26/03/2016 12:34 GMT | Updated 27/03/2017 06:12 BST

Forget The Rolling Stones - It Was the Manics Who Broke Ground in Cuba

ADALBERTO ROQUE via Getty Images

'So you played in Cuba, did you like it brother? I bet you felt proud, you silly little fucker?'

On the Manic Street Preachers last album, Futurology - released in 2014, bassist and chief lyricist Nicky Wire mused on the band's historic gig in Cuba 13 years earlier.

That's right. An historic gig in Cuba. From a Western rock band. In 2001.

You might not have heard about it, seeing as it seems to have been wiped from the collective mind of journalists getting excited about The Rolling Stones gig in Havana this weekend.

Anyone taking a casual look at the coverage the Stones gig is receiving in the British press would be forgiven for thinking they have broken new ground with their Cuban show.

They haven't.

The Manic Street Preachers did in 2001.

At this point I'll declare my interest. I am a huge Manics fan. I can find joy, beauty, solace and comfort on every one of their 12 studio albums. My sole tattoo is inspired by the opening track of their seminal album The Holy Bible. When I was in bands in my younger days I would dress in army surplus gear in homage to the group's aesthetic. I even once drove to the Severn Bridge - where lyricist Richey Edwards went missing in 1995 - to pay my respects.

But anyway, back to that historic gig.

In 2001, the Manics had just released their sixth album - Know Your Enemy - to a large degree of ambivalence from punters and critics alike. After the huge success of the previous two efforts, Everything Must Go (1996) and This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours (1998), the latest album was messy, overlong and lacking in focus.

They were still popular, but fading from their mid-nineties peak.

The group had always been known for their overt-left wing credentials, and in an era of Noel Gallagher going for drinks at Downing Street with Tony Blair, the Manics seemed practically Marxist in outlook.

Against this backdrop, the group decided to try and get a gig in Cuba, perhaps to show they still had some of the old political fire in their bellies.

With help from Labour MP Peter Hain, visas were procured and the arrangements were made for the concert to take place at the Karl Marx Theatre on February 17 2001.

The 5,500 theatre was filled up by Cubans, some of whom had never seen a rock band before.

But as with most things to do with the Manics, a touch of naivety surrounded the whole event.

Without warning, Cuban leader Fidel Castro himself turned up for the gig, and met with the band before hand.

In awkward footage recorded backstage, singer James Dean Bradfield explains via a translator he is nervous as Castro is mentioned in the song Let Robeson Sing ('Went to Cuba to meet Castro, never got past sleepy Moscow').

It was during this meeting Castro delivered his famous line when talking about the volume of the gig - "It can't be louder than war."

Louder Than War became the name of the concert film.

Castro then told the group he would "summon" them later in the week to spend more time with them, and even invited them for dinner.

You can see in the footage, particularly on the face of Bradfield, that the group realised they had become propaganda tools for the regime.

Years later, Nicky Wire acknowledged shaking the hands of a military dictator wasn't the smartest move the group ever made.

"It wasn't an endorsement. We didn't know Castro was going to be backstage... We never thought Cuba was going to be a communist nirvana. People in post-Soviet Europe have a certain point of view about us going to Cuba: they despise Castro, bring it up all the time that we shook hands with him," he told the Irish Independent in 2014.

Regardless of the regrets over the gig, I am completely baffled by the lack of mention of it in the reports about the Stones show this weekend.

Of course, the Mick Jagger pouting around to Satisfaction for the millionth time, but this time in Havana, should be reported, but let's keep it in context.

The Stones are not the first Western rock band to play Cuba since the revolution. The Manic Street Preachers were.

This is my truth, let it be yours.