Kirkus Reviews QR Code


The Untold Story of Mal Evans

by Kenneth Womack

Pub Date: Nov. 14th, 2023
ISBN: 9780063248526
Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Overstuffed biography of the towering Beatles factotum whose life ended in tragedy.

Mal Evans (1935-1976) gave his life dates as August 3, 1963, when the Beatles first brought him on board, to May 20, 1975, when he foresaw dying in a New York hotel. He lasted a bit longer, shot and killed by a police officer. Womack, a music culture critic for Salon, is a merely competent writer but diligent researcher, and he corrects the long misapprehension that the gun-obsessed Evans was waving a harmless air rifle: It was a real rifle with live rounds. Otherwise, this overlong book is both a blend of well-known facts and a peek into Evans’ trove of Beatles arcana and his own sprawling, long-lost diaries, which give a day-by-day account of the band’s career. Those entries touch on sometimes prickly personalities and difficult situations, as when John Lennon blamed Evans for the loss of a purloined guitar, as well as high points—e.g., when Evans saved the Beatles from death from a shattered windshield by punching it out and driving the windowless tour van against arctic winds, with the lads piled up atop each other for warmth, “a bonding moment, to be sure.” A modest revelation: Lennon threatened to the last moment to ask his audience at the band’s first Royal Command Performance to “rattle your fucking jewelry” until Evans dissuaded him. Evans’ self-destructive spiral is the familiar rock story of too much money, booze, and cocaine. Less well known are the intricate, sometimes nasty band politics that held him back from higher positions in the pecking order, though he was essential to the Beatles operation and, indeed, contributed everything from lyrics to McCartney’s “Here, There and Everywhere” to tambourine on Harrison’s “What Is Life.”

For Beatlemaniacs with room on their shelves for yet another book.