Editor’s Notes: Hey Jews!

By David Horovitz August 29, 2008

A semi-serious A to Z set list for Paul McCartney’s Tel Aviv show next month

In the mid-1960s, the family story goes, my mother took my very young sister to see The Beatles live at London’s Hammersmith Odeon. Both today acknowledge they heard no music at all, only adulatory screams from the hysterical audience. After the show, my sister wanted to wait at the stage door in hopes of seeing the band. ‘Not a good idea, is it?’ my mother asked a policeman hopefully. ‘No, madam,’ he solemnly agreed. ‘Not a good idea.’

Now, finally, the lovable, doe-eyed member of the best pop group the world has ever seen, the group who enriched so many of our lives, is coming to Israel. The date is set – September 25 at Park Hayarkon – and the tickets went on sale this week. As the song goes, ‘It’s been a long, long, long time.’

After all these years of waiting for you, Sir Paul, what we’re getting is just ‘a day in the life.’ So to accelerate the acclimatization, here are some brief insights into the Israel context you almost certainly never dreamed your own song book contains. (Not only your song book, to be honest. I’ve had to cheat. But only a little…)

Any Time At All (1964, from The Beatles album ‘A Hard Day’s Night’)

Let me get the complaint in early: I know we banned you in 1965, but did it really have to take this long? ‘Any time at all.’ That’s what you promised. ‘All you gotta do is call, and I’ll be there.’ That was 43 years ago! Forty-three years to answer the phone?

Baby, It’s You (1963, from ‘Please Please Me’)

One of several Beatles songs and cover versions our opposition leader has always assumed were written about him: ‘Bibi, It’s You,’ ‘Bibi’s In Black,’ ‘Everybody’s Trying To Be My Bibi,’ ‘Twist and Shout.’ (Twist and Shout? ‘Well shake it up Bibi, shake it up Bibi…’ Keep up!)

I’d suggest you put ‘Baby, It’s You’ on the tentative September 25 set list. That way, if Tzipi Livni has won the Kadima leadership – following your wise advice to ‘Run for your life if you can, little girl’ – you can play it as her victory anthem: ‘Don’t want nobody, nobody, ’cause baby, it’s you!’ (Maybe get an Ehud Olmert lookalike to sing the middle eight: ‘You should hear what they say about you – cheat, cheat. They say, they say, you never, never, never, ever been true.’)

If, on the other hand, Shaul Mofaz comes out on top, you can quickly replace it with ‘Soldier Of Love,’ ‘Some Other Guy,’ or another of the numerous classics the Beatles used to play. Perhaps even a commiseratory ‘That’s Alright Mama.’

Come Together (1969, from ‘Abbey Road’)

All credit to John Lennon for this astoundingly prescient critique of our internal divides, of the boundless intolerance we in the Jewish state exhibit for approaches to Judaism that differ from our own. I guess we’re not ‘good looking’ enough, because those opportunities for Jewish harmony really shouldn’t be ‘so hard to see.’

Drive My Car (1965, from ‘Rubber Soul’)

In Israel? Are you crazy? Take my advice, Sir Paul: Let someone else drive it.

Eight Days A Week (1964, ‘Beatles for Sale’)

You sing it, we live it – six-day work week, two-day weekend. What we really need is nine days a week, so that the Orthodox among us get a proper weekend too.

Fixing A Hole (1967, ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’)

Please, Paul, maybe you can help us on this. It’s not ‘fixing a hole where the rain gets in’ that we need. It’s fixing a hole where the rain gets out. We used to have a Dead Sea; now it’s a Dead Pond. Lake Kinneret? More like Lakelet Kinneretlet. ‘Words are flowing out like endless rain,’ Lennon wrote in ‘Across The Universe.’
What we need, in this most verbose and opinionated of nations, is rain flowing out like our endless words.

Give Peace A Chance (1969, John Lennon single, originally credited to Lennon-McCartney)

Believe me, Paulie, we’ve tried. We said yes to two states in 1948, and we’ve been doing so ever since. Have you thought about singing this to the Iranians? (See also ‘All You Need Is Love.’ If only. ‘Don’t Let Me Down.’ But they do, every time. ‘Let It Be.’ Can’t; time is not on our side. ‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun.’ Believe us, it isn’t.)

Here Comes The Sun (1969, from ‘Abbey Road’)

Great song. Arguably George’s greatest. But not, I have to tell you, quite the rare cause for celebration in heat struck Tel Aviv that it is in permanently drizzly London and Liverpool.

I’ll Be Back (1964, ‘A Hard Day’s Night’)

That would be nice. And, forgive me, maybe somewhere more intimate next time? Have you thought of the amphitheater in Ra’anana – very good acoustics? Or, better yet, Sultan’s Pool in Jerusalem, nestling in the shadows of the Old City walls. It worked for the likes of Bob Dylan and Dire Straits – long ago, before the first intifada, when rock superstars came here as a matter of routine. Bring Stevie Wonder, play ‘Ebony And Ivory,’ put the world ‘together in perfect harmony’?

Junk (1970, from the album ‘McCartney’)

‘Motor cars, handle bars, bicycles for two… candlesticks, building bricks, something old and new’ – this list of bric-a-brac from your first solo album is what Prime Minister Putin should be selling the Syrians. Not the advanced Iskandar missile system.

Kansas City (1963, from ‘Beatles for Sale’)

Rather too many of our people have gone to ‘Kansas City’ – and, for that matter, ‘here, there and everywhere’ else in the US over the years – whether to ‘get my baby back,’ as this Leiber and Stoller song has it, or for more permanent reasons. We love America, we cherish the alliance, we think no one else understands us better. But we wish fewer Israelis were taking a ‘ticket to ride’ in that direction, and more American Jews were Nefesh B’Nefeshing this way.

Live And Let Die (1973, theme to the Bond movie)

Ideally, of course, it would be ‘live and let live.’ What we’re up against, though, is ‘die and let die.’

Money (That’s What I Want) (1963, from ‘With the Beatles’)

Haven’t seen this old Barrett Strong number on your recent set lists. ‘The best things in life are free, but you can keep ‘em for the birds and bees; now give me money, that’s what I want…’ Hmm. Probably best not to try it in Park Hayarkon. ‘Money don’t get everything it’s true, what it don’t get I can’t use; now give me money…’ The prime minister might think you’re singing about him… And so might the former finance minister. A handful of our mayors. Senior officials at the tax authority…

Worse, some might think you’re singing about yourself. ‘Baby you’re a rich man,’ it’s true, but not – to the tune of $50 million – quite as rich as you were before the divorce. (Still, this tour should help. Reports are that your one-off here will generate a hefty three or four million dollars. I was up most of the night on Wednesday trying desperately to get on-line to the overwhelmed ticket agency to make sure I could give you my share.)

Nowhere Man (1965, from ‘Rubber Soul’)

And this one might be risky, too. ‘He’s a real nowhere man, sitting in his nowhere land, making all his nowhere plans for nobody.’ Who are you talking about here – Netanyahu? Barak?

OB-LA-DI, OB-LA-DA (1968, from ‘The White Album’)

Word is that behind the easy-going reggae-ska rhythm, you were trying to make a point about the virtues of immigration – about people building new lives, new families and ‘a home sweet home,’ in their new country, ‘with a couple of kids running in the yard.’ You were writing it, as music magazine Mojo recently noted, in the spring-summer of 1968, when Conservative politician Enoch Powell was warning about the ‘rivers of blood’ that would flow if the influx from the collapsed Empire to the UK continued. Ours, Paul, is a country that thrives on immigration – one in six or so Israelis arrived here from the former Soviet Union during the past 20 years alone. ‘Life goes on,’ you sang jauntily, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Piggies (1968, from ‘The White Album’)

Charles Manson was only the most notorious of the many to have misinterpreted this Orwellian Harrisong as a specifically anti-police diatribe rather than the more general social critique your late bandmate intended. For us, unfortunately, it works both ways. We watch dismayed as Israel becomes less of a light unto the nations and all too ‘normal’ a country, with rising crime and a police force that seems increasingly incompetent, if not corrupt itself. Meanwhile, earning inequalities mean that for low-income families, Holocaust survivors and all the rest of ‘the little piggies, life is [indeed] getting worse,’ while the affluent ‘bigger piggies… always have clean shirts to play around in.’

Questionnaire (The Rutles, 1996)

We can’t really expect you to play this, being as how it’s the work of that most skilled and admiring of Beatles tribute bands, The Rutles. Then again, George did make an appearance in The Rutles’ legendary TV mockumentary ‘All You Need Is Cash.’ And this song, a pastiche hybrid of ‘Fool On The Hill’ and ‘I’m So Tired,’ with a touch of ‘Imagine’ and ‘I Am The Walrus’ thrown in, has a certain Israeli resonance, with its depiction of a weary, over-surveyed public answering a pollster’s questions: ‘Do you think there’s One True God, a False God, or No God at All? Put a tick in the appropriate box.’

Revolution 1 (1968, from ‘The White Album’)

‘You say you got a real solution, well, you know, we’d all love to see the plan…’ Uncanny, John wrote this 40 years ago, and yet it’s exactly what Bush said to Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas only last week… and the week before that, and the week before that…

Sexy Sadie (1968, from ‘The White Album’)

We’ve reworded this one a little. Hope you don’t mind. Now we call it, ‘The Nasrallah Song’:
‘Hassan Nasrallah, what have you done? You made a fool of everyone. You made a fool of everyone… But Hassan Nasrallah, you’ll get yours yet. However big you think you are. However big you think you are. Hassan Nasrallah, ooh-ooh, you’ll get yours yet.’

Too Many People (1971, from the McCartney album ‘Ram’)

‘Too many people going underground,’ you sang, doubtless in subtle reference to the well-protected subterranean Teherani nuclear program. Too subtle, unfortunately. The Chinese, the Russians, even the Germans, don’t yet seem to have gotten the message.

Unfinished Music (1968 John Lennon album)

Your acerbic other half/rival released this album with Yoko One inside a cover showing the couple fully, frontally nude. The album title, its ‘Two Virgins’ subtitle and that naked photograph, they said, were intended to convey their sense of being ‘two innocents lost in a world gone mad.’ The astoundingly controversial nature of the cover art meant that next-to-nobody bothered to listen to the music.

In Israel, Paul, we often have the sense of being misjudged on the basis of that kind of superficial approach, of grappling with misrepresentations peddled and disseminated by people who haven’t bothered to look beyond the controversy and listen to the real music within. (This analogy, I should stress, should not be over-stretched. The tracks on ‘Unfinished Music’ are entirely redundant, self-indulgent rubbish. I defy anyone to get past the first four minutes of bird noises and clanging, even for research purposes.)

Venus And Mars (1975 McCartney and Wings album)

We Israelis have been at the forefront of entrepreneurs buying up real estate on the moon ($60 for an eighth of an acre) and if we can’t yet reach the pair of planets you’ve been singing about, we’ll travel everywhere on this one in our relentless search for challenge, adventure and improbable UN allies (step forward Palau, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands). If only half the country is in Park Hayarkon to hear you, that’s because the other half is probably still getting over summer jet lag.

We Can Work It Out (1965 Beatles single)

‘Life is very short, and there’s no time, for fussing and fighting my friends.’ Never a truer line. ‘So I will ask you once again: Try and see it my way…’ Yes, indeed.

taXman (1966, from ‘Revolver’)

Income tax and VAT and national insurance and city tax and health tax and fuel tax surcharges and parental contributions to education and airport tax and TV license fees and customs and worse than ever bank charges. And you thought it was bad with prime minister Wilson in the 1960s?!

Yesterday (1965, from ‘Help’)

Truth is, our troubles didn’t seem ‘so far away’ yesterday, and we’ve known for a long time that they’re ‘here to stay’ for the foreseeable future. But if you can elevate us to your fundamentally cheerful, thumbs-up world for a few hours on September 25, Sir Paul, then, to quote from your first post-Beatles album, ‘that would be something, really would be something.’

Zoo Gang (1974, B-side of the McCartney and Wings ‘Band on the Run’ single)

You wrote this faux dramatic instrumental as the theme tune for a British TV series about a group of ex-World War II fighters who reunite three decades later to put the world to rights. The world evidently decided it could get along without them; the show was canceled after six episodes. A good place to end, some might say, since the title aptly describes the menagerie running our country.

Still, I hope you’ll give us an encore. How about ‘Hey Jews.’ That’s what it’s called, isn’t it?

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