Beatles’ Roadie, Mal Evans, is Subject of 1st Full-Length Biography

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Mal Evans (Photo: Getty Images via Dey Street Books)

The first full-length biography of Mal Evans, the Beatles’ beloved friend, road manager, and confidant, has arrived from world-renowned Beatles scholar and author Kenneth Womack. The book, Living the Beatles Legend: The Untold Story of Mal Evans, is in conjunction with Evans’ family and estate. It was published on November 14, 2023, via HarperCollins’ Dey Street Books imprint. Order it in the U.S. here. and in the U.K. here. A second volume will be published in 2024.

An excerpt of the biography published October 31 on included what is said to be the last known photo of Paul McCartney and John Lennon together, taken by Mal Evans in March 1974 during Lennon’s so-called “lost weekend.” The photo will be in Volume 2; it was uncovered during research for Volume 1, which contains the 1974 story in it. See it below.

Working with full access to Evans’ unpublished archives, Womack conducted hundreds of new interviews, providing readers with a full telling of Evans’ unknown story at the heart of the Beatles’ legend. The book is lavishly illustrated with unseen photos and ephemera from Evans’ archives.

In 1963, as Womack notes in the book’s prologue, Evans “began fervently chronicling his impressions of the Beatles, his experiences in London, and the people he had met along the way. ‘They are all great blokes with a sense of humor and giving one the feeling they are a real team,’ he gushed. Even more important, he felt a growing sense of pride at having been, at such a crucial moment, a significant part of the Beatles’ inner circle and no mere hanger-on. He had been right there with them—shoulder to shoulder, in the thick of everything.”

From the publisher’s announcement: Evans, born May 27, 1935, was an invaluable member of the band’s inner circle. A towering figure in horn-rimmed glasses, he loomed large in the Beatles’ story, contributing at times as a performer and sometime lyricist, while struggling mightily to protect his beloved “boys.” He was there for the whole of the group’s remarkable, unparalleled story: from the Shea Stadium triumph through the creation of the timeless cover art for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and the famous rooftop concert above their Apple Corps Ltd. offices.

After watching the Beatles perform many times at the Cavern Club in Liverpool in 1961, he soon befriended them. With a new bride and infant son, he was in need of some extra cash and accepted an evening job as a bouncer at the club. “My idea was to talk people out of trouble before it started,” he writes. Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein soon hired him as their bodyguard. His work ethic and imposing physique soon made him indispensable to the band. “Mal moved easily inside the Beatles’ orbit,” writes Womack, and he began taking on an increased load of responsibilities.

Mal Evans (r) with Michael Lindsay-Hogg, George Martin and Ringo Starr in Peter Jackson’s Get Back

For decades, the mystery surrounding Evans’ treasure trove of unreleased material has left Beatles fans and music historians alike longing for a glimpse into the life and times of this most devoted friend among their inner circle. Evans is also seen as a central figure in the footage in Peter Jackson’s acclaimed 2021 Get Back docu-series.

In 2020, the Evans family turned to Womack to bring the archives to the world. Evans’ vast, never before seen archive including diaries, manuscripts, and photographs associated with the Beatles is viewed as a Holy Grail when it comes to understanding the band’s unparalleled legacy. The longtime Beatles insider had signed approval from each of the Fab Four to write his memoirs.

“My dad meant the world to me,” says Gary Evans. “He was my hero. Before Ken joined the project, I thought I knew the story of my dad. But what I knew was in monochrome; 15 months later it is like The Wizard of Oz (dad’s favorite film) because Ken has added so much color, so much light to his story. Ken has shown me that dad was the Beatles’ greatest friend. He was lucky to meet them, but they had more good fortune with dad walking down the Cavern steps for the first time.”

The book jacket of the Mal Evans biography

“What I’ve discovered in this archive is more than I could have ever truly imagined,” says Womack. “I am honored and thrilled to present this biography and accompanying materials with the historical integrity that they deserve.”

Evans himself had planned to submit his manuscripts for publication in the mid-1970s, with the written permission of the Beatles themselves, but he tragically died a month beforehand, on Jan. 5, 1976, at age 40 – and the project was shelved.

Over the years, his legend has only grown among Beatles aficionados. Evans left a stable job as telecommunications engineer to serve as road manager for the fledgling band. He was the odd man out from the start—older, married with children, and without any music business experience. And yet he threw himself headlong into their world, traveling across the globe and making himself indispensable.

Mal Evans, as The Beatles took the stage at Shea Stadium, on Aug. 15, 1965

Though he started off as their roadie in August 1963, he truly became their most intimate companion, with a birds-eye view of Beatlemania as it raged across the world. He singlehandedly captained their stage show, prepping their instruments and accompanying them on tour. 

After the group abandoned the stage to pursue studio work in 1966, his contributions began to loom even larger, holding a special place in the creative universe of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. When the Beatles formed Apple Corps., he re-fashioned himself as a talent scout, and developed a number of rock ‘n’ roll acts for the fledgling label—most notably, Badfinger, for whom he produced several songs including the hit, “No Matter What.”

In the years after the Beatles’ disbandment, “Big Mal” continued in their employ as each embarked upon solo careers. By 1974, he was determined to make his name as a songwriter and record producer, setting off for a new life in Los Angeles, where he penned his memoirs. He took this photo not necessarily realizing its significance at the time.

John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Linda McCartney, Harry Nilsson, and May Pang in Santa Monica, Calif., on March 29, 1974 (Photo: Malcolm Frederick Evans Archive; used with permission)

But in January 1976, on the verge of sharing his book with the world, Evans’s story came to a tragic end during a domestic standoff with the LAPD.

For Beatles devotes, Mal’s life and untimely death have always been shrouded in mystery. For decades, his diaries, manuscripts, and vast collection of memorabilia was missing, seemingly lost forever…until now.

Kenneth Womack

2023’s first volume of the book comprises a full-length biography, lavishly illustrated with unseen photos and ephemera from Mal Evans’ archives. A second volume, complete with Evans’ diaries, manuscripts, and numerous other artifacts, will be published in 2024.

Dr. Kenneth Womack is Professor of English and Popular Music at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, NJ. He is the author or editor of 40 books, including Long and Winding Roads: The Evolving Artistry of the Beatles (2007), the Cambridge Companion to the Beatles (2009), The Beatles Encyclopedia: Everything Fab Four (2014), and a multivolume study devoted to the life and work of Beatles producer George Martin. His bestselling book, Solid State: The Story of Abbey Road and the End of the Beatles, was released in 2019. His latest book, John Lennon, 1980: The Last Days in the Life, was published in 2020.

Related: Our conversation with Womack on his 2021 book, All Things Must Pass Away: Harrison, Clapton, and Other Assorted Love Songs

Best Classic Bands Staff

2 Comments so far

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  1. 122intheshade
    #1 122intheshade 28 May, 2023, 16:45

    What a prolific writer! I have read the two-volume bio of George Martin, but I had no idea about the other, later books. Maybe I’ll finish them by the time the Mal Evans book comes out.

    The Badfinger curse got Mal just a few months after Pete Ham died. I loved Badfinger, and one of the first 45s I ever bought was “No Matter What”.

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  2. BMac
    #2 BMac 6 January, 2024, 11:50

    Quite coincidental reading this today, as I just went through part 2 of the “Let it Be” doc last night. Also rather coincidental that my next read (Christmas present!) is Phillip Norman’s book on George. This book on Mal needs to be added to my birthday/Christmas wish list.

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