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.
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.
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.
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.’
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.
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.
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.
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.