Former Beatle assistant Mal Evans lies in a Los Angeles apartment in January 1976, dying of a gunshot wound. His life has spiraled downward since his beloved band broke up in 1970. And throughout those six years, as he fell further into despair, he had always asked himself:
What if he could have done something to keep the Beatles, and his life, together?
Instead of dying, Mal finds himself transported back to 1969. The war in Vietnam is coming to a boil, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” is in theaters, and the Beatles are still together. He has an opportunity to right the wrongs that ripped apart the world’s greatest band.
And while he succeeds in keeping the band together, helping to create new Beatles albums for the world to hear (“Imagine” and “Live and Let Die” are Beatles songs!), he finds that fate is plotting to reverse his world. Paul McCartney and John Lennon quarrel constantly; George Harrison is consumed by self-doubt; Ringo Starr has trouble living up to the Beatle name. And Mal, in the middle of it all, must work to keep the fantasy alive, trying to avoid the same mistakes he made the first time while avoiding the grasp of Death, which continues to pursue him in his new life.
Comparable to Stephen King’s 11/22/63 in its tromp through time and emphasis on fate vs. free will, The Death and Life of Mal Evans is a fast-paced book that will also leave you wondering, what if?
Targeted Age Group:: 35-75
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
This book truly is a “What if?” alternate history – it’s my attempt to imagine what the Beatles would have done during the 1970s if they had stayed together. Like many Beatles fans, I’ve attempted to create fantasy albums that put together the Beatles’ best solo work on one or two albums. The Beatles as solo artists were flawed – the sum was always better than the parts. Each released great songs, but most of their albums were poor. Keeping them together for a few more years would have yielded some fantastic albums.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
My characters, in this case, were already created. All I had to do was get inside their heads. I did this through numerous interviews with the Beatles, gauging their personalities, reactions to different questions and overall demeanor.This helped me create my own personas of each character, create their personalities, and write my book with these personalities in mind.
5 January 1976
I didn’t think they would shoot. In fact, I may not have even noticed that they were pointing their guns at me.
But who could blame them? My girlfriend probably told the police dispatcher that I was high on Valium, paranoid and delusional, and severely depressed. I’m a big man (well over six feet), and I had a gun drawn on them—if you want to call an air rifle a gun. I’m sure the Los Angeles Police Academy trained its cadets to shoot whenever a large, crazed man is pointing any gun at them. There’s no time to ask whether it’s a shotgun or a water pistol. But I meant no harm to anyone, ever. I’m pretty timid, actually. My friends call me the “Gentle Giant.”
I took Valium tonight because I was getting that feeling again—the feeling that I was disappearing. Drugs bring the real Mal Evans back. My faults fade away, and for those few hours, at least, I am the old Mal, talking and laughing. Tonight, though, it didn’t work.
I had made the mistake of taking stock of my life; here I was on the other side of the planet from the U.K., sharing a flat with a woman who was not my wife, strung out and despondent while my wife and kids went on with their lives back home. I’m barely making ends meet. Too bad it took possession of an air rifle—can its pellets even penetrate a person’s skin?—for people to pay attention and take me seriously. And as it turns out, they have
taken me too seriously.
My breath is coming in short gasps. A process as natural as breathing is no longer automatic, and my head is swirling; I have to tell myself to breathe—in, out, in, out—as the air rushes out of my lungs and forces me to inhale again. I am sprawled on the floor next to the kitchen table, staring up at two police officers in the doorway, who are still aiming their pistols at me. What, six shots weren’t enough? I begin to notice strange things: how the tiles on the ceiling create a checkerboard pattern, a soothing, consistent pattern across the apartment; how it is starting to look
like a floor, with the chandelier standing upright like a fountain, and I am walking across the ceiling. The surreal picture makes my head spin even more.
I smell gunpowder.
An empty beer bottle that had rolled under the couch months ago is still there.
Now there is only silence in the room, but my ears are ringing from the sound of the shots. Every so often, I hear the wails and screams from my girlfriend, who is still downstairs.
My God. I’m dying.
My first thought after realizing this is almost silly: Will my death make the newspapers? At one point my death may
have garnered a story in the Daily Mail, only because of my association with four boys from Liverpool. But now, six years after the group broke up, will anyone back home in England know what happened? Will anyone even care? I was so close to fame again; my memoir, Living the Beatles Legend, was nearing completion and would put me on firm financial footing—at least I hoped it would.
The second thought is of my wife and kids. Isn’t that strange, almost selfish? I realise now that I’ll never see Mimi again. Sure, she had asked for a divorce a month ago, so it’s not as if I would ever hold her again. But the kids. Shouldn’t I be thinking about what they will do without me, how they will cope, who would be
there to give them advice about life?
No. Instead, I feel relief.
Mimi’s request for a divorce was probably ten years too late. I have been in Los Angeles, off and on, for a few years, and my visits to the family have come less often. I think the last time I saw them was at a spring festival in Liverpool about eight months ago—a sunny day when the kids were happy, where the calliope chugged its nostalgic tunes, and we ate mounds of fudge until our stomachs ached. Mimi looked sad and tired, however. With each visit, our conversations were more forced and were limited to the kids’ activities. We didn’t even ask how each other was
I regret the fact that I have wasted thirteen years of her life; I hope my death will free her from the pain of those years. I’m sure she has regretted ever meeting me, her only happiness these years being our two kids. But even they are a reminder of the choice she made in me, how our relationship changed her life forever.
How many nights did she sleep alone, having no idea where I was or what I was doing? How many birthdays and anniversaries did I forget while I was traversing the globe, either on tour or on holiday with the group? I could barely support my family on my measly salary while with the group (£38 a week), and in the few things I could give them—my love, my presence, my attention—I failed miserably. I had treated Mimi and the kids as a second option, knowing they would always be there if I wanted to go back. Now that’s impossible.
I still love Mimi just as much as I did when we were first married back in 1961. But in reality, from the minute I heard
the Beatles playing in the Cavern Club the next year, I had a new love interest. She never asked me about other women, but I doubt that she would have been as jealous of them as she was of John, Paul, George and Ringo. They were more of a threat than a one-night stand would have ever been.
Now I will give her the separation she desperately needs without all the messy court papers and negotiations. That’s the way the Beatles had broken up, and it had been hell to watch. Mimi will not have to endure that. She can get on with her life, and I will be just a thirteen-year interruption.
One of the officers tells the other to go radio the incident to headquarters and to try to console my girlfriend. His gun is still aimed at me while he issues the commands (as if I were going anywhere). The etching on his badge reads “G TAYLOR” in ordinary block letters.
He is my killer. He’s the man who will end my life.
I wonder what he’s thinking, what the G in his first name stands for. I wonder where he lives, whether he has children,
whether he honestly thinks I am a threat, and whether he is as shocked as I am at what just happened. I’m forty years old, and it’s all for naught.
This is not the way my life was supposed to turn out.
Six years ago I was in the thick of what rock critics are now calling a revolution in music. I spent my days with the most
popular—and arguably the best—rock and roll band in the history of the world. What’s more, these geniuses, these pop gods, they accepted me. I would like to think that they were even my friends. They could do nothing without me. I took care of their instruments, hand-picked fans to go backstage for their nightly shag, and saw to their every need: a guitar pick, socks, even a cup of milk. And when I walked outside with them, when I prepared their gear on stage, people looked at me with awe and respect, knowing that I was one of them. I was somebody then.
People know me, but they don’t realise it. My story and contributions have always been missing from the Beatles saga,
but I’ve been with them almost since the beginning—before Ed Sullivan, before their first single in England, even before Ringo joined the group. I’m on some of the most famous Beatles recordings. I sang and played the bass drum on “Yellow Submarine.” I looked high and low for the sound effects used in that song—whistles, bells, chains, straws to blow bubbles in water—anything that sounded nautical. I played trumpet on “Helter Skelter,” helped play that endless final chord on the piano for “A Day in the Life,” played the harmonica, kazoo, and organ on “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!”. (Hell, I even helped Paul write “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”)
I shovelled a bucket of gravel on “You Know My Name (Look up the Number).” I was the silver hammer on “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” striking an anvil in time with the beat. I was the swimmer who kept appearing at different times during the movie “Help!”, asking where the white cliffs of Dover were. I’m in photos—a hulking figure with glasses, usually lurking in the background. I was always bending over, looking away from the camera as if I were caught off guard. I was probably busy with something, and no one ever asked me to pose for a photo. I often was just hidden from view—still there, just out of the frame.
I was always there.
Now, I’m lying on the floor of a flat in Los Angeles—half a world away from the U.K.—strung out, yelling a stream of
obscenities at the police in between wheezes, and staring at that damn checkerboard pattern on the ceiling (or is it a floor?), all with four bullet holes in my body.
“Do you know what you’ve just done?” I scream. “I’m Mal Evans! The Mal Evans!”
This is not the way my life was supposed to turn out.
Honestly, they needed me, but I needed them more. In 1970, when Paul announced that he was leaving the group, I feared the worst. It was like a divorce—complete with court proceedings, shouting matches and hurt feelings. I was the child left to suffer, and after years of public quarrelling, of gossip and innuendo, of catfights played out in letters to the editor and talk show interviews, I knew they would never reunite. And I tried to make it on my own, I really did. I produced some albums, and I continued to hang out with the lads and other celebrities, but I was in over my head. I fell deeper in debt and more unstable month after month, year after year.
People have asked me over the years, “Why did the Beatles break up?” Depending on my mood, I have given different
answers: money issues, spouses, just growing apart. Most accept my answer as the gospel truth, but for the longest time, I had no idea why they split. I sat and watched everything unravel before my eyes, powerless to do anything. But after six years of analysing that last year we were all together, I had finally pinpointed a day when everything began to fall apart: September 13, 1969.
It all started with one of John’s daft ideas. A promoter had called him asking him to come to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival
Festival in Toronto as a guest of honour. But John felt cocky. He believed that he could throw a band together in a few hours, get on a plane and play in front of thousands of fans. He told them he would come, but only if he could perform. The promoter was no idiot; he agreed at once. I’m sure he called the local newspapers and music publications in a matter of seconds.
As soon as he hung up the phone, John realised that he was in trouble. He began calling everyone he knew—everyone except Paul, George, and Ringo, of course. They were already walking on eggshells around each other at this point, and John’s ego was too big to share the spotlight. He convinced his friend Klaus Voorman to play bass, and a session drummer named Alan White agreed to perform as well. He tried to call Eric Clapton, but Eric was nowhere to be found. Frantic, he had me ring Eric’s house. It felt as if I were on that phone for hours, just listening to it buzz. But just as I was about to give up, the gardener answered. I put John on the phone, and after several minutes of pleading, he convinced the gardener to wake Eric, who was in a deep sleep. Eric stumbled to the phone and agreed to join us at the airport in an hour.
Having had only twenty-four hours to practise, John and the band were not at their best. But Eric Clapton saved the day with his superb guitar playing, boosting John’s confidence. The concert was a success, and on the plane ride back from Toronto, John told the band’s manager, Allen Klein, that he was quitting the group. Paul was the first Beatle to acknowledge it publicly some seven months later, but John was the first. He’ll tell you that, too.
I remember how relieved I was that Eric was able to come, and how proud I was of my part in helping him get to Toronto. Now, lying on the floor of my flat, I know that I was no saviour. In fact, I was the cause of the Beatles’ breakup. If only I hadn’t told John about the gardener, if only I had hung up the phone before he answered. It took me six years to die after the Beatles broke up —much longer than I had thought it would take. But as soon as Paul announced that the Beatles were no more, I knew that I would not survive.
The end is near; the room begins to swirl. Or maybe it’s my head spinning, I can’t tell. The smell of gunpowder fades away, as do the police. I see only the checkerboard tiles moving apart, and a light shining down like a spotlight on me. Don’t all those near-death experiences talk about a light?
I brace for whatever death may bring. But instead, I hear a familiar voice say, “Not yet, Mal. Hang on. I want to show you another path.” I can’t place the voice, but it’s so inviting, so reassuring.
I reach out and grasp a hand.
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