‘Mal’ Evans 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. Evans was tall and heavily-built so 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 separated from his wife in 1973, and subsequently moved from the UK to Los Angeles, where John Lennon had moved to live with May Pang after his own separation from Yoko Ono. Here’s a photo of Mal a few years before his death with John Lennon and May Pang.
Before his death Evans was working on a book of memoirs called Living The Beatles’ Legend, which he was supposed to deliver 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 at the time he was already living with new girlfriend Fran Hughes, in a rented duplex at 8122 W. 4th Street in Los Angeles at this location below.
On January 5, 1976, Evans 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 then 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 air 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 was cremated on 7 January 1976, in Los Angeles. None of The Beatles attended 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 joked by saying, “They should look in the dead letter file”.
Evans appeared in all The Beatles Films. Here are some shots of him from A Hard Days Night, Magical Mystery Tour, Help! and Let It Be.
Although not a musician here is a list of Mal Evans musical contributions on Beatles Albums.
Yellow Submarine – Contributed his voice. He also 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.
You Won’t See Me – Evans played single organ note.
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! – Evans played 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.
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.
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.
Dear Prudence – Evans played tambourine.
Helter Skelter – Evans played the saxophone. He played a double solo with Lennon, although neither of them was proficient on the instrument.
You Know My Name (Look Up The Number) – Evans contributed background vocals and shovelled a bucket of gravel (as part of the rhythm).
Maxwell’s Silver Hammer – Evans hit an anvil.