The Police may be giving their Cuban fans a free show this Christmas.
The super rock group, which recently reunited for a sell-out world tour, has received an invitation from the Cuban government to perform there in December.
The Havana show would be the last one in North America, ending the Police's massive tour that begins on May 28 in Vancouver.
The invite stems from a recent visit to Havana over the 2006 Christmas holiday by Sting and Trudie Styler where they met with many local musicians and poets.
"They were overwhelmed by the Cuban culture and the arts and the musicality," a source said. "The people were very generous to them with their time."
The couple evidently started out the vacation at one of Havana's large tourist hotels, but quickly moved to more intimate accommodations. Immediately, musicians started showing up every night, sources said, wanting to meet and jam with Sting.
Sting is not the only member of the Police who has been to Cuba and wants to go back. Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers each went there for a Music Bridges concert in February 1999 where they performed with an eclectic group including Bonnie Raitt, Peter Frampton, Gladys Knight, Lisa Loeb, the Indigo Girls, Joan Osborne, J.D. Souther and Burt Bacharach.
The Police's desire to play Cuba as an artistic message shouldn't come as too much of a surprise, since the group is very connected to the world music scene.
During their heyday in the 1980s, the group played many Third World countries. Sting, of course, is also the main force with Styler behind the Rainforest Foundation.
The group would not be the first to play Cuba. Audioslave was the first American rock act there, in 2005.
Several years ago, sources say, Paul McCartney was scheduled to give his own outdoor show in Havana, but his beer sponsor wanted to cover a historic statue with a huge plastic bottle. The show was summarily cancelled.
If the Police go through with their concert, they will not have a corporate sponsor, sources told me.
Meanwhile, rest assured that reports of a new Police album are untrue. Insiders tell me, as this column has reported, there are neither plans for an album of new material nor is there a demo of a new song.
The Police are currently rehearsing for their tour in Tuscany, Italy, at Sting's tranquil estate. Songs on the tour are and have always been just from the Police. No new songs and no songs from Sting's solo albums will be included.
"And the Police are and always will be signed to A&M/Interscope," a source added.
George Clooney is putting his resources to work at the Cannes Film Festival next month. He's lining up a screening of his movie, "Ocean's Thirteen," to raise money for the besieged Darfur region of Sudan. The film's producer, Jerry Weintraub, is helping put this together.
The fundraiser, sources say, is set for May 22, two days before the Steven Soderbergh thriller has its official Cannes premiere at the Palais de la Croisette. That means "O13" will get two big parties. It must be a blockbuster.
This also means good things for the people of Darfur and the people of Cannes. For the latter, it's expected then that the all-star cast of "Ocean's Thirteen" — including Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Brad Pitt, Ellen Barkin, etc. — will be in town for most of the week, including Wednesday night's amfAR dinner.
For the people of Darfur, it means worldwide media exposure for a horrific situation. Clooney has been steadily working for Darfur for some time. Most recently, he flew over the Christmas holiday to China and to Egypt, looking to find allies in his quest to assist the Sudanese people. He's also appeared in front of the United Nations pleading a case that shouldn't be so hard to accept.
Clooney, by the way, has set up a new charitable foundation to disburse all the money he collects for Darfur. He's joined by his "Ocean's Thirteen" producer Weintraub, Cheadle, Damon and Pitt. It's called Not on Our Watch, and Weintraub tells me it's already registered and ready to go.
Yesterday, on the 37th anniversary of Paul McCartney leaving the Beatles, there was another scandal in the group's world.
Neil Aspinall, the group's adviser since they broke up in 1970, was ousted from his position by Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Olivia Harrison and Yoko Ono. Aspinall has literally been the invisible Beatle all these years, keeping the group's business running and making sure they made billions of dollars.
But Aspinall, whom this column has always admired for his devotion and loyalty, recently came up against some challenges of the modern music business.
He took the Beatles into their recently settled lawsuit against Apple Inc. He also has been criticized for not letting the Beatles' albums be downloaded, not issuing remastered albums and not maximizing the group's potential in new areas.
Aspinall has a long and complex history with group, dating back to 1962. Indeed, Aspinall's best friend was the Beatles' original drummer, Pete Best.
In the early '60s, Aspinall, in a Mrs. Robinson-type affair, fathered a child with Best's much older mother. But when Best was fired in favor of Ringo Starr, Aspinall chose the group over family.
From that time through 1970, Aspinall functioned as the group's road manager with Mal Evans, and their personal assistant and driver. He was briefly let go during the Beatles' breakup period by John Lennon's attorney, Allen Klein. But when the dust settled, Aspinall, who had an accounting background, came in and reorganized Apple Records as Apple Corps.
But Aspinall ran into trouble starting with the lawsuit against Apple Computers a couple of years ago. Sources say that he passed on an offered settlement of around $100 million and then was shocked to see the Beatles lose the case in court.
Recently, Aspinall helped negotiate a final settlement right before the appeals decision was heard.
"But it was far less than the $100 million," a source said. "And everyone was unhappy."
Far more complicated are the issues of the Beatles and downloading. So far, the group's music is unavailable on a legal download service.
Aspinall's theory has been that this keeps the CDs selling. He may be right. Currently, 40-year-old albums like "Abbey Road," "Sgt, Pepper" and the "White Album" are ranked around No. 100 on Amazon.com.
On the other hand, critics complain that this method has severely cut off the group from new generations of consumers who only like their music in that form.
And there's more: The Beatles are currently suing EMI Music for another $60 million in misplaced royalties. Aspinall won a similar suit for them 18 years ago, increasing their royalty rate on CDs and recovering millions.
In the new suit, however, the Beatles are also demanding the impossible: rights to their master recordings, which EMI owns.
EMI, for sale now with no real bidders and dwindling fortunes, can't afford to lose those masters. But the masters ownership means the company has a major say in the downloading of Beatles music, which Aspinall resists.
Consequently, the new downloading deal EMI has just made with Apple's iTunes excludes only the Beatles. Plus, a frustrated McCartney has just exited EMI after 40 years, taking his solo catalog with him.
Aspinall, some say, has not been able to untangle this mess.
Aspinall's replacement is Jeff Jones, a much-admired executive from Sony BMG who is said to be welcome by Beatles fans as well as the board of directors.
Choosing someone from Sony BMG makes sense, since the Beatles are inextricably tied to Sony's music publishing division. In May 2008, Sony/ATV Music Publishing will exercise its right to buy out partner Michael Jackson and will own the Beatles catalog of songs outright.
Jones will likely fix a lot of situations, including the mysterious absence of DVDs for the movies "Help!" and "Let It Be" and the severely needed remastering of the group's catalog.
But Apple's press release announcing Aspinall's exit seems a little unkind for a group that preached "all you need is love."
It ended with the words: "We wish him well in all his future endeavors." Ouch!
I was wrong on Monday when I wrote that the Church of Scientology is banned in Germany.
Germany simply doesn’t acknowledge Scientology as a religion. Although it granted the group tax-free status in 2003, Germany regards Scientology as an organization whose "totalitarian structure and methods may pose a risk to Germany's democratic society."
From the home page for the German embassy (click here): "The German government considers the Scientology organization a commercial enterprise with a history of taking advantage of vulnerable individuals and an extreme dislike of any criticism.
"The government is also concerned that the organization's totalitarian structure and methods may pose a risk to Germany's democratic society. … Given this background, Germany, as well as Belgium, France, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, Israel and Mexico, remain unconvinced that Scientology is a religion."
Just so we have that straight.