Sunday, 2 May 2010

Ringo had a dead rat in drawer

Everybody's talking about the upcoming Sotheby's NYC auction (on Paul's 68th birthday coincidentally) of the lyrics to A Day In The Life in John's own handwroter - nice clear reproduction is featured here.

It seems they have resurfaced as the private collector who first bought them in 1992 is trying their hand (now for the 2nd time - they tried to sell them in 2006 but no joy, I blame Ebay...) at breaking the auction record for original handwritten Beatle lyrics. Speculation in the media is rife that ADITL will outsell a set of John's All You Need Is Love lyrics which sold for $1gazillion (or £655,450 in british money) five years ago.

Reading the various articles which the news of the auction has spawned led me to an afternoon of googling about Mal Evans, the gentle giant of the 2-man road crew/jacks of all trades who supported the boys from Cavern days to beyond the band break-up (Neil Aspinall, the George to Mal's Lennie, of course went on to run Apple till he passed away 2 years ago). It was Mal's widowed wife who first sold the ADITL lyrics back in 1992 you see.

One blog post I found from 2007 (which gives a nice potted history of Mal's life) particularly got my beatle detective antennae twitching. It makes several mentions of a book of memoirs called Living the Beatles' Legend which Mal had just finished writing before his untimely death, being shot by the LAPD in a domestic disturbance in 1976 (another tragic end for one of the beatle inner circle). The post also quoted several times from Mal's diaries. What's that now? Okay, hold the bus...that anyone in the inner circle kept a diary recording first hand the private and professional lives of the boys during the beatle years was news to me, never mind that extracts were to be found in the public domain!

A short google later and I had found the source of the extracts - it seems the Times newspaper had published them in 2005. After a magical mystery tour of their own following Mal's death, the diaries had been returned (along with many other precious archive items from his time working for the boys) to his wife Lily, who it seems had released these extracts to the Times.

Reading them (I've copied a few below but go here for the full portion that the Times printed) is by turns both a spine-tingling and rib-tickling experience for a fan like me. Mal's writing style is funny, sometimes unintentionally, and his throwaway nuggets about the some of the famous moments in beatle history are manna from heaven; but it's also sad to see the affect the band break-up had on Mal's relationship with the boys, who he certainly saw as more than just his employers.

January 19 and 20 1967
Ended up smashed in Bag O' Nails with Paul and Neil. Quite a number of people attached themselves, oh that it would happen to me... freak out time baby for Mal.

February 23, 1968
The Beatles all met Maharishi on his cottage roof... off to the beach after lunch, well it's not really the beach but the bank of the Ganges... Jane is still not well although the others minor complaints have been "faith healed", and Ringo had a dead rat in drawer.

January 13, 1969

Paul is really cutting down on the Apple staff members. I was elevated to office boy [Mal had briefly been made MD of Apple] and I feel very hurt and sad inside — only big boys don't cry. Why I should feel hurt and reason for writing this is ego... I thought I was different from other people in my relationship with the Beatles and being loved by them and treated so nice, I felt like one of the family. Seems I fetch and carry. I find it difficult to live on the £38 I take home each week and would love to be like their other friends who buy fantastic homes and have all the alterations done by them, and are still going to ask for a rise. I always tell myself — look, everybody wants to take from, be satisfied, try to give and you will receive. After all this time I have about £70 to my name, but was content and happy. Loving them as I do, nothing is too much trouble, because I want to serve them. Feel a bit better now — EGO?

January 27, 1970
Seem to be losing Paul — really got the stick from him today.

The full 5-page Times article is a must-read, giving an insight into Mal's contribution to the beatles as a mate and fellow traveller on their rollercoaster ride through the sixties, as well as more than a few key moments in their recording career - just one example: you can still hear Mal's ominous and echoing tones on A Day In The Life counting the bars between John's third verse and Paul's middle eight and back into John's final verse again - it was also Mal's responsibility to set off the alarm clock at the 24th bar as Paul comes in with 'Woke up, fell out of bed', and Mal joined John, Paul, and Ringo in producing the end of the song, a crashing E major chord played on the piano.

And of course we all know the great stories about Mal that the boys, particularly Paul, have told in their own words over the years (Paul getting Mal to write down the secret to life the first time they all got stoned; the Phillipines incident 'tell Lil I love her'; and Paul's fave: the beatle sandwich in the back of the van when Mal has to drive them home in a windscreen-less van one harsh winter early on in their career).
Lily has sold some of the memorabilia that belonged to Mal intermittently over the years (Paul successfully blocked her sale of his written lyrics to With A Little Help From My Friends, which he argued belonged to him as Mal was told to keep them as part of his job, not as a personal gift). I haven't been able to find out if the diaries are still in the Evans' family possession (I presume they are) and what their fate might be in terms of being fully published. And mystery also surrounds Living The Beatles' Legend - though I hope that some more knowledgeable fans than me might be able to shed light on this...