the CBGB scene and the New York rock scene was that it was so isolated.”
“I feel the same way,” says singer Deborah Harry. “I like to draw my own conclusions about things. Chris and I both came up through the hippie era, and Che Guevara and Fidel Castro are fascinating, enigmatic political heroes and antiheroes in the United States for the most part. It was always very attractive to me.”
The band members will be able to draw their own conclusions about the country next month when they embark on a four-day cultural exchange dubbed “Blondie in Havana.” The excursion is an opportunity for fans of the group to experience the country firsthand with museum tours, sightseeing trips and tickets to two Blondie concerts. For U.S. citizens, it’s one of the few ways to visit the country after President Trump rolled back Obama-era permissions that made it easier to travel to the country.
“I really don’t know any sane person who is a Trump supporter,” drummer Clem Burke says. “When you travel the world, you get more of a perspective on how people are viewing the U.S. and it’s like everything is turned upside down.”
“There’s probably some good to come out of the Trump administration, but it’s very hard for me to see,” Harry offers.
“The good to come out of the Trump administration is it being over,” Stein rejoins.
“They’re just pulling the United states back to the 1950s,” Harry says. “But we’re not here to talk about that, and I’m sorry I brought it up.”
Stein came up with the idea of performing in Cuba and, for the past year or so, the band members have been trying to navigate the countries’ governments to get there. None of them have been to the country — they were touring when Obama relaxed the rules — and they’re eager to see what Cuba offers. The guys in the group say they’re interested in Cuba’s vintage cars and general ingenuity — “Nothing comes in there, so they make power drills into electric fans,” Stein says — and they’re all excited to meet some Cuban musicians.