Saturday, August 01, 2009

Beatle People: Mal Evans

Malcolm 'Mal' Evans (27 May 1935 – 5 January 1976) is best known as the road manager, assistant, and a friend of The Beatles.

In the early 1960s, Evans was employed as a telephone engineer, and also worked part-time as a bouncer at the Cavern Club, where The Beatles performed. Their manager Brian Epstein later hired Evans as their assistant road manager - Neil Aspinall was The Beatles' first road manager. Peter Brown, one of Epstein's staff, later wrote of Evans as "a kindly, but menacing-looking young man" - Evans was tall and heavily-built - and states that he was also employed as the band's bodyguard. Evans contributed to many Beatle recordings, and appeared in some of the films they made. The Beatles stopped touring in 1966, but Evans carried on assisting the band and working with them in the studio.

Evans was killed by police on 5 January 1976 at his rented duplex in Los Angeles. Officers were called when neighbors reported Evans and his girlfriend having a loud, drunken quarrel. Police believed that the air gun Evans was holding was a firearm, and shot him dead. Evans was cremated on 7 January 1976 in Los Angeles, and his ashes were sent by post back to England, but were lost.

Early life

Details of Evans’ early life are unknown, apart from his birth date. No book has been written about him although he wrote his memoirs, Living The Beatles' Legend, from which extracts were released on 20 March 2005. Anything known about him starts in 1961, when Evans married a Liverpool girl, Lily, after meeting her at a funfair in New Brighton, Merseyside. Gary Evans, their first child, was born in the same year The Beatles were the house band at Liverpool's Cavern Club when Evans first heard them perform during his lunch break. He was then living in Hillside Road, Mossley Hill and working as a telephone engineer for the Post Office. He became a committed fan, even though his musical hero at the time was Elvis Presley.

He first befriended George Harrison, who put forward Evans' name to the Cavern Club's manager, Ray McFall, when he needed a doorman. The 27-year-old Evans was accepted — even though he wore thick-framed glasses — mainly because of his burly 6 ft 6 in frame, which was an asset when holding back the numerous fans at the Cavern's door, and later as an unofficial bodyguard for them. He was later nicknamed the "Gentle Giant" and "Big Mal." In 1962, Evans wrote that it was "a wonderful year", as he had Lily (his wife), his son Gary, a house, a car, and he was working at the Cavern club.

The Beatles

Three months after starting at the Cavern Club, Evans was hired by Brian Epstein as a road manager. Evans and Neil Aspinall’s duties were to drive the van while the band were on tour, set up and test the equipment, and then pack it up again. The Beatles were being driven back to Liverpool from London by Evans through heavy fog on 21 January 1963, when the windscreen was hit by a pebble and cracked, so Evans had to break a large hole in it to see the road ahead. This was in winter, so The Beatles had to huddle up in the back with a bottle of whiskey and try to stay warm in the freezing temperatures.

Evans had many other duties. As well as acting as a bodyguard, he was sent to buy anything they needed, such as suits, boots, meals, or drinks. If Lennon said "Socks, Mal," Evans would have to rush to a local Marks and Spencer store and buy six pairs of cotton socks for him. In 1967, Evans wrote in his diaries that he "bought Ringo some undies for his visit to the doctor." The Beatles started their first European tour in January 1964, and Evans was allowed to take his wife and son with him, but was involved in a "big punch-up" with photographers in Paris whilst protecting them. Epstein’s associate, Alistair Taylor, once asked him why he was driving an Austin Princess limousine, rather than a Daimler, a Bentley, or a Rolls-Royce. The Beatles were forced to choose an Austin (as Evans explained) because they had tested every car to see how wide the doors would open as they (literally) had to "dive into the car" to escape their fans.

The Beatles were introduced to cannabis by Bob Dylan in New York in 1964, and Paul McCartney remembered asking Evans "again and again" to write down McCartney's newly found cannabis-influenced thoughts about life by repeating "Get [write] it down, Mal, get it down!" Evans was as affected by the drug as everybody else, so took a very long time to find a pencil and a piece of paper. The next morning Evans gave the sheet of paper to McCartney, who noted that McCartney had dictated: "There are seven levels!" (of life, as he later explained). The Beatles attended "The Night of 100 Stars" at the London Palladium on 23 July 1964, and during the show Evans constantly supplied them with whiskey and Coca-Cola, which he delivered to them balanced on an old, wooden oar he had found backstage.

The Beatles were assisted by Evans on their American tour when they played two shows at the Hollywood Bowl in the summer of 1965. Epstein arranged for them all to have a four-day rest in a luxurious horseshoe-shaped house on stilts in Benedict Canyon off Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles. They spent their time there smoking large marijuana joints, and Evans and Lennon swam in the large outdoor swimming pool with cigarettes in their mouths, to see who could keep them alight the longest. After recording sessions in London, Lennon, Harrison, and Starr would be chauffeured back to their houses in the “stockbroker belt” of southern England, but Evans, Aspinall, and McCartney would drive to a late-night club to eat steak, chips, and mushy peas. The Bag O'Nails nightclub was one of their favorites, at 8 Kingly Street in Soho, London, as it also presented live music. In his memoirs Evans wrote: January 19 and 20: "Ended up smashed in Bag O'Nails with Paul [McCartney] and Neil [Aspinall]. Quite a number of people attached themselves, oh that it would happen to me... freak out time baby for Mal." In July 1966, The Beatles toured the Philippines, and unintentionally snubbed the nation's first lady, Imelda Marcos. After the snub was broadcast on Philippine television and radio, all of The Beatles' police protection disappeared. The group and their entourage had to make their way to Manila airport on their own. At the airport, road manager Evans was beaten and kicked, and the band members were pushed and jostled about by a hostile crowd. Once the group boarded the plane, Epstein and Evans were ordered off, and Evans said, "Tell my wife that I love her." Epstein was forced to give back all the money that the band had earned while they were there before being allowed back on the plane.

The Beatles' last concert was at Candlestick Park, San Francisco, on 29 August 1966, but Evans continued to run errands for them and to work with them in the studio. After recording Revolver in 1966, McCartney went by himself on holiday to France, but arranged to meet Evans in Bordeaux at the Grosse Horloge church, on the corner of cours Victor Hugo and rue St. James. At exactly the pre-arranged time of one o'clock Evans was standing under the church clock when McCartney arrived. They later drove to Madrid together, but got bored, and phoned Epstein's office in London and asked to be booked on a safari holiday in Kenya. When they arrived there they visited the Amboseli Reserve at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, and also stayed at the exclusive Treetops Hotel, where the rooms are built on the branches of trees.
Evans and McCartney at Heathrow airport in 1966, after their African trip.

They spent their final night in Nairobi at a YMCA, before they returned to London. The Beatles — according to McCartney — needed a new name, and on the flight back to England Evans and McCartney played with words to see if they could come up with something new. Evans innocently asked McCartney what the letters “S” and “P” stood for on the pots on their meal trays, and McCartney explained that it was for salt and pepper, which led to the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band name, although McCartney denies the rumor that Evans came up with the name by himself. They arrived back in London on 9 November 1966. Before the cover of Sgt. Pepper could be completed by Peter Blake, Evans and Aspinall were sent out to find photographs of all of the people that were to be shown on the front cover.

The Beatles and Evans flew to Greece in late 1967 with encouragement from Greek-born "Magic Alex," the director of Apple Electronics, to buy an island or a group of islands. The idea was that the whole Apple entourage would live on the islands in their own separate homes, but would be connected to each other by tunnels leading to a central dome. Evans and his family were included in the plan, but it was abandoned as being unworkable after McCartney refused to participate. McCartney had no housekeeper in 1967, so Evans moved in with him at 7 Cavendish Avenue, St John's Wood, near the Abbey Road Studios. It was at Cavendish Avenue that McCartney bought his first Old English Sheepdog, Martha, and Evans wrote that he often complained about the dog fouling the beds. Evans later bought a house in Sunbury-on-Thames, which was between McCartney's house, and Lennon, Harrison, and Starr's houses outside London.

While working on the Magical Mystery Tour film, Evans wrote about his work duties:
“I would get requests from the four of them to do six different things at one time and it was always a case of relying on instinct and experience in awarding priorities. They used to be right sods for the first few days until they realised that everything was going to go smoothly and they could get into the routine of recording... Then I would find time between numerous cups of tea and salad sandwiches and baked beans on toast to listen to the recording in the control room.”

The Beatles, accompanied by Evans, flew to India in February 1968, to visit the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's ashram, after meeting him on 24 August 1967 at the London Hilton. Evans wrote in his diary on 17 February 1968:
“The press really tried kicking down the gates into the Ashram, the Indian people on the Ashram called me half way through, but as soon as an Indian reporter told me "No bloody foreigner is going to stop me in my own country", I cooled it.”

When Apple was formed in 1968, Evans was promoted from road manager to personal assistant, although his weekly £38 salary remained the same. Evans was the only member of the Apple entourage to be invited to attend (and be a witness) when McCartney and Linda Eastman were married at Marylebone Registry Office on 12 March 1969. Evans wrote in his diary that he was due to be there at 9.45am but Michael McCartney's train from Birmingham was delayed. Peter Brown and Evans passed the register office at 9.15 and saw that there were only a few photographers and ardent fans standing in the rain, but when they left at 11.30am they were mobbed by a crowd of about 1,000 people.

Musical contributions

Evans contributed to many recordings, including lending his voice to "Yellow Submarine". Before recording it on 26 May 1966, at Abbey Road, Evans and Aspinall ransacked the store cupboard next to Studio Two for a range of instruments and implements, such as chains, a ship's bell, whistles, hooters and thunderstorm machines that were to be used on the recording. After recording the overdubs, Evans strapped on a marching bass drum and led everybody in a line around the studio doing the conga dance while banging rhythmically on the drum. Evans played single organ notes on "You Won't See Me," and harmonica, kazoo, and organ on "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" McCartney explained that he showed Evans where the note was on the organ, and then nodded his head when he wanted Evans to play, and shook it when he wanted him to stop. During the recording of "Lady Madonna," Evans was sent to Abbey Road's lavatories to collect toilet paper (which was stamped with the words, "PROPERTY OF EMI"). This was used to cover hair combs, which Evans and others blew through to resemble the sound of a kazoo orchestra.

On "A Day in the Life," Evans controlled an alarm clock and counted the measures in the original 24-bar break. The intent was to edit out the alarm clock when the missing section had been filled with music, but as it complemented McCartney's piece (the first line of McCartney's section began with, "woke up, got out of bed") the decision was made to keep the ringing, although George Martin later commented that editing it out would have been unfeasible. Evans was also one of the five piano players simultaneously hitting the last chord of the song. Evans played tambourine on "Dear Prudence" and saxophone on "Helter Skelter." He played a double solo with Lennon, although neither of them was proficient on the instrument. Evans contributed background vocals and shoveled a bucket of gravel (as part of the rhythm) on "You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)." Evans also contributed to the White Album outtake "What's the New Mary Jane," and hit an anvil on "Maxwell's Silver Hammer." Evans later co-wrote "You and Me (Babe)" with George Harrison, which appears on Ringo Starr's 1973 solo album.

Sgt. Pepper contribution

According to his diaries—from which extracts were released in 2005—Evans stated that he helped to compose songs on the Sgt. Pepper album. Evans wrote, on 27 January 1967: "Sgt Pepper. Started writing song with Paul upstairs in his room, he on piano. What can one say about today—ah yes! Four Tops concert at Albert Hall. The Beatles get screams they get the clap. Off to Bag after gig. Did a lot more of "where the rain comes in" [a lyric from "Fixing a Hole"]. Hope people like it. Started Sergeant Pepper. On 1 February: "Sergeant Pepper" sounds good. Paul tells me that I will get royalties on the song—great news, now perhaps a new home. On 2 February: "Recording voices on Captain Pepper. All six of us doing the chorus in the middle, worked until about midnight." Evans did not receive any royalties and stayed at his £38-a-week pay (£488.68 in current money). Keith Badman (author of The Beatles off the Record) has referred to a tape recording of Evans speaking shortly before his death, on which Evans reiterated some of the statements made in the diary. According to Badman, Evans was asked if it would be a problem that his name were not credited, as the Lennon/McCartney writing name was "a really hot item."

On film and portrait

In the film Help!, Evans plays a confused channel swimmer who pops up through an ice-hole in Austria, and on a beach in the Bahamas. The Beatles went to visit the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in India on 24 August 1967, and during their stay the photographer Philip Townsend took a photo portrait of Evans. The photo is on display in Room 32 at the National Portrait Gallery.

The Beatles asked Evans and Aspinall to find and hire the actors that they wanted to perform in the Magical Mystery Tour film, and to find an old 60-seater coach, on which they were told to paint the Magical Mystery Tour logo which McCartney had designed. Evans later appeared in the film as one of the magicians who cast mysterious spells on the passengers of the bus.

In the Let It Be film, Evans can be seen playing the anvil during early versions of "Maxwell's Silver Hammer," and can be seen talking to police officers on the Savile Row rooftop when they came to stop the live performance. Before the rooftop concert, Evans placed a camera and a microphone in a corner of Apple's reception area, so that when the police came in to complain about the noise—which was expected—they could be filmed and recorded. The Beatles were often filmed by Evans during his time with them (without sound) and a collection of his recordings was later released on DVD.


In 1968, Evans discovered the band Badfinger (then known as The Iveys) and suggested that they be signed to Apple. Although not trained as a studio technician, Evans produced several songs recorded by the Iveys/Badfinger in 1969 and 1970. The most notable of these is the song "No Matter What" by Badfinger, which charted on Billboard's Top 10 in December 1970. Evans also produced some tracks for Keith Moon's solo album Two Sides of the Moon.

Allen Klein

Evans enjoyed an executive position at Apple until 1969, when Allen Klein was hired as a manager to reorganize the whole company. Evans was fired by Klein the next year, because Klein complained to Lennon that Aspinall and Evans were "living like kings—like fucking emperors", although Evans was later reinstated after McCartney, Harrison and Starr complained. On 13 September 1969, Evans accompanied John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Klaus Voormann, Alan White and Eric Clapton to Toronto, Canada, for the Toronto Rock 'N' Roll Revival Concert. He later commented about the concert:
“I was really enjoying myself. It was the first show I had roadied for three years and I was really loving every minute of plugging the amps in and setting them up on stage, making sure that everything was right. Everyone wanted the show to go particularly well because Allen Klein, who had flown over, had organised for the whole of John's performance to be filmed. This was on top of it being video-taped by Dan Richter.”

Later life and death

Evans separated from his wife in 1973, and subsequently moved from the UK to Los Angeles, where Lennon had moved to live with May Pang after his own separation from Yoko Ono. Evans is credited on the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album as providing "tea and sympathy."

Evans was shot and killed by the police on 5 January 1976, in his rented duplex at 8122 W. 4th Street in Los Angeles. The officers mistakenly believed that the air pistol Evans was holding was a rifle. Before his death Evans was working on a book of memoirs called Living The Beatles' Legend, which he was supposed to deliver to publishers Grosset and Dunlap on 12 January 1976. Friends said that Evans was depressed about his separation from his wife Lil Evans — who had asked for a divorce before Christmas — although he was then living with new girlfriend Fran Hughes.

On the night of Evans' death he was so despondent that Fran Hughes phoned his collaborator on his book, John Hoernie, and asked him to visit them. Hoernie saw Evans "really doped-up and groggy," and Evans told Hoernie to make sure that he finished Living The Beatles' Legend. Hoernie helped Evans up to an upstairs bedroom, but during an incoherent conversation Evans picked up a 30.30 air rifle. Hoernie struggled with Evans, but Evans (being much stronger) held onto the weapon.

Hughes phoned the police and told them that Evans was confused, had a gun, and was on valium. Four policemen arrived and two of them, David D. Krempa and Robert E. Brannon, went up to the bedroom. The police report stated that as soon as Evans saw the policemen he pointed the rifle at them. The officers repeatedly told Evans to put down the rifle (which they did not know was an air pistol). but Evans constantly refused. The police fired six shots, of which four struck Evans—killing him instantly. Evans had previously been awarded the badge of "Honorary Sheriff of Los Angeles County." Evans was cremated on 7 January 1976 in Los Angeles. The Beatles did not attend his funeral, but Harry Nilsson and other friends attended. Evans' ashes were sent by post back to England, but were misplaced and lost in the postal system. Upon learning of the lost remains, John Lennon quipped that "they should look in the dead letter file."

The Mal Evans archive

The Beatles' memorabilia is in continuous demand, but a full set of autographs by all four could be forgeries, as Evans and Aspinall used to sign many of them when Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr were too busy. In 1992, Lennon's original pages of lyrics to "A Day in the Life" were sold by the Evans estate for £56,600 at Sotheby's, in London, to an unknown collector.

Other lyrics collected by Evans have been subject to legal action over the years: In 1996, McCartney went to the High Court in England and prevented the sale of the original lyrics to "With a Little Help from My Friends" that Evans' widow Lily had tried to sell, by claiming that the lyrics were collected by Evans as a part of his duties and belonged to the individual Beatles. A notebook in which McCartney wrote the lyrics for "Hey Jude" was sold in 1998 at an auction for £111,500. The notebook also contains lyrics for "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and "All You Need is Love". The pad also contains lyrics, notes, drawings and poems by Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, and Starr, as well as by Evans.

A suitcase that Evans was carrying at the time of his death, which was supposed to contain unreleased recordings, photos and other memorabilia, was lost by the police during the investigation and became known as the lost "Mal Evans Archive". It was reported in June 2004 that an English tourist, Frasier Claughton, bought the suitcase for $36 at a flea market just outside of Melbourne, Australia, unaware of its contents. By August 2004, however, experts had determined that the documents within the suitcase were photocopies made in the 1990s and declared the supposed archive a fake.



Michael Lantz said...

I heard that some people have called him the 5th Beatle.I believe that George Martin was really the 5th Beatle.I like Billy Peston alot,but he was only with the Beatles during the Get Back sessions.Mal Evans did make some musical contributions to the beatles songs.It's sad that he was shot dead by a cop in Los Angeles.Was he working with John at the time,when the inciddent ocurred?

Anonymous said...

No, John was heading into his househusband years at the time and no longer needed Mal as an assistant.