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27th May, 2022

Mal Evans: Roadie, Producer, Friend

As we approach what would have been his 87th birthday, The Beatles Story is remembering Mal Evans, AKA Big Mal. Working closely with The Beatles from 1963-1970 as their road manager and personal assistant, he became much more – their protector, occasional musical contributor, and most importantly, their friend.

Not much is known about Mal’s early life, other than that he was born in Wavertree, Liverpool on 27th May 1935 and that he was a talented banjoist. In 1961, he married a Liverpudlian girl called Lily whom he had met at a funfair on the Wirral. Their son Gary was born later that year.

The beginnings of Mal’s more publicly known life began whilst he was working as a telephone engineer for the Post Office. Though he was a staunch Elvis fan, after hearing The Beatles playing at the Cavern Club on one of his lunch breaks, he became a committed Fab Four fan as well. The first of The Beatles whom he befriended was George Harrison, who, when later recommended Mal to the Cavern Club’s manager for the position of doorman, was the catalyst to Mal’s personal and professional relationship with The Beatles throughout their career.

“I walked down this little street called Mathew Street that I’d never noticed before and came to this place, the Cavern Club. I’d never been inside a club, but I heard this music coming out – real rock it sounded, a bit like Elvis. So, I paid my shilling and went in…” – Mal Evans

After working at the Cavern Club for just 3 months, Brian Epstein asked Mal to join the group as their road manager alongside Neil Aspinall, following a unanimous decision by John, Paul, George and Ringo. From then on, he was their roadie, bodyguard and trusted member of their inner circle. As The Beatles’ fame grew increasingly, that circle became tighter and their dependence on Mal became crucial.

“He had a bag that he developed over the years, because it would always be: ‘Mal, have you got an Elastoplast? Mal, have you got a screwdriver? Mal, have you got a bottle of this? Have you got that?’ And he always had everything. If he didn’t have it, he’d get it very quickly.” – George Harrison

Throughout the story of the Fab Four, Mal is present at most of the Beatles’ noteworthy events, including tours, recording sessions, their trip to India and even when they met Elvis, one of Mal’s personal heroes. After recording Revolver in 1966, Mal joined Paul McCartney on a Safari holiday in Kenya. It was during their flight back to England where Mal contributed to one of the most significant creative moments in Paul’s musical journey by innocently asking Paul what the S and P stood for on his food packets. Shortly after explaining that it stood for salt and pepper, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was born. His contribution to the legendary album went further than this, however – not only did he help gather the photographs and portraits to be used on the album cover, but he also contributed musically to some of the recordings, including playing the harmonica on ‘Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite’. Several other Beatles albums contain inputs from Mal, including the White Album and Abbey Road.

Mal’s contributions extended beyond the studio and on to the big screen as well, with appearances in ‘Help!’, ‘Magical Mystery Tour’, ‘Let It Be’ and most recently, ‘Get Back’. During the famous Rooftop concert in ‘Let It Be’, Mal can actually be seen talking to Police Officers in an attempt to allow The Beatles’ iconic performance to continue. Without him in this scenario, the historical final Beatles concert may have been cut short.

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 The Beatles split, Mal worked successfully as a producer, most notably on Badfinger’s top 10 hit ‘No Matter What’. He maintained his relationship with all four Beatles and is credited on George Harrison's ‘’All Things Must Pass and the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album as providing “tea and sympathy”.

On 5th January 1976, Mal was shot dead by Los Angeles Police Department officers at his home after he confronted the officers with a rifle. It was subsequently discovered that the weapon was just an air rifle. He was just 40 years old.

A truly unsung Beatles hero, Mal’s legacy lives on today as being the gentle giant who was a trusted member of the Fab Four’s inner circle. In February 2022, a notebook belonging to Mal in 1967-68 containing handwritten Beatles lyrics, most notably an original draft of ‘Hey Jude’, went on display at The Beatles Story, Liverpool. Without Mal, Beatles fans all over the world would not have had the chance to see this incredible piece of music memorabilia.

So, to Big Mal – thank you for everything and happy birthday.

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