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05th August, 2022

The Memory and Legacy of a ‘Gentle Giant’: Mal Evans’ sister Barbara visits The Beatles Story

Earlier this year we had the pleasure of welcoming Mal Evans’ younger sister Barbara, and his nephew Mal, to The Beatles Story. During her visit, Barbara had the opportunity to relive fond memories and visit her older brother’s original notebook on display within our immersive museum. Our replica Cavern Club, in particular, brought back memories of those early Merseybeat days.  

Meeting Barbara was a fascinating and emotional experience, hearing first-hand anecdotes of Mal’s early life, witnessing the love that Barbara has for her brother, and feeling the emotion that still endures when remembering his life and his passing.

Barbara and Mal on our replica Cavern Club stage.

Early Life

Barbara’s visit began in our Fab4 Café, where over coffee and chocolates she chatted about her memories of her older brother, and the childhood they shared. The Evans family had lived in the North Wales area during the Second World War and Barbara remembers this part of their lives as a very happy time. While sipping her cappuccino in our café she reminisced about enjoying valued family time in the countryside.

One surprising story was of Mal and the friends he had made during their stay in Wales. Mal, aged 5 or 6, had been mixing with the wrong crowd, and had lit a fire in the woods which sent a tree up in flames! This was during the days of the wartime blackout, which is the practice of minimising outdoor light in an attempt to prevent enemy aircraft from identifying targets, so the event had resulted in a visit from a local policeman… Barbara recalled that Mal, a young boy at the time, had meant no harm.


A British poster from World War Two enforcing the blackout.

Barbara found joy in sharing that Mal, in his youth, was somewhat of a fun-loving joker and would pay visits to a local joke shop. He would, often to their mother’s dismay, buy fake dog poo and leave it on the family dining room table! He was clearly a witty and comical youngster, but she remembers his caring side too. Describing him as a “lovely man,” Barbara talked about the times Mal would give out presents to older folk at Christmas time; and remembered him to be a “very helpful” individual and a “great brother.”

The Beatles

Mal’s story with the Beatles began in the early 60s. The group were performing a lunchtime show at the Cavern Club, and Evans became an instant fan. It’s well-known that Mal was drawn down into The Cavern Club for the first time by the Elvis-like music he heard coming from within. He, like many others around the world back then and still today, was a huge Elvis fan. Barbara reminisced that Mal had met the ‘King of Rock and Roll’ himself in the USA sometime in the 60s - which must have been a surreal, but amazing experience for him! Mal's wife, Lily, had also received a ‘Happy Easter’ phone call from Elvis around the same time! 

“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

A ticket to The Beatles' last ever performance at The Cavern Club, which took place on 3rd August 1963.
The band would hire Mal as a roadie/bodyguard just eight days later on 11th August 1963.

This ticket can be seen at The Beatles Story, Liverpool.

Mal Evans with The Beatles and Neil Aspinall. From left to right:
Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Neil Aspinall, Mal Evans, Ringo Starr and George Harrison.

“Mal joined us full-time in 1963. He was our bodyguard, but he was great at it because he would never hurt anyone. He was just big enough to say, ‘Excuse me, let the boys through.’ He was pretty strong. He could lift the bass amp on his own, which was a miracle. He should have been in the circus.” – Ringo Starr

Mal went on to become not only an employee of the band, but a close friend too. Barbara explained that Mal dedicated his life to The Beatles, and was particularly close to Paul – almost becoming a father figure to the band member. It’s clear that Mal was a very valuable asset to The Beatles throughout the band’s career, and no doubt he was a good friend to all four members. 

The most surprising revelation from Barbara, was that the Beatles song ‘Let It Be’ could actually have been written about Mal Evans! Famously, Paul maintains that the song was written following a 1960s dream in which Paul’s mother, who had died of cancer when Paul was just 14, came to him and said “it’s gonna be OK. Just let it be.” However, in a 1975 TV interview, Mal contradicted this, and explained that the song was actually written following one of Paul’s meditation sessions, during which an image of Mal came to Paul saying the famous three words. And, sure enough, an uncovered demo was released in 2018 revealing the original lyrics “Brother Malcolm came to me…” Barbara sees this as evidence that Mal was highly respected and highly valued by The Beatles, and in particular, by Paul.

You can listen to the demo here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=bIw3mLChTSo 

Reflecting back to The Beatles’ early career, Barbara recalled the time she saw the band perform at The Empire in Liverpool in the 60s. She remembers being sat behind Cilla Black’s mum, Priscilla. The famous Liverpudlian artist began her career as a singer at The Cavern Club in 1963 and was a close friend of The Beatles. Her debut single ‘Love of The Loved’ was written by Lennon and McCartney, and she was managed by the Fab Four’s manager Brian Epstein. Before her singing career took off, Cilla worked as a cloakroom attendant at The Cavern Club and Barbara casually mentioned that Mal used to drive Cilla, “a down-to-earth girl”, back home to the famous Scotland Road, known locally as ‘Scotty Road,’ after her shifts at the iconic underground club. 

Cilla Black visiting The Beatles Story in 1993

The original site of Cilla Black's childhood home on Scotland Road is now a McDonald's carpark.

After the split of The Beatles, Mal went into music production. Barbara and her nephew Mal recounted that Mal Evans discovered and produced the band Badfinger. With Mal’s help, the band have sold an estimated 14 million albums, and went on to influence the 1970s power pop genre. The band hailed from Swansea, Wales – could Mal’s belief in and appreciation of the band in their early days have been influenced by his precious memories of living in the country as a child? Was this project a kind of homecoming for Mal? This is pure speculation, but it’s a nice thought.

Mal less than one year before The Beatles broke up.

Mal’s Notebook 

Mal Evans’ notebook is currently on display at The Beatles Story, Liverpool. The rare notebook, compiled between 1967-68, features Paul McCartney’s handwritten draft lyrics for ‘Hey Jude’, a part-lyric for ‘Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band’, recording notes by George Harrison for ‘All You Need Is Love’ as well as lyrics for a number of other songs including ‘For The Benefit of Mr Kite, ‘Good Morning Good Morning’ and ‘All Together Now’. 

Mal Evans' notebook is on display at The Beatles Story, Liverpool.

 

It was a moving experience to have the opportunity to show Barbara her brother’s personal notebook in our exhibition and observe her emotions at the sight of the piece, which her brother had kept between 1967 and 1968 whilst working with the band. Seeing Mal’s notebook was a special experience for Barbara, and in a small way helped her to feel reconnected to the big brother she lost years ago.  

Stephen Maycock, Consultant Specialist in Beatles Memorabilia, said: “Mal’s notebook is a unique document, covering as it does such an important period in the career of the most important band in pop music history. It provides a fascinating insight into the Beatles’ creative process and shows just how close Mal was to that”.

 

Barbara and Mal visiting the notebook at The Beatles Story, Liverpool.

Barbara remembering her big brother Mal.

Mal’s Legacy 

Mal’s memory lives on in a number of ways. The recent Disney+ docu-series 'Get Back' introduced Mal to an even wider audience of fans, reigniting a global interest in his story and his contributions to popular culture. Barbara is very fond of the series, and believes it shines a light on just how much Mal was involved in the song-writing process at the time. She was also delighted to introduce us to a song called ‘The Magical Mister E’ by The Lemon Sherbets, which was written about her late brother, and cements in our minds the extent of the admiration that fans have for Mal.

You can listen to The Magical Mister E by The Lemon Sherbets here

A heart-warming anecdote from Barbara sums up beautifully the love that the family still has for Mal and his legacy. For Christmas one year, the family arranged to have a blue plaque placed on their childhood home to mark the historically important location and preserve Mal’s memory, as a surprise Christmas present for Barbara. She considers it the best Christmas present she’s ever received.

Of course, Mal’s legacy lives on in the story, the music and the hearts of fans of The Beatles to this day. But most importantly, his memory lives on in the love and admiration Barbara Hoyle has for her big brother, and in the memories treasured by the whole family.


Written in loving memory of Mal Evans 1935 – 1976.
Many thanks to Barbara Hoyle and Malcolm Cardwell.

Mason Griffiths

Mason is the Marketing and PR Executive at The Beatles Story.

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