Shalom Hanoch, Israel’s first rock star

By BOAZ COHEN
October 22, 2016 19:31

"The first time Israelis ever got up to dance next to the stage was at Tamouz concerts; This was a very big change."




Shalom Hanoch

Shalom Hanoch (L) and Tamouz, 1976. (photo credit:Courtesy)

This month Shalom Hanoch – one of the country’s most important rock composers and performers – has turned 70.

This is a good opportunity to take a behind-the-scene look at his musical career, briefly delving into: kibbutz vs. the big city; English rock; lyrics by Meir Ariel, producer Louis “Louie” Lahav; sound technician Tomy Friedman; Arik Einstein, the patron; unending rehearsals and trying to “break the fourth wall and reach the audience directly,” as Shalom Hanoch himself said.

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His band, Tamouz, was a mixture of influences and originality, incredible inspiration and tremendous passion to create something that had never existed previously on the Israeli music scene.

In 1976, the band came out with the best Hebrew rock album ever created, End of the Orange Season, but Tamouz never came out with any follow up albums, and as their producer, Louie Lahav said, “The album only consisted of eight songs – but what a great album it was.”

In 1971, Hanoch put out his first solo album in English in London. At the same time, Ariel Silber came out with his debut album in France which included the two songs: “Movie Instead” and “When it’s time.” Although the album did not bring about the long-awaited breakthrough abroad he was hoping for, the rock song “Movie Instead” was much wilder than any other popular songs in Israel at the time and it quickly shot to the top of charts back home in Israel in the foreign music category.

In 1973, Hanoch returned to Israel following the flop of his solo English album.

He realized that he would never be able to compete with the likes of Elton John, Cat Stevens and John Lennon. As luck would have it, Silber had also just returned to Israel after shelving an entire album he’d recorded in English.

Hanoch was 28 when he founded Tamouz. After studying acting at Beit Zvi, he put out a few albums with Arik Einstein, went to the UK in an attempt to launch an international career there and then returned home with his tail between his legs. “Frankly, keeping a band together is a pain in the ass,” Hanoch said. “It’s pretty much the hardest thing in the world to do. It’s completely unnatural to be a member of a band, unless that’s the only thing you want to do with your life, or you’ve been in the business a million years like Mick Jagger, so you’re used to it.”

Upon returning to Israel, Hanoch searched for a band he could play with.

“I was living with my wife, Lihi, and my baby daughter, Maya, at my in-laws in Petah Tikva,” Hanoch recalls. “I wrote a few of Tamouz’s songs, such as ‘Street Light’ and ‘I Can’t Sleep Now’ next to the orchards on nights when I was overwhelmed with thoughts and feelings and couldn’t get to sleep.” I’d been looking for a band similar to the British band I’d played with in the UK, and then I happened upon a band called Sons of Noah – a bunch of American guys here in Israel. So I recorded the first version of ‘Don’t Know How to Tell You,’ ‘Come Dance’ and ‘Go See a Psychiatrist’ with them. But that was it – we didn’t complete a full album together.”

In 1974, Arik Einstein invited both Hanoch and Silber to perform together at his “Go Slowly” concert. “I participated in a number of gigs after I returned from the UK,” Hanoch recalls.

“For a few months, I played with Danny Litani, Mati Caspi and Ariel Silber. But the songs were all over the place, and we didn’t gel as a group. So, one day, Mati and Danny failed to show up, and that’s how Ariel and I created Tamouz. At first we played with an American bass guitarist named Adam Zeidel, and then came Meir Israel. When two more guys from northern Israel joined the band – Ethan Gedron and Yehuda Eder – I knew that it was finally possible to fulfill my dream.”

The band’s headquarters were located in Arik Einstein’s office. After his album, Drive Slowly was released, Einstein absolutely fell in love with Tamouz. They soon moved into an office at Hagar Productions on Even Gvirol Street just underneath the Keter Hamizrach restaurant.

They would practice from dawn till dusk and Einstein was there helping them all the time.

“Arik loved the spirit of the band – he was full of good humor,” Hanoch says.

“He would do everything for us in those days. He even let us open for him at his live concerts. He let us work out of his office for free and even gave us money when we needed it. He basically kept us afloat and helped us make our first breakthrough.”

“Arik is also the one who thought up the name Tamouz,” Eder recalls. “At first, he said we should call ourselves, ‘Olympiada’ but when Shalom voiced his disapproval, Arik immediately came up with the name Tamouz. Everyone just kind of stood there thinking about how that name felt, and Arik continued, ‘Tamouz...The name makes you think of heat – of summer... Tamouz.’ And that was it.”

Hanoch wanted to create a style that was similar to what he had been exposed to during his time overseas. He wasn’t interested in recording nice, pleasant music. “I told the guys, ‘We’re not Kaveret, we’re not here to entertain the crowd. We need the people in the audience to feel like they’re part of the performance.’ They all agreed with me and our performances were absolutely incredible. We worked on existing songs, but we altered them so that they’d fit the crowd better.”

“I was emotionally and psychologically ready to work harder than I ever had in my entire life. The songs I’d written before weren’t real rock and roll. I wanted to go back to the world I’d discovered in London. I played songs by Genesis and Yes. All the songs I wrote when I got back home were inspired by the sounds I’d heard in the UK. I’d ask the guys, ‘Can you hear the difference?’ And then when we met Louie Lahav, I knew right away we’d found our man.”

And indeed, it’s possible that Lahav was the glue that kept everything together as they produced their masterpiece End of the Orange Season and the springboard from which Hanoch launched his career and became a national rock ‘n’ roll hero.

“Louie was so professional and had incredibly advanced recording equipment. He worked long and hard. He took our songs and raised them to greatness. Louie knows how to bring the best out of people, and to make them believe in themselves. He gave me great feedback and also inspired us to create beautiful music.”

Since Einstein was such a great patron to Hanoch, Einstein’s good friend and colleague Uri Zohar also began working with Tamouz. The two of them had already collaborated on a few films, namely Shablul, Lul and Metzitzim. Einstein asked Zohar to come help organize the band, and he agreed whole heartedly.

Zohar had a strong personality and was very creative – but also a bit overbearing.

“No one dared say anything to Uri,” Hanoch admits. “We deferred to him on every decision because he was so incredibly talented and had a number of successes under his belt.”

“But Louie wouldn’t stand for Zohar’s behavior and one night the situation came to a head,” recalls Eder. “Louie really let Uri have it. He said, ‘Look here, Uri, this is not a theatrical production. This is rock ‘n’ roll and you don’t understand a damn thing about it.’ There was silence in the room. The fear was palpable. In essence, Louie was saying that he was the boss. And it worked. Uri responded, saying, ‘Ok. Whatever you want. I guess you don’t really need me,’ and then he left.

That was an incredibly significant evening in the history of the band. First of all, it was the first time all the members really believed that Tamouz was an actual bona fide rock band that was creating art and not just there to entertain an audience. Tamouz was not in the least bit entertaining and didn’t have any ambition to be anything other than a true rock band. Secondly, Louie’s outburst had made it clear to everyone that he was the one in charge in the studio as well as on stage.

“Louie insisted that Shalom tell stories between sets,” Eder says. “Shalom didn’t want to, but Louie made him. He said it was imperative that Shalom connect with the audience. Even when Ariel Silber claimed that the audience would be annoyed with such long song introductions, Louie replied, ‘So they’ll be annoyed. But they’ll also listen.”

Hanoch was terrified that the audience would misunderstand him. “Louie would tell me, ‘If they don’t understand you the first time, they’ll get it on the second or third time around. Or maybe they still won’t understand even then. It might take them years to realize how amazing you are.”

Lahav also encouraged the band to get the audience up and dancing.

“The first time Israelis ever got up to dance next to the stage was at Tamouz concerts. This was a very big change,” Hanoch says. “This also created new problems, since some people in the crowd approached the box office after the show and demanded that their tickets be reimbursed since they couldn’t see the stage during the concert since people had stood up and danced right in front of them.”

MEIR ISRAEL says that there was a bit of tension, however, between the two band leaders. “I don’t think there were ever any feelings of jealousy. Shalom was never jealous of Ariel and Ariel was absolutely crazy about Shalom’s songs. You can ask him yourself – I’m sure he’ll agree with me. And yet neither of them really offered the other much in the way of positive feedback. Both of them pretty much kept their thoughts to themselves.”

“I felt a strong connection with Shalom since we’d both grown up on a kibbutz,” says Eder. “We both knew how to express our most intimate feelings about our country, our community, our ideology, but neither of us knew how to express our personal feelings. It was normal on the kibbutz to talk about things that were bad for the collective, but we’d never heard anyone begin a sentence with the words, ‘I feel’ or ‘I want.’ That would have been a sin against the community. Through his music, Shalom succeeded in rebelling against this ideology. He left the kibbutz and wrote a lot about what he was experiencing and feeling. All his feelings came out in his songs. He expressed such intense sadness through his lyrics.”

Another person who got involved in the band was Meir Ariel, who helped write lyrics. Eder continued to produce songs for Ariel after Tamouz split up.

And after Ariel died, Eder took it upon himself to organize sing-along evenings to memorialize Ariel’s music.

“I know you like the way I write songs,” Eder remembers Hanoch saying, “but I have a friend from the kibbutz who’s older than me and who’s much better at song writing than I am. His name is Meir Ariel.” Hanoch showed them some of the lyrics Ariel had written for Tamouz. One of them was the song, “Walking Idly” and another was “End of the Orange Season” which Ariel wrote together with Hanoch, and which they used for the name of the entire album.

“Meir truly understood where Shalom was coming from, and so everyone in the band benefited from their collaboration. And that’s how two of Tamouz’s best songs were written by Ariel.”

“It only took us one take to record that song,” Hanoch recalls fondly. “That’s where Louie was so strong – he could conceptualize the whole album.

He knew exactly where we needed to relinquish our egos, and where we needed to make changes...” HANOCH THE artist was created during his time with Tamouz. Tamouz arrived before its time. They appeared on the Israeli stage just after the Yom Kippur War, when people were still in shock and speechless. Today, looking back in retrospect, he can better understand what the situation was like then.

Tamouz could not have succeeded in 1967 because Israeli society still regarded rock ‘n’ roll with suspicion – maybe even with hostility. Hanoch needed to leave the kibbutz, the IDF music troupe, and even the country so that he could return home in the 70s as the prophet of rock ‘n’ roll. At the time, no true Hebrew-language, serious rock ‘n’ roll existed in Israel.

Hachurchilim created a type of Israeli rock with Greek influences that was inspired by Led Zeppelin, the Animals and Bach, but they sang in English.

Aharit Hayamim, Kaveret and Tamouz sang in Hebrew.

Hanoch wrote the Hebrew song, “I Don’t Know How to Tell You,” in the early 70s either as a love song, or an expression of pain, such as after separating from a loved one, but some of the lyrics could be interpreted as a personal statement by someone who represents the younger generation. Someone who is confused and wondering what to do. Someone who has lost confidence in empty words and the national arrogance that almost led our country on a path of self destruction in 1973.

Tamouz only lasted as a band for two years. But ironically, its dissolution was actually beneficial to both of its leaders.

Silber was later awarded Singer of the Year, and his album, Rutzi Shmulik won Album of the Year. His performances were sold out. Hanoch went on to produce three solo albums in just four years: A Man Within Himself, Shalom Hanoch Live, and White Wedding. These albums turned him into a bona fide rock ‘n’ roll star and one of the most influential individuals who had grown up within the Israeli music scene.

End of the Orange Season was also a new beginning. “What I understood at the time was that I was not meant to be part of a band,” Hanoch discloses. “I’d grown up on kibbutz – and the band was too much like the kibbutz. But I’d left from the kibbutz and I was trying to become my own person.” Indeed, he tried and succeeded.

This article is an excerpt from the book, And When I Open the Door [Hebrew] by Boaz Cohen, which deals with Tamouz, The End of the Orange Season and Israel in the mid-1970s, and is scheduled to be published this fall by Marom Books.

Translated by Hannah Hochner.

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