For seven years Mal Evans was road manager for The Beatles from 1963 to 1970 as they assailed musical heights that have never been matched. Ensuring that the most famous outfit in history ran smoothly was no easy task, but Evans achieved it with such breezy aplomb that he had enough time to form such a strong bond with that band that you will have no doubt seen him floating around scenes in the latest Peter Jackson documentary Get Back: The Beatles. Tragically, however, six years after the ‘Fab Four’ parted ways, strange circumstances led to Evans’ death in a tragic turn.
Prior to The Beatles, Evans had worked as a telephone engineer, occasionally picking up part-time work as a bouncer at the Cavern Club. It was here where he met the young lads from Liverpool and their manager Brian Epstein later hired him to help them on the road. In tandem with Neil Aspinall, Evans became a central figure in the management of the band and his jovial approach helped to keep things on an even keel when they could’ve otherwise turned hairy.
It was also a relationship that ran both ways. During his time with the history-making band, Evans also picked up a few musical tips and he eventually remained in the industry after their split as a record producer. In fact, he even scored a top ten hit with the Badfinger tune ‘No Matter What’.
However, by 1976, Evans’ career was on the slide and, as a result, so was his mental health. He had been set to produce Keith Moon’s solo record but after the manic star pulled out, Evans’ escape from obscurity was severed and he found himself in a despairing state. At the time, he was also working on a Beatles memoir, Living the Beatles’ Legend, with the co-writer John Hoernie.
On the morning of January 5th, Evans was so sullen that his girlfriend Fran Hughes phoned Hoernie and asked him to come to the apartment in the hopes that he could be talked out of his slump. Hoernie arrived to find Evan “really doped-up and groggy”. Things that took a turn for the worse when Evans became agitated and brandished what turned out to be an air rifle.
Hoernie phoned the police to try and get them to defuse the hostile situation informing them that Evans was on Valium and wafting a rifle around in a state of confusion. When they arrived, Evans began to point the air rifle at them and refused to lower his weapon. The police at this stage were apparently unaware that it was merely an air rifle and they opened fire on Evans after a stand-off. Six shots were fired and four of them struck and killed Evans.
Whilst none of the former Beatles attended his funeral, Harry Nilsson, George Martin and Neil Aspinall were in attendance and George Harrison arranged a payment of £5,000 as a bereavement offering as Evans had no life insurance. In the intervening years, several personal items have fortunately been recovered and auctioned by his estate, helping to usurp his dark tragic end with the memory of the colourful life he lived before.
He might not have been fundamental to The Beatles, but his cheery disposition certainly echoes in their oeuvre. And sometimes, it is even more than an echo, as Benmont Tench once said: “I loved Mal Evans holding one note down on ‘You Won’t See Me’ from Rubber Soul.”