Why Was 1965 Beatles Concert in Israel Really Canceled?

Music historian rejects apocryphal story that Israeli leaders feared Fab Four would corrupt youth.

Noya Kohavi

Beatles fans in Israel were on cloud nine Sunday after unofficial reports emerged that former band member Sir Paul McCartney is to perform in the country. "It would be nice to see him in concert in our own backyard," Beatles diehard Yarden Uriel of Givatayim said.

"Despite the high price of the tickets, I plan on going with my wife and daughter in accordance with the saying 'And thou shalt tell thy daughter in that day.'"

Uriel rejected rumors that McCartney's current tour will be his last, and said: "When [Beatles member] George Harrison was still alive he commented that every McCartney tour is said to be his last. This is a public relations stunt aimed at selling tickets. I've seen him five times so far, and I'll certainly go to see him again."

Meanwhile, music aficionado and historian Yoav Kutner on Sunday took the opportunity to dispel the apocryphal story that the Beatles' planned concert in Israel in the early 1960s were canceled because the government was scared that the Fab Four would corrupt the country's youth. "It never happened that way," Kutner explained. "The concert was canceled because of a dispute between music promoters Giora Godik and Yaakov Uri. In 1962, Godik received an offer from the mother of the Beatles' manager Brian Epstein that they come to Israel. But [Godik] preferred to bring singer Cliff Richard, who was much more famous at the time. When Uri bought the rights to hold the concert two years later, Godik was angry that he blew the opportunity and went to the Knesset's Finance Committee to persuade them to bar the promoters from taking out foreign currency."

At the time, expenditures of large amounts of foreign currency in Israel, which would have been used to pay the band, required government approval.

Uriel estimates that the concert would not have been held even if access to foreign currency was approved, because the organizers lacked funds. "It wasn't meant to be," he said.

The truth behind the cancellation of what would have been a historic Beatles performance in Israel was only made public a few years ago in the documentary film "Waiting for Godik," directed by Ari Davidovich.

Uriel also commented on McCartney's friendship and rivalry with band member John Lennon, with whom he co-wrote most of the Beatles songs. Uriel on Sunday criticized the widespread depiction of McCartney in recent years as being the lesser of the two, a notion he says began after Lennon's assassination in 1980. "Lennon died and became a martyr," he said. "McCartney, and I really love that man and his work, will have to pass away before he gets the recognition he deserves as being Lennon's equal."

Kutner said he expected McCartney to play many Beatles songs during the concert. "Not only is this a corrective emotional experience, had the Beatles come here in the early 60s we would not have heard many of these songs that were only written later," Kutner said.

McCartney's publicist, Stuart Bell said, "Nothing's been confirmed."

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