Published on July 4th, 2015 | by Andy Sedlak
‘Havana Daydreamin” – Jimmy Buffett 
Summary: Buffett leans on acclaimed songwriter Steve Goodman to deliver the highlights on his fourth major label release. The air is let out of the balloon when Goodman is out of the picture. And in spite of one strong coastal concept after another, most of the songs are the musical equivalent to cold gumbo.
Producer: Don Gant
Label: ABC Dunhill
Top 40 U.S. singles: 0
Peak Billboard Position: #65
Havana Daydreamin’ came during run of Jimmy Buffett albums in the 1970s that steadily pushed his talents into the mainstream by adding one coastal standard after another to what we now recognize as a fun-loving and unexpectedly philosophical body of work.
What makes Havana Daydreamin’ interesting in hindsight, however, is that it seemed to be the one album released during that stretch that added virtually nothing to his celebrated canon. It’s not a bad album. It’s just an underwhelming one – with slightly prophetic song titles like “Clichés” and “Kick it in Second Wind.”
It’s also worth noting that Havana Daydreamin’ has been the subject of urban legend among hardcore Parrotheads due to the “various versions” that supposedly exist. All of them seemingly revolve around a sloppy cut called “Please Take Your Drunken 15-Year-Old Girlfriend Home.” The song would never be officially released but was later featured heavily on my college radio show, The Stage Door Radio Hour.
I digress. Obviously.
Jimmy Buffett was 29 years old when he released Havana Daydreamin’ in 1976. Two years earlier he released Living and Dying in 3/4 Time and scored his first hit with “Come Monday.” Later that same year – at 27 years old – he released A1A, boasting future concert staples “A Pirate Looks at Forty,” “Tin Cup Chalice” and “Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season.” Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes, released in 1977, featured not only the title track but also “Miss You So Badly” and the lifestyle-defining “Margaritaville.” The record after that was responsible for “Cheeseburger in Paradise.”
Not a bad period for a drunken son of a son of a sailor from Mobile.
Thirty-nine years have passed since the release of Havana Daydreamin’. That includes 40 tours (in 39 years!) and 21 albums. Yet virtually none of the songs on Havana Daydreamin’ are regularly played in concert. They’re not even within sailing distance of cracking into the “Big 8” songs played at virtually every show.
That said, I doubt there’s anything here Buffett would be embarrassed by now. The most charming recording on Havana Daydreamin’ is his reading of Steve Goodman’s “This Hotel Room,” where he and the crew seem to finally shake off their album-long hangovers.
It’s possible that he wanted to do right by his pal. Goodman also wrote the Arlo Guthrie hit “City of New Orleans” and the David Allan Coe standard “You Never Even Call Me By My Name.” Goodman died of leukemia in 1984. He was only 36 and maintained his sense of humor until the end – reportedly christening himself “Cool Hand Leuk.”
Goodman wrote Havana Daydreamin’s other undeniable highlight, “Woman Goin’ Crazy on Caroline Street,” with Buffett – making him directly responsible for album’s sturdy bookends.
From “Woman Goin’ Crazy on Caroline Street:”
She claimed in a loud voice to be a dancer
But I don’t think she’s cut a rug in years
Listens to the jukebox for her answers
And slowly guzzles twenty-five cent beers
The whole first verse is actually kind of a stunner…
She talks about the men she’s known and then some
She’s seen them in her dreams and on the street
She slides her dapper legs from beneath the table
As if to reveal some kind of treat
The song ends with the narrator beaten in a bar brawl.
Buffett performs the record’s opening cut live in 2010.
The next song, titled “My Head Hurts, My Feet Stink and I Don’t Love Jesus,” conveniently picks up where the first track led off.
From “My Head Hurts, My Feet Stink and I Don’t Love Jesus:”
Got to get a little orange juice
And a Darvon for my head
I can’t spend all day
Baby, layin’ in bed
I’m goin’ down to Fausto’s
to get some chocolate milk
Can’t spend my life in your sheets of silk
From there, Buffett and crew slip into a slumber. Perhaps Goodman was unavailable for further consultation? While song subjects are light and often whimsical, Buffett’s singing is uncharacteristically dull. Arrangements are similarly straightforward, without as much as a sprinkle of TLC. It’s as if both Buffett and his band mates are nursing real-life hangovers like the one in “My Head Hurts.”
A 1985 interview with Buffett.
The lumbering “Big Rig,” written by longtime Coral Reefer Greg “Fingers” Taylor, lumbers a little too much for its own good. “Defying Gravity” and the title track are both snoozes. “Clichés” begins with a strong concept, but Buffett forgot to write the rest of the song. Clocking in at a little over two and a half minutes, it feels like a missed opportunity.
He’s always tuned into Star Trek
She’s always tuned into him
Hidin’ his cookies when he gets the munchies
Tryin’ hard just to keep the boy slim
The strangest song on the album is “Something So Feminine About A Mandolin,” which, again, starts with a promising concept but limps along without much feeling or interest from its author. It was one of two songs on the album written with future wife Jane Slagsvol. The song represents Buffett’s purest return to stripped down folk-country – a genre he originally tried to break into when he released his debut in 1970.
From “Something So Feminine About A Mandolin:”
‘Cause there’s somethin’ so feminine about a mandolin
The way that they feel, the way that they ring
Just to see slender fingers, movin’ so quickly
Made this boy want to sing
“Kick It in Second Wind,” is about the grueling life of a touring musician but could just as easily be about any of the businesses we work in. Also written with Slagsvol, the romp works almost as well as it should late in the record.
When I listen to Havana Daydreamin’, I feel like the album suffered after going through several forms, lineups and suggested titles. At one point, the album was to be called Kick It in Second Wind and feature songs like “Ever Wonder Why We Ever Go Home,” and “We’ve Been Taken to the Cleaners (And I Already Had My Shirts Done).” It’s hard to say, but those songs sound more interesting. “Go Home” was actually later released in a different form. Another song from that time, “Please Take Your Drunken 15-Year-Old Girlfriend Home,” was reportedly toyed with but never saw the light of day. As mentioned above, I came across a bootlegged version when I was in college and played it on college radio, which is sort of what makes college radio uniquely wonderful. It’s a strange, strange honky tonk. And one that would probably never be released today.
From “Please Take Your Drunken 15-Year-Old Girlfriend Home:”
Please take your girlfriend home
She’s only 15 and shouldn’t be back here alone
I’m horny and my mouth begins to foam
So please take your drunken 15-year-old girlfriend home
The fabled lost track, “Please Take Your Drunken 15-Year-Old Girlfriend Home.”
When an album goes through so many “alternate versions,” the most cohesive product rarely ends up on store shelves. Hell, I still wonder if Bruce Springsteen’s unreleased The Ties That Bind from 1979 was better than The River that was eventually released in 1980 (It had “Loose Ends” on it, people!). In Buffett’s case, we know that by waiting, “Woman Goin’ Crazy on Caroline Street” was able to get on to the album. However, the same goes for “Clichés.” Maybe it’s ultimately a push.
Havana Daydreamin’ was a success by Buffett’s standards in 1976. Although it didn’t put up any successful singles or songs that are now considered fan favorites, it made it to Number 65 on the Billboard Album Chart. That was an all-time high for him at the time.
Buffett kept trucking after its release. The platinum-certified Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes was released about a year later. From there, he was off to the races. He still hasn’t come off the road.
“Now someday I’ll get better and my ramblin’ days will be through,” he sang on “Big Rig.” “I won’t have any more gigs to play and I’ll be back home there with you.”
Thank God she didn’t wait up.