When Hanoi Rocks were banned from Israel

Mike Cohen
3 min readJun 13, 2023

Jewish Telegraph, June 2023

THE release of a five-CD boxset tracing the career of Finnish rock icons Hanoi Rocks is a perfect time to recall a boozy trip to Israel which resulted in them being banned from returning.
The Days We Spent Underground 1981–1984 (Cherry Red Records) features their three studio albums Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, Hanoi Rocks (1981), Oriental Beat (1982) and Back to Mystery City (1983), classic live set All Those Wasted Years, plus the rarities compilation Self Destruction Blues.
And according to an article by rock music journalist Carol Clerk, who died in 2010, Self Destruction Blues could also describe their Israel visit in 1983.
She wrote in The Quietus in 2008 how her week in Tel Aviv with the band nearly ended in imprisonment.
“It was Passover, which meant that the citizens were banned from selling or consuming anything containing yeast,” she wrote.
“So, bad news for beer drinkers . . . except for us. Band manager Richard Bishop had cunningly struck a deal with the promoters that entitled the entire entourage to unlimited free drinks, round the clock, for the duration of the visit.
“The other thing was that Israel had only started promoting rock gigs a year earlier and had never been confronted with anything like Hanoi Rocks, wild in the streets in their make-up, dresses, scarves, jewellery and hats, p***** to hell and up for anything in the holy week.”
She added that their hotel manager refused to talk to them and that everywhere they went they were met with “the same scowls of disapproval, even from the camels”.
The glam rock image caused trouble when they visited the Kotel.
Carol wrote: “On a trip to Jerusalem, at the Wailing Wall, the five band members were surrounded by yelling, hostile crowds ready to rip their heads off because they were ‘women’, and women weren’t allowed in the sacred men’s enclosure.”
Hanoi Rocks were actually in Israel to perform, playing five nights at Tel Aviv’s Kolnoa Dan Club.
After one performance, they sprayed the audience with lager, provoking a violent reaction from some ‘fans’.
The riotous behaviour continued back at the hotel as they threw furniture out of their window — with a table landing on top of a taxi — and destroyed their room.
Guitarist Nasty Suicide then assaulted the hotel manager with a crutch.
“Soon the police came,” Carol continued. “Our personal details and passport numbers were circulated to every official exit point from Israel. We couldn’t leave. We were going to court, and we could each expect a two-year jail sentence.
“But at the last minute, the taxi driver accepted a meagre settlement of £50 and a bottle of Scotch, and we were sent back to London with orders not to come back.”
Singer Michael Monroe recalled: “I’m amazed we got out of Israel without being thrown in jail. They were drinking 24 hours a day. Not trying to get a reputation — it’s just the way they were.”
The partying came to an end for Hanoi Rocks when drummer Razzle died in a car crash in 1984 — with the group splitting up the following year.

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Mike Cohen

Jewish Telegraph deputy editor and arts editor. Email Mcohen@jewishtelegraph.com with your Jewish arts stories