Track of the Day: 'Havana Affair'

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

The Rolling Stones asked what they should play at tonight’s free concert at Ciudad Deportiva de la Habana. Naturally, when the Stones ask for requests, one complies. David and I came up with an elaborate set list, but there was a song we left out—probably because it’s by the Ramones:

The lyrics of the song, which was featured on the band’s eponymous debut album in 1976, appear to refer to the multiple, and ultimately unsuccessful, U.S. attempts to oust Fidel Castro from power through force. Here’s the first verse:

PT boat on the way to Havana
I used to make a living, man
Pickin' the banana
Now I'm a guide for the CIA
Hooray! for the USA

Baby baby make me loco
Baby baby make me mambo

Hooray! for the USA indeed. This week, President Obama became the first U.S. president in 90 years to visit Cuba—something that would have been inconceivable when the Ramones wrote “Havana Affair” at the height of the Cold War. The Stones are likely to be the first of many major Western acts to play in Havana. No word yet on whether their concert made Havanans either “loco” or “mambo.”

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