Paul McCartney Breaks From Rehearsals To Talk Exclusively About His Forthcoming Concert In Israel, 40 Years after The Beatles Were Famously Banned
My message is a peaceful one and I hope that the idea will spread. Historic Friendship FirstConcert - Hayarkon Park, Tel Aviv, Israel, 25th September 2008 Earlier this year, Israel’s ambassador to Britain, Ron Prosor, apologised for a misunderstanding. So just what was the misunderstanding? 43 years ago the Israeli government saw fit to ban the worlds most famous band, The Beatles, as it was believed that they might corrupt their youth. In a letter sent earlier this year to The Beatles Ron Prosor wrote: There is no doubt that it was a great missed opportunity to prevent people like you, who shaped the minds of the generation, to come to Israel and perform.
From the moment that this apology was made public, journalists worldwide began to speculate that Paul would soon be visiting Israel. On August 27th the wait was over and Paul announced his Friendship First concert, his first ever performance in Tel Aviv, Israel.
On the eve of his stand-alone Friendship First concert, as Paul and his band were putting the finishing touches on their epic show, Paul spoke candidly. And from what was said, there is no question that Tel Aviv is in for an amazing night.
Me and the band are really looking forward to this one. Paul excitedly tells us, You never quite know what to expect from a new audience so its going to be a totally new experience for all of us, the band and the audience together.
Paul is no stranger to playing massive historic shows. So far this year he’s already played to almost 700,000 people in just 3 extra special shows! It certainly has been an amazing year so far, remarks Paul, We started off with a show at home (in Liverpool) and then we went to Kiev and Quebec, two places Id never been to before, so Tel Aviv is in the same spirit as those gigs.
So with several groundbreaking shows under his belt already in 2008, how will Tel Aviv differ? Well, it’s the first time I have ever been to Israel, or really that part of the world so I am very interested to look around and look at the situation, just personally. I am going to be interested as a tourist just to look around and meet the people.
As with this years previous special concerts the worldwide press and McCartney internet chat rooms and blogs are in full swing, guessing what songs Paul might play from the most envied catalogue in music. So can the audience expect any special surprises or dedications in Tel Aviv?
I can’t give anything away really, because then it wouldn’t be a surprise! We’ve been rehearsing some songs we’ve not done for a while but that’s all Ill tell you. We always try and custom make the show to the people we are playing to. What I normally do is meet with a translator before the show and try and get some local phrases, local dedications, hopefully I’ve got to learn them yet though.
We’ve no doubt, judging by Paul’s recent shows, that Tel Aviv is going to have one wild evening come the concert next week. What makes this one even more historic is the fact that The Beatles were banned there. It must have been a good feeling to get an apology after all these years.
We thought it was quite amusing really, being banned, Paul says when we ask about the Israeli ambassadors apology. Its kind of cute that they are apologising, its very courteous but you know I wasn’t really offended in the first place.
So just what did happen in Israel at the height of Beatlemania?
We were banned, explains Paul. They said we were bad for the youth of Israel, and I think that was a mistake I don’t think we were that bad. But you know what we took it as fun, it didn’t really worry us we just went off and played somewhere else. Our manager, Brian Epstein, who was Jewish, was, I think, more insulted than we were. He said, they wont let you play, they think you are bad for their youth so we moved on to the next gig.
Since announcing his visit to Israel the world’s media has gone into over-drive, as some political activists have been quick to use this concert to highlight their own plights. Many stories have inaccurately reported that Paul’s concert is part of the Jewish states 60th anniversary celebrations. Paul Friendship First concert is in fact a stand-alone concert in a series of special one off shows he has performed this year. This show specifically is about music and promoting friendship. Does Paul think his concert can spread a positive message across a country that has been affected by years of conflict?
Well, this is one of the interesting things about going to Israel. I mean, the world knows about the conflicts that have been in that region and I like to think that if I go to a place it becomes evident that my message is a peaceful one and I hope that the idea will spread. It often does happen you know you’ll go to a place and it can affect the audience. It reawakens the idea so that is definitely my message and when I am talking to people, that will be my message and I am sure it is a message shared by a lot of the audience too.
Anyone that’s been to a Paul McCartney concert will have witnessed his cross-generational appeal. It really is quite something to see people from all backgrounds and ages coming together for a shared reason and singing along to the songs that are the soundtracks to so many lives. Given Paul’s unique position does he think that music has the power to change things?
People ask this question through the years; do you think music can change things? I think it can. I think its good for people’s souls. I think without music it would be a seriously bad world, we would have more problems. Music can help people to just calm them down. I also think it can be very interesting for change. I always cite a John (Lennon) song Give Peace A Chance; if you watch the footage from back then, about a million people outside The White House chanting that song to Nixon inside the White House, I think that had an effect. On that occasion, obviously for them to have that song to portray how they were feeling I think was very important. So yes, I think it can change things. Songs like We Shall Overcome have been very important for the civil rights movement so yeah, I think music is great and it can make changes.
And just why does Paul think his music has such a pull across different generations?
I am not sure why, but it really is quite an amazing thing. When we started with The Beatles we thought it might last 2 years, but then it was 10 years, then with the music it was 20, 30, 40 and I think the only answer I can come up with is that the music is well structured, its well written so when I play it now I think this isn’t bad, this is good - whoever wrote this was pretty clever! Hopefully the audience picks that up too. We get kids, 8 year olds, who know all the words and then you get their parents and their parents so it’s a good thing. I’m a family man so its great to see members of the family come together at one of our concerts. I am honoured by that.
2008 has seen Paul McCartney play a number of special one off concerts, whilst making international headlines and taking him to places he’s never been before. In June he received a hero’s welcome as he rocked the city of Liverpool when he played at Anfield Stadium as part of the city’s celebrations for the European Capital Of Culture. A couple of weeks later and Paul performed a spectacular free show, the Independence Concert, to over 350,000 people in Kiev’s Independence Square, which was the largest outdoor music event in the history of the Ukraine. July then took Paul to the city of Quebec for yet another huge headline-making event as he performed to 300,000 people in the city’s national park, The Plains Of Abraham. Paul also found the time (only just though!) to join Billy Joel on stage for the Last Play At Shea show in July, marking the last show ever at New York’s famous Shea Stadium. The Beatles were the first band to perform at Shea Stadium in 1965, which went down in history as the first ever stadium rock show. From all that activity can Paul possibly pick out a stand out moment?
There have been a lot of moments but going home to Liverpool is always great. Then we went to Kiev, which was really interesting, a really big show of 350,000 people. There were some interesting dynamics to that because there is a Ukrainian/Russian thing and I spoke in both the languages, which the promoter said to me afterwards was very good because it brings people together that was memorable. Then there was Quebec that was a great show. There were over 300,000 people there. The streets were lined with people so it was good, good for the ego! Now we are coming to Tel Aviv and I’m hoping for some more fun there.
With that our time is up and Paul needs to get back to his day job with his band. Before we leave, we have one final question; so what’s next for Paul McCartney after Tel Aviv?
Going home, having a rest and having some home cooked food! He than added, Shalom Tel Aviv.
Paul McCartney plays his first ever concert in Tel Aviv, Israel on the 25th September.