This was the first single lifted from the band’s second Australian album Running Free. Paul Hewson’s inspiration for the song is said to have been a quote from a book by former chess world champion Bobby Fischer (pictured) that he had lost a game of chess because his Russian opponent, Boris Spassky, had contrived for him to sit in a position where he had the sun in his eyes, during a match in Havana.
Hewson was a serious chess player and had already penned an album track entitled The Dreaded Maroczy Blind, a reference to a pawn formation gambit invented by Hungarian grandmaster Geza Maroczy of which he was aware.
Like the Cold War across the chessboard that Fischer and his many Russian opponents engaged in throughout the 60’s and 70’s, April Sun in Cuba has an intriguing cold war vibe to it as well, which was further evoked in lyrical references to JFK, Fidel Castro, and the Cuban missile crisis, which resulted in the record being banned in the USA for several years
The song was penned by the late Dragon keyboard player and songwriter Paul Hewson, who composed it using Harvey James (Sherbet) guitar while sitting on the back porch of their share house in Paddington (Syd). Marc Hunter later added some lyrics and melody to create the iconic song “We recorded April Sun in Cuba in Melbourne in early 1977,” says Todd Hunter “The band had a bad car accident that had been a very close call for Robert Taylor and Paul Hewson. When we were recording the backing track, I distinctly remember looking around the studio and thinking we were a bunch of bedraggled, bandaged and neck-braced casualties, recording this bright and shiny pop song – I think that more or less sums up the 70’s for us.”
The song melds the arrogant energy of libertine lead vocalist Marc Hunter with an opening stop-start polka tempo, an earworm of a hook and highly inventive musical backing merging latin influences with jungle/Caribbean sound effects, later added by producer Peter Dawkins, much to the chagrin of the band.
The lyrics are brilliantly cryptic and invite interpretation “…snake eyes on the paradise (or was it pair of dice?)” and “…missile love…”, Russell Mulcahy produced the promo video and the record charted #2 in 1977, blocked from the top position by a bagpipe blitz from Paul McCartney’s tartan tribute song Mull of Kintyre. April Sun in Cuba should have been an international smash hit, instead it became an Ausmusic classic.