I almost want to say that I wanted to read this book from before I wanted to read this book. I am Irish!
Mal Evans was like a 5th Beatle. Never in the band he was omnipresent around the stage and in many occasions on it.
I imagine that I came across Mal through The Beatles Book, their monthly magazine. They started republishing them in the summer of 1976 when I had just fallen in love with the band. I never remember a time when I wasn’t aware of Mal.
The thing is that Mal Evans had been shot by the LAPD about 6 months before all of this. It seems that at a very low ebb he contrived a suicide by cop scenario at the age of just 40.
I have been reading Beatles’ biographies since 1976. I could read nothing else if there were enough good books. Evans was so close to the band that I knew his take would be a fascinating perspective. It did not let me down.
Mal’s diaries, and the stories of him by his friends, have us on stage, back stage, in getaway vans, aeroplanes, studios, hotel rooms, clubs and ashrams and their houses and back gardens.
Mal is there at the first gigs across the UK right through to the break up in 1970. Post break up he races across the Atlantic being personal assistant to which ever Beatle was on the phone.
It is everything I knew it would be but it is even more.
I was unaware of personal life of Mal. He was married to Lily the entire Beatles’ time with a young son Gary and Julie who arrived in 1966. His life, and this book, is one long dilemma of how he chose the Beatles and the addiction of being around celebrity and fame above his family. Not that he didn’t utterly love his wife and children but he couldn’t let go of the phenomenon and would be a way for weeks at a time.
Mal doesn’t let his beloved Beatles down by in any way tainting their legacy in his account of those mad years. He loved them. However, it is astounding to find that someone without doubt necessary for them to do what they did and so committed in an 24/7 way was paid so miserably.
His family gained very little from The Beatles’ wealth and many of the tensions between him and Lily were financial. Zak Starkey as a 7 year old is calling his friend Gary Evans poor. It is a question that I would like to ask Paul McCartney about. An injustice for sure.
Though Mal continued to devote himself to the four Beatles after their broke up, indeed quite like a spouse, he spent the last five years of his life seeking something more.
He attempted being a producer with Badfinger, being a reason they reached the charts and that Nilsson had a hit with Without You. He tried to be a songwriter with a co-write You and Me (Babe) with George Harrison on Ringo’s album Ringo and Lonely Man on a Splinter album.
Eventually, now with a lover in California that he would, in his naïve way of sorting his dilemma, like to have split 6 months with to six months with Lily, he wrote his memoir that after his death languished in cold storage for a over a decade.
We are thankful that Mal’s son Gary was determined to get his dad’s story out. He eventually asked Beatles’ expert Kenneth Womack to write it. Womack is thorough in research if not the most exciting writer but this time Mal’s life was exciting enough to overcome that weakness.
I have spent a couple of weeks in Mal’s life and have loved being around The Beatles but also will feel bereft to not have Mal in my life tomorrow. I hope that Lily, Gary, Julie and even Fran and her daughter will feel proud of a man that everybody loved but more who loved this band so much that it almost cost him his own life in the end. We all benefited from the life of Mal Evans.