I'd wager that more ink has been spilled about the Beatles than any other pop culture figures of the 20th century. As an avid Beatles fan and scholar, I've read untold numbers of books and articles about my favorite band, but David Humphrey's new book, All Those Years Ago: Fifty Years Later, Beatles Fans Still Remember, released this June by Butler Books, is a new favorite. Humphrey's particular subject is the Beatles' '64 State Fair stop. His use of archival photographs, advertisements and official communications offer a window into a vanished world. But the more than 40 interviews are the real meat of the book. And Humphrey captured some great great ones, speaking with fans, journalists and law enforcement agents in attendance at the show (which he himself attended as well. M more on that below).
While the Beatles themselves prove endlessly fascinating, hearing how they affected the lives of others offers the most intriguing angle. What's remarkable about the interviews in All Those Years Ago is that every person experienced the same show in a different way. This speaks to the remarkable quality of The Beatles – that they became so famous, so beloved, yet still feel intimate and personal to so many people.
Here's our conversation with Humphrey.
NUVO: What prompted this project?
David Humphrey: It was a couple summers ago, I realized no one had written a book about The Beatles at the State Fair, a lot of articles, magazines, and, newspapers. I just thought since it was such an historic event, it should be worthy of a book. So that's when I started to interview people, put it together.
NUVO: You mentioned that there had been no book on The Beatles at the State Fair, but was there anything else that interested you in the project?
Humphrey: Well, my two older sisters went to the concert with my cousin. I was just a little kid. I didn't have a ticket, but I watched it from the dirt track and I remember a few things about it, but not a lot. Just grew up listening to The Beatles and always been a big fan.
NUVO: What would you say made this State Fair performance so notable and worthy of a book?
Humphrey: Well, they had two shows in one day. I think there were six cities on that first tour where they had two shows. Two of those in Indianapolis, one at 5:30 and the other was at 9 or 9:30. That's a pretty big deal.
NUVO: Right, one was in the Coliseum and the other was in the —
Humphrey: Grandstand, right. And George and Ringo really loved Indianapolis. I've read a lot of interviews where they said they really loved Ind, and Paul's been here, what three or four times on his solo tours.
NUVO: And I recall on that leg of the tour, they took a ride around the Motor Speedway. I know that George was really interested in motor racing. I know he got into F1 when he was older.
Humphrey: Yeah, he became a car owner.
NUVO: Would you categorize this book as an oral history?
Humphrey: Oh yeah; I think it's 45 interviews of people who went to the show, there's some journalists I talked to, there's some security officers, I talked to. So yeah, it's an oral history. I'm a big fan of Studs Terkel. I read all of his books, so I kind of modeled this after his books. It's not as great as his books, but I just like that whole idea...I think history is best learned when you talk to someone who went to events or lived through historic events.
NUVO: What kind of research did you do? I assume you went through old newspapers, that sort of thing, but what else?
Humphrey: I went to the Indiana Historical Society and the Indiana State Archives. They helped a lot. They gave me a lot of photographs, documents to use, so I really appreciate them helping out. But other than that, it was from what my sisters and cousins and the fans I talked to told me. There wasn't enough research to write a book, so I said, "Let's just talk to people who were there."
NUVO: Did you come across any previously unknown information while researching this?
Humphrey: Not really. A lot of it I knew already. There was a death threat, I learned that. I don't know if it was true or not, but it was in The Indianapolis Star. I can't remember who did it, I can't really elaborate on that. They didn't really talk about it at the time, but they got death threats everywhere. They were supposed to stay at the Essex hotel in downtown Indy, but there were so many fans there, they took them out the Motor Speedway hotel near the track.
NUVO: Any interest in another book or piece on an important event in Indiana history?
Humphrey:Yeah, I'm working on something on the history of Indiana State Fair Band Day. That's the biggest draw at the State Fair. I'm just looking over that right now, not sure where I'll go with that, but again, I'd like to talk to people who did that.