Mal Evans

After completing Revolver in 1966, Paul McCartney went alone on holiday to France, but arranged to meet Mal Evans in Bordeaux. The pair drove to Madrid, and then went on a safari holiday in Kenya. On the flight back to England Evans asked McCartney what the S and P stood for on the salt and pepper sachets; the exchange led to the coining of the name Sgt Pepper.

On the album Evans can be heard in a number of places. He played harmonica on Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite!, and sounded the alarm clock ahead of McCartney's vocals on A Day In The Life. He also counted the bars where the orchestral crescendi were later added, and was one of the players of the iconic final piano chord. There is also some evidence that he helped write some of the songs, notably Fixing A Hole, though he never received a songwriting credit.

I remember at one point we asked Mal to shovel a bucket full of gravel as a rhythmic device. We had a bit of a giggle doing those kind of tracks. Mal also played the anvil on Maxwell's Silver Hammer and came in very useful on Yellow Submarine to turn various devices. He rang the alarm clock on A Day In The Life. He was always in the studio if we needed an extra hand. I remember we had one thing that required a sustained organ note, Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite!, so I said to Mal, 'Look, that's the note. I'll put a little marker on it. When I go "There", hit it.' Which he did. And I said, 'When I shake my head, take your finger off.' So for that kind of part, he was very helpful.
Paul McCartney
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles

Mal Evans and Neil Aspinall helped gather the portraits for the famous Sgt Pepper cover, which was designed and assembled by Peter Blake and Jann Haworth.

The sleeve was the result of conversations with Peter Blake. They had a list of the people they wanted standing in the background, so Mal and I went to all the different libraries and got prints of them, which Peter Blake blew up and tinted.
Neil Aspinall

Sgt Pepper wasn't the only album to feature a contribution from Mal Evans. He played single organ note on the final verse of You Won't See Me, backing vocals and handclaps on Dear Prudence, and trumpet on Helter Skelter. In the Let It Be film he can be seen adding clanging percussion on Maxwell's Silver Hammer, though on the Abbey Road recording Ringo Starr played the anvil.

Evans played a handbell and contributed effects to the White Album outtake What's The New Mary Jane, and shoveled gravel as part of the rhythm track for You Know My Name (Look Up The Number).

He appeared in the film Help!, as a confused swimmer in Austria, and again on a beach in the Bahamas. He was also in 1967's Magical Mystery Tour as one of the magicians. He can be seen in the Let It Be film, most notably towards the end of the famous rooftop sequence. He greets two police officers in the entrance to Apple, and takes them onto the roof at the end of Dig A Pony. As The Beatles play Get Back he is instructed to turn off the amplifiers of Lennon and Harrison, which nearly curtails the concert. Evans is seen talking to the policemen in an attempt to allow The Beatles to continue playing.

In the end it started to filter up from Mal, who would come creeping in, trying to keep out of camera range, that the police were complaining. We said, 'We're not stopping.' He said, 'The police are going to arrest you.' - 'Good end to the film. Let them do it.'
Paul McCartney

After Apple was formed in 1968 Mal Evans was formally promoted from road manager to The Beatles' personal assistant, although his weekly salary of £38 remained the same. He discovered the group The Iveys, who were later renamed Badfinger, and suggested they be signed to the label. He produced several of their songs, including the 1970 hit No Matter What.

Evans was a witness at Paul McCartney's wedding to Linda Eastman on 12 March 1969 at Marylebone Registry Office, London.

I didn't go to Paul and Linda's wedding, but they had lunch or tea afterwards at the Ritz, and I think it was just Paul, Linda, Mal, Suzy [Aspinall] and me. I don't remember anybody else being there.
Neil Aspinall

Evans was the roadie at the debut Plastic Ono Band show in Toronto in September 1969.

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.
Mal Evans

Mal Evans

Evans remained at Apple until Allen Klein fired him in 1970, although he was later reinstated at the behest of McCartney, Harrison and Starr. He separated from his wife Lily in 1973, and moved to Los Angeles, where he lived with a girlfriend, Fran Hughes. There he worked on his memoirs, Living The Beatles Legend, which he was to have delivered to his publishers on 12 January 1976.

On the night of 5 January, Evans became despondent at his rented apartment at 8122 W 4th Street. Worried by his behaviour, Hughes called his collaborator on the book, John Hoernie. During a conversation with Hoernie, Evans picked up a gun, brandishing it in a threatening manner. The weapon has variously been reported as an air rifle or an unloaded .30-30 rifle.

Fran Hughes called the LAPD, telling him Evans was confused, had taken Valium, and had a gun. Four policemen arrived shortly afterwards. Two of them, David D Krempa and Robert E Brannon, went in the upstairs room to talk to Evans. He was told to drop the gun but refused. The police fired six shots at Evans, four of which hit him. He died instantly.

Mal Evans got shot by the LA Police Department in 1976. It was so crazy, so crazy. Mal was a big loveable bear of a roadie; he would go over the top occasionally, but we all knew him and never had any problems. The LAPD weren't so fortunate. They were just told that he was upstairs with a shotgun and so they ran up, kicked the door in and shot him. His girlfriend had told them, 'He's a bit moody and he's got some downers.' Had I been there I would have been able to say, 'Mal, don't be silly.' In fact, any of his friends could have talked him out of it without any sweat, because he was not a nutter. But his girlfriend - she was an LA girl - didn't know him that well. She should not have rung the cops, but that's the way it goes.
Paul McCartney

Mal Evans was cremated in Los Angeles on 7 January 1976. His ashes were lost in the post on their journey to England, but were later recovered. A suitcase which was taken by the police from the apartment, supposedly containing unreleased Beatles recordings, photographs and memorabilia, was lost during the subsequent investigation.

In 1992 John Lennon's handwritten lyrics to A Day In The Life were sold by Mal Evans' estate for £56,600 at Sotheby's in London. In 1996, however, Paul McCartney prevented Lily from selling the lyrics to With A Little Help From My Friends, claiming that Evans had collected the lyrics as part of his official duties and that they belonged to the writers.

In 1998 a notebook containing notes, drawings and poems by Evans, Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr, as well as lyrics for the songs Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, All You Need Is Love and Hey Jude, was sold at auction for £111,500.

23 responses on “Mal Evans

    1. Eunice

      I grew up with Mal in Waldgrave Road Liverpool. He was the nicest, politest, friendliest kid you’d ever meet. Our families often got together for sing-a-longs and what no-one seems to know is that Mal could play the banjo like no other. He and his sister Pam used to belt out “Last Train to San Fernando” and we’d all sing our heads off. Great, wonderful days.

      1. Ian

        I remembered just yesterday reading (long ago) that Mal used to tune their guitars for them before their shows, and I think there’s an outtake where Lennon’s 12-string goes out of tune (probably on “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away”) and he says something like “I’m defunct” and calls for “Mal”, so I was wondering if he had any musical background, and this post seems to clear the matter up. There’s also his claim that he helped write “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” with Paul–I’d always thought that his input would have been on the lyrics, but perhaps he contributed musically.

        1. Ian

          Faulty memory correction: it was the outtake of “Long Lost John” on a non-12-string guitar where we calls to Mal and says he’s “defunct”. So strike that connection.

  1. Robu

    Mal worked his bloody arse for these guys. And he cames to such a tragic end, none of the lads turned up to his funeral. What a sad thing. Being paid a pittiance during their prime years as well.

  2. Eunice

    Hi sagedaddy,
    I lived in Sydney in the sixties when my Dad wrote to me from Liverpool and said Mal was coming to Australia with the Beatles. (I remember thinking,’who the heck are the Beatles’?) Well, my husband managed to get tickets to their show, and he didn’t want to come so I invited an 18yr old girl, Robyn, from work to come with me. After the show, we got a cab to the Sheraton, and had to be dropped off at the end of the street so we literally had to elbow our way slowly to the hotel. I told one of the security guys that I was there to visit a friend in the hotel and he let us through. I went to the counter and asked for Mal. Shortly after, he stepped out of the lift, saw me, absolutely amazed, spread his arms out lifted me in a big twirl. (I was liftable in those days!) We went up to his room which was directly opposite the emergency door. He always stayed in the same hotel room with his door open wherever they toured and I soon knew why! Two young girls had somehow escaped the notice of the guards and climbed the stairs and I watched as they crept through the door, but there was Malcolm who kindly but firmly sent them back. They begged and begged him to get a Beatle to meet them but he had to refuse.
    The next thing we heard was a voice in the corridor calling out “C’mon lads, it’s waving time” Next thing Paul walked through the door and Paul said “Hello girls” and Mal introduced us and we shook hands. (Robyn nearly collapsed when she saw him because Paul was her ‘heart throb’!) Next, Ringo appeared, he wasn’t well and he was in his pajamas but had a jacket on. Then John and George joined them and Mal said to me “Come on, you’ve got to see this”. We followed them into an empty room with doors to a verandah, and Mal stood us in front of a side window. Well! You should have seen/heard the crowds below. From one end of the long street to the other, there were masses of people everywhere. Even the Hilton hotel opposite had faces filling every space in every window, some standing on chairs waving like mad!
    After, we went back to Mal’s room,and we were joined by George, who sat and chatted away to us. He had a broken guitar string in his hand and I asked him for it! At work the next day I was being offered ten shillings an inch for it which I refused and gave it away later on to a relative.
    I went back to Liverpool for a holiday and caught up with Mal’s mother who told me the truth about Mal’s death, but that can wait for another time as my fingers are hurting! By the way, Mal would have just turned 79 now and he was three years younger than I am.

    1. Roy

      G’day from Australia,
      He was shot by the LA Police.
      I knew him when we both worked for GPO Telephones in Liverpool.
      I last saw him in 1963 when we were removing old equipment in preparation for an upgrade at Sefton Park telephone exchange.
      It was sad end to his life as I knew him as a top bloke.
      He was also the president of the Elvis Presley fan club on Merseyside.

  3. SirHuddlestonFuddleston

    I somehow can’t believe that one of the Beatles wouldn’t take care of him for life after the end of the group. I mean, Paul had many relatives who he was more or less supporting, why not Mal, who went through all the tours for them and gave the best years of his life for them? I don’t understand how you can start out in a van, living in an apartment with a guy, and when you hit the lottery walk away from him?

    1. Tommy

      Harrison gave the family about five grand after he died. Lennon joked when Mal’s ashes were lost in the “Dead mail.” Paul sued to stop his family from auctioning off lyrics to Beatles songs. Of all the Beatles I liked Paul the least.

  4. Phil

    I have to agree with you on that. The way the Beatles treated Mal is inexcusable. In my mind it’s the worst thing they did throughout the groups existence. I’m not saying they should’ve given him millions of dollars, or an equal cut of the groups earnings, but at least give the guy more than the pittance that they did. At least with Neil, he ended up with a decent net worth, I know it was well into 7 figures, by the time of his death. Mal, and his family, had nothing.

  5. Michael K

    Yeah, it should have been better for Mal, for sure, and I think there’s not one of the band who would disagree. Unfortunately, the band exploded with shrapnel flying everywhere and the band members went flying into addictions, therapy (or lack of it) and recriminations. There was definitely a desire to break with the entirety of what The Beatles & Co had been. Also, being all from Liverpool, there’s a certain tendency not to appear as ‘skint’ at any time. Of The Beatles, only Paul at this point was facing up to knowing how much money he had to deal with rather than just signing bills (and that was because he had actioned a freezing of assets in court). He has said that during the period, he and Linda were living off HER earnings and there’s no reason to disbelieve it. All requests for cash out of the Apple pot had to go through a receiver.

  6. castironshore

    One of the many who were cast adrift when the beatles split, the band really did not have a good record of looking after their friends and organisation post split. To be fair the guys all had pretty major things going on in their lives and its possible they would have got round to helping mal out.

    By all accounts evans was a gentle giant who did everything he could to help the group. The beatles story has it’s fair share of tragedy thats for sure.

  7. pkgannon

    Hang on. He was ok with the Beatles. Even after the split. He played tambourine for John on Instant Karma. He’s in the video. It’s true he didn’t get a large salary. But that is really Brian Epstein, not John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Listen, I am sure they all knew HE would be a millionaire at some point. He had lots of memorabilia! All he had to do was write his memoirs.

  8. manteau

    “Long lost John” is an outtake from the “Plastic ono band” album, autumn 1970, along with “don’t be cruel” and a couple of others, there’s only John, Ringo and Klaus on it, I think it’s originally a skiffle number.

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