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All you need is chutzpah

There’s Beatlemania and there’s Beatlemania! Dan Carrier enjoys the memoirs of a Fab Four superfan

04 February, 2021 — By Dan Carrier

Paul McCartney with David Stark, author of It’s All Too Much

“THOSE seats,” said the cigarette-wracked voice in the dark cinema, “were for Mick and Marianne, but they’re stuck in New York, so you’re welcome to them.”

For schoolboy David Stark, who had just climbed through a rooflight to sneak into the Beatles’ premiere of Yellow Submarine, it didn’t get much better than this. The kindly gent who offered him a seat was none other than Keith Richards – and there, in the row in front of him, were John, Paul, George and Ringo.

David is surely the person for whom the term “superfan” was invented – and in a new memoir he describes how he was one of millions who fell deeply in love with the band – and tracks the impact they had on a boy from Stanmore and how their music has shaped his life.

The magic formula the Beatles cooked up and hooked youngsters like David dovetailed with the explosion of the pop industry. The group’s global success went hand in hand with the rise of the teenager, whose disposable income in their jeans pockets meant they were seen as a new market to exploit.

David, who lives in Hampstead, would go on to work in the music industry, working from selling drums to music publishing and promotion.

“I still remember the precise moment I heard that upcoming Liverpool beat combo for the first time,” he writes.

“I was standing at the foot of the stairs, aged just 10 and listening to a vibrant new record on the radio, which featured a memorable harmonica intro, unique-sounding harmonies and an overall energy that just captivated me on the spot.”

George Harrison snapped at the Yellow Submarine premiere

Before his Submarine blag, David had seen the Beatles live at the Hammersmith Odeon, hung around Abbey Road, and travelled to any event where a Beatle might be present. He kept a Beatles scrapbook packed with clippings, photographs and fan club newsletters.

David’s memoir reveals how The Beatles were a gateway for him into brilliant rock and pop. He recalls seeing Jimi Hendrix play at the Saville Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue; watching The Rolling Stones; The Who; Elton John and watching free concerts in Hyde Park and gigs at the Albert Hall.

But while his book walks the reader though anecdotes of gigs he saw and musicians he met, the unprecedented impact the Fab Four had on a generation is the cornerstone of his story, and is illustrated by the following passage.
David’s fandom was such that just months after John Lennon was murdered, he thought nothing of driving to Dorset, having heard that a vague acquaintance from the USA was in the country. The acquaintance was friends with John’s Aunt Mimi and was staying at her home – so he decided to visit the pair and spent the weekend with Aunt Mimi .

“If Mimi was at all wary of having a male stranger from London in his late 20s spending a couple of days with her, she never showed it,” he says. “Instead, she offered me egg, chips and a cup of tea, which I quickly understood as being her way of saying I’d passed the audition.”

His chutzpah is admirable – if bunking into the premiere of Yellow Submarine sounds fearless, the day he decided to knock on Ringo’s door to ask him if he fancied a pint, shows the immense confidence the teenage blagger had.

David was with his friend Vince, he says, and “we didn’t fancy joining our friends at the Wimpy bar by Edgware tube station”. So they jumped into Vince’s car and went for a drive.

“I came up with the crazy idea of driving to Hampstead to find Ringo’s house and ask him out for a pint or two,” says David. Ringo was living in Compton Avenue, off Hampstead Lane. David didn’t know the exact address – so they knocked at a random house.

“We were somewhat taken aback when the door was opened by Lulu, along with her husband Maurice Gibb of the Bee Gees, wearing an apron,” he remembers. “They obviously wondered what two young scruffs were doing on their doorstep on a Saturday evening, but couldn’t have been nicer when I fibbed we’d been invited to Ringo’s place but did not know which house it was.”

Lulu sent them in the right direction – and David walked up a car-strewn drive to ring the bell.

“The door was opened by Ringo himself, casually dressed and holding a pool cue,” he says. “How can I help you, lads,” asked Ringo.

“We were just wondering if you’d like to come out for a pint,” I volunteered.

“That’s very nice of you, but I am afraid we have got friends in tonight,” Ringo replied, looking rather bemused but taking it all in his stride. “Another time, maybe,” he added.

As he said this, David spotted Eric Clapton walking through the hallway behind him, “so he wasn’t fobbing us off”.

David has a striking eye for detail – he remembers the minutiae of every gig, every appearance.

And he also recalls, with a charming, starry-eyed naivety, his various encounters with his heroes. Such anecdotes may not mean much in cold, hard print but David conveys that unique thrill one feels when in the presence of another who has provided years of pleasure.

It’s All Too Much: Adventures of a Teenage Beatles Fan in the 60s and Beyond. By David Stark, This Day In Music, £14.99.

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