11 October 2007

Life and Times of Malcolm 'Mal' Evans

Malcolm 'Mal' Evans is best known as the road manager, assistant, and a friend of the Beatles.

In the early 60's, Evans was working as a telephone engineer, but was later employed as a doorman at the Cavern Club. The Beatles were performing at the Cavern Club when Evans saw them for the first time during a lunch break, and Beatles manager Brian Epstein later hired him as their road manager in 1963.

Mal contributed to many recordings, and appeared in some of the films they made. The Beatles stopped touring in 1966, but still Evan carried on assisting the band and working with them in the studio.

Evans was shot and killed by police on 5 January 1976 in his rented duplex in Los Angeles, because police officers mistakenly believed that the BB gun Evans was holding was a rifle.

Evans was cremated and his ashes were sent by mail back to England but were misplaced and lost in the postal system.

Details of Mal's life before the Beatles is mostly unknown, apart from his birth date 27 May 1935.

No book has been written about Mal although he wrote his memoirs—Living The Beatles' Legend—from which extracts were released in 2005.

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' 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 the Beatles. 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 was working at the Cavern club.

Three months after starting at the Cavern Club, Evans was hired by Brian Epstein as the Beatles road manager. Mal'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.

Evans had many other duties. As well as acting as a bodyguard, he was sent to buy anything they needed, such as suits, boots, food 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.

Evans was once asked why he was driving an Austin Princess limousine, rather than a Daimler, a Bentley, or a Rolls-Royce. Evans explained The Beatles were forced to choose an Austin 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 wild fans.

The Beatles were introduced to cannabis by Bob Dylan in New York in 1964, and Paul McCartney remembered asking Mal "again and again" to write down McCartney's newly found cannabis-influenced thoughts about life by repeating "Get 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!".

Mal with Paul at Heathrow.

After recording Revolver in 1966, McCartney went by himself on holiday to France, but arranged to meet Mal 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 Mal was standing under the church clock when McCartney arrived.

They later drove to Madrid together, but got bored, and phoned the Beatles office in London and asked to be booked on a safari holiday in Kenya. When they arrived there they visited Mount Kilimanjaro, and also stayed at the exclusive Treetops Hotel, where the rooms are built on the branches of trees. They spent their final night in Nairobi at a YMCA, before they returned to London.

It was then they decided, The Beatles—according to McCartney—needed a new name, and on the flight back to England Mal and McCartney played with words to see if they could come up with something new.

Mal 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.

They arrived back in London on 9 November 1966. Before the cover of Sgt. Pepper could be completed by Peter Blake, Mal was sent out to find photographs of all of the people that were to be shown on the now famous front cover.

When the Beatles' Apple Records was formed in 1968, Evans was promoted from road manager to personal assistant, although his weekly £38 salary remained the same.

Evans contributed to many recordings, including lending his voice to "Yellow Submarine". Before recording it on 26 May 1966, at Abbey Road, Evans 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 around the studio in a conga line.

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 shovelled a bucket of gravel as part of the rhythm on "You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)".

According to Evans' diaries—from which extracts were released in 2005—he helped McCartney to write the "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" song. Evans wrote in his diary, 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" [Evans' title for "Fixing a Hole"]. Hope people like it. Started Sergeant Pepper.”
He also wrote on 1 February 1967:

“ "Sergeant Pepper" sounds good. Paul tells me that I will get royalties on the song — great news, now perhaps a new home. ”
But Mal never received royalties and had to make do with his £38-a-week pay. McCartney and the Apple label have not commented about the diaries, or the songwriting credits.

Keith Badman, who wrote "The Beatles off the Record", says he obtained a tape of Mal talking before his death, on which he repeated the claims. According to Badman, Evans was asked, before the record came out, if it would be a problem that his name was not credited, as the Lennon-McCartney writing name was "a really hot item".

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.

Mal separated from his wife in 1973, and subsequently moved from the UK to Los Angeles, where Lennon had moved to with May Pang after his own separation from Yoko Ono.

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 Evans's 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-rifle) 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".

1 comment:

Unknown said...

"Evans told Hoernie to make sure that he finished Living The Beatles' Legend"

Sounds like he knew he would not finish it.