Big Mal Lives!

By: Joshua Glenn
January 4, 2012

Thirty-five years ago today, on the night of January 4, 1976, four Los Angeles policemen responded to a call from a rented motel apartment at 8122 West 4th Street.

The caller was Fran Hughes, who shared the apartment with boyfriend Malcolm “Big Mal” Evans, former road manager and bodyguard of the Beatles. Earlier that evening, Hughes had called John Hoernie, who was collaborating with Evans on a book titled Living with the Beatles Legend, and asked him to come over. Evans, known as “the sixth Beatle,” was (she claimed) despondent, and doped up on Valium.

When Hoernie got there, Evans picked up an air pistol (according to some accounts; according to other accounts, it was an air rifle, or even a real pistol or rifle), which prompted Hughes’ 911 call. The police arrived, ordered Evans to put the gun down. When he didn’t — which is exceedingly odd, because by all accounts Big Mal was “outsize but gentle” — they shot and killed him.

“Paul is Dead” conspiracy theorists tend to bring up Evans’ death as further evidence of a vast coverup. Evans may have been killed, they speculate, because his memoir (which was never published, though in 2005 some extracts from it were released) was planning to reveal some sort of truth about Faul (Fake Paul).

Those people are paranoid nuts. Without touching the Paul-is-Dead tarbaby, I hereby announce a startling hypothesis, based on my own research: Big Mal is alive and well.

Why was Mal Evans’ death faked? I have a few pet theories, but this is no place for irresponsible speculation. What follows are cold, hard facts.


In 1962, Brian Epstein hired former telephone engineer/repairman “Big Mal” Evans (his height was somewhere between six-foot-two and six-foot-six; it depends which account you believe) as the Beatles’ assistant road manager.

The gentle Liverpudlian giant, who’d worked as a bouncer at the Cavern Club, acted as a driver, roadie, bodyguard, doorman, and dogsbody to the band. Evans purchased the Beatles’ underwear and signed fan photos; he carried their gate receipts and went out to eat with them.

But Evans had many other talents, some of which were revealed in those pre-’66 days. For example, he played Hammond organ on “You Won’t See Me.” (He is sometimes referred to as Mal “Organ” Evans.) And in ’64, when Paul McCartney was introduced to cannabis by Bob Dylan in New York, Evans took Macca’s dictation. This, I suspect, is where Evans first discovered his penchant for far-out writing.

Before the Beatles stopped touring, Evans saw it all. When the windscreen of their van shattered in freezing temperatures in January ’63, and the Beatles lay huddled on top of one another for warmth during the drive from Liverpool to London, Evans was driving. He procured pills and marijuana for the Beatles. When a Beatles fan slashed her wrists in Wellington (New Zealand) in June ’64, it was in Evans’ room.

Like the Beatles themselves, Evans’s worldview was irrevocably altered by the Beatles’ success.


The Beatles’ last concert was at Candlestick Park, San Francisco, on August 29, 1966. What became of Evans then?

As noted, Evans was multitalented. He lent his voice to “Yellow Submarine,” played kazoo on “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!”, controlled an alarm clock on “A Day in the Life” (and he is the one heard counting out the timing on the 24-bar orchestral build up; and he played the cosmic final piano chord), shoveled gravel and contributed backing vocals on “You Know My Name (Look Up the Number),” and hit the anvil heard on “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.” Evans played tambourine on “Dear Prudence” and “Strawberry Fields,” trumpet on “Helter Skelter,” harmonica and possibly bass harmonium on “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite.”

Evans also acted. He made cameo appearances in Help! (1965; he played a Channel swimmer) and Magical Mystery Tour (1967; he played a streetcorner magician). He also appeared in the movie Blindman (1971; he played a bearded rifleman), and can be spotted in the documentaries Let It Be (1970) and The Concert for Bangladesh (1972).

Evans serving tea

Evans took some of the photos for the “White Album” insert poster. It was Evans who inspected the Maharishi’s ashram, in India, before the Beatles arrived there in 1968. Then he stuck around, cooking eggs for Ringo (who hated Indian food) during their stay. Evans traveled around Europe and Africa with Paul; he went nightclubbing with Ringo in London; he visited the Greek island where the Beatles planned to establish their “Beatle Dome” Argonaut Folly. Evans fixed cups of tea and plates of beans-on-toast during the recording of Magical Mystery Tour; and he sat up with John and Paul the first time they tripped on LSD together.

For the filming of the final scene in Let it Be, Evans set up the equipment on the rooftop of Apple’s offices — and during the band’s performance, he kept the police at bay.


Along with the Beatles, Evans evolved rapidly during the 1960s. Perhaps more rapidly than the Beatles. Even before he began to lose weight and grow his hair long (in the 1970s), his appearance began to morph. By 1966, he looked less like a bodyguard than a worldly intellectual who happened to enjoy lugging other men’s suitcases.

Mal Evans with Paul McCartney

In November 1966, on the flight back to England after a holiday trip with Evans and Jane Asher to Kenya, McCartney conceived an idea in which an entire album would be role-played, with each of The Beatles assuming an alter-ego in the “Lonely Hearts Club Band”, which would then perform a concert in front of an audience. The inspiration is said to have come when Evans asked McCartney what the letters “S” and “P” stood for on the pots on their in-flight meal trays. This is a bizarre anecdote — of course Evans would have known what the letters stood for. Another version of the story has Evans asking McCartney to “pass the pepper,” which became a eureka moment for Macca.

One suspects that the entire album was Evans’ idea, and these anecdotes were McCartney’s back-handed way of admitting that fact. Both Ringo Starr and longtime Beatles friend Pete Shotton — who hung out at Abbey Road and contributed to various songs — have said that it was Evans who not only coined the name of the fictitious ensemble but made the invaluable suggestion that Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band be presented as the Beatles’ alter egos. (Shotton and Starr are quoted, for example in Beatlesongs, by William J. Dowlding.) As we’ll see, Evans was something of an alter-ego expert.

Most interestingly, to me, is the fact that Evans did photo research for the Sgt. Pepper’s album cover. (He also spent hours polishing the instruments held by the Beatles on the cover.) The album cover art, art-directed by Robert Fraser, and designed by English pop artist Peter Blake and Jann Haworth, depicts the band posing in front of a collage of celebrities. These include: Marlene Dietrich, Carl Gustav Jung, W.C. Fields, Diana Dors, James Dean, Bob Dylan, Issy Bonn, Marilyn Monroe, Aldous Huxley, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Sigmund Freud, Aleister Crowley, Edgar Allan Poe, Karl Marx, Oscar Wilde, William S. Burroughs, Marlon Brando, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, and Lenny Bruce.

The album cover is a virtuoso high-lowbrow collage — a semiotician’s dream!


During this period, Evans served a “special role, halfway between bodyguard and nursemaid, mostly for John,” according to Philip Norman’s John Lennon: The Life. He and other Beatles aides were torn between the increasingly acrimonious members of the group — asked to perform tasks for one Beatle without telling the others. For example, McCartney and Evans arranged the entire filming and recording and concept for Magical Mystery Tour before revealing the idea to the others.

In other words, he wasn’t terribly busy. “We had a meeting to set up Apple,” Evans would recall. “Paul turns round to me and says, ‘What are you doing these days, Mal, while we’re not working?’ ‘Not too much, Paul.'” That says it all.

As a kind of joke, the Beatles made Evans president of Apple. Yet Evans was sacked from Apple because, according to the Beatles’ new manager, Allen Klein, he wasn’t earning his keep.

Still, the even-keeled Evans stayed on good terms with everyone. He was a member of the groom’s party at McCartney’s 1969 wedding, and worked as a kind of housekeeper for McCartney; and he was the only member of the Beatles’ entourage to welcome Yoko Ono into the mix. Which explains why the gentle giant is credited on the 1970 John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album as having provided “tea and sympathy.”


Mal Evans separated from his wife in ’73, and followed John Lennon to Los Angeles. Note that in 1973, the American Yippie Abbie Hoffman was busted for cocaine, and soon after changed his identity and went underground. Going underground was key to the radical chic mythos, then.

In Los Angeles, Evans hung out in the studio when a drunken Lennon and Phil Spector recorded Rock’n’Roll. When Cynthia Lennon brought Julian to visit his father, Evans tagged along on a trip to Disneyland and made small talk about Liverpool — to ease the tension. He was at the studio with John in ’74 when Paul McCartney dropped by for one last jam.

What else? One hears that Evans spent much of this period working on a never-completed memoir, Living with the Beatles Legend (sometimes rendered as Living the Beatles’ Legend). Having once transitioned from telephone engineer to factotum, Evans was now transitioning into a new role: author.

Evans was deeply interested in the Beatles’ lyrics, one learns. At Beatlefest conventions in the early 1970s, he was forever revealing the true meaning of, for example, “Let It Be” — which he claimed was not inspired by a vision of McCartney’s mother. And he ended up in possession of the original handwritten lyrics to dozens of Beatles songs, which his family was later sued for attempting to auction off, after his death. Evans also contributed some lyrics to McCartney’s opaque song “Fixing A Hole,” for the Sgt. Pepper album; Paul gave him a cash payment instead of a songwriting credit. According to Peter Doggett’s You Never Give Me Your Money: The Beatles After the Breakup, Evans wrote other lyrics for Sgt. Pepper, too — and spent the last few years of his life attempting to get credit for them from McCartney.


Between August 1966 and his emigration to the US in 1973, Evans lost quite a bit of weight — which one suspects may have been a symptom of habitual usage of controlled substances. Look at photos of John Lennon (example below) from the same period — he’s emaciated.

Evans also grew his hair fashionably long (as did the Beatles, during that same period). Around the time that Lennon adopted hipster glasses, Evans stopped wearing his own fuddy-duddy glasses. Tousled locks were in, and — like George Harrison — Evans stopped combing his naturally wavy hair straight. The humid air of southern California made it frizzy. He grew a moustache and shaved it off. He was letting his freak flag fly.

Long-haired Beatles

In photos from the late 1960s and early ’70s Evans is still recognizable — tall, handsome in a beaky way — but the transformation is striking. He looks younger, more naive and hopeful. It’s as though he were changing his identity. Moving to Los Angeles was undoubtedly motivated by that desire — as it was for Lennon.

Big Mal in Los Angeles, 1970s


In 1966, the year that the Beatles stopped touring and Mal Evans began to drift rudderless through the late Sixties, Thomas Pynchon’s prescient novella The Crying of Lot 49 was published. Near the beginning of the book, looking over a grotesque new Southern Californian city, the novella’s protagonist, Oedipa, has a semiotician’s vision:

She looked down a slope, needing to squint for the sunlight, onto a vast sprawl of houses which had grown up all together, like a well-tended crop, from the dull brown earth; and she thought of the time she’d opened a transistor radio to replace a battery and seen her first printed circuit. The ordered swirl of houses and streets, from this high angle, sprang at her now with the same unexpected, astonishing clarity as the circuit card had. Though she knew even less about radios than about Southern Californians, there were to both outward patterns a hieroglyphic sense of concealed meaning, of an intent to communicate. There’d seemed no limit to what the printed circuit could have told her (if she had tried to find out); so in her first minute of San Narciso, a revelation also trembled just past the threshold of her understanding.

The reference to a transistor radio’s circuits reminds us of Mal Evans’s deep affinity with communications technology. Evans was, as we’ll see, something of a Shakespeare scholar, as well — which reminds us of Pynchon’s description of Oedipa, “a rare creature indeed, unfit perhaps for marches and sit-ins, but just a whiz at pursuing strange words in Jacobean texts.” Pynchon tells the story of an outsider: wandering alone between the forces of structure and chaos, between the status quo and the colorful mob. She is an interpreter in search of hieroglyphics to decode.

PS: In 1966, Antonioni’s Blow-Up also appeared — a movie whose English hipster protagonist struggles with a profound sense of irreality and identity loss.


Big Mal at the Maharishi's ashram in Rishikesh, 1968

Lennon and McCartney always insisted that none of their Sgt. Pepper lyrics referred to recreational drug use. Which leads one to speculate that it was Evans (one of whose jobs was procuring drugs for the Beatles) who sneaked drug references into the lyrics. Perhaps McCartney and Lennon were too naive to recognize the double meaning of the phrase “I’d love to turn you on” (“A Day in the Life”); or “Found my way upstairs and had a smoke/And somebody spoke and I went into a dream” (same song); or “Doing the garden, digging the weeds/Who could ask for more?” (“When I’m Sixty-Four”).

How was Evans in a position to sneak lyrics into songs? The Beatles’ post-1966 songwriting sessions were shambolic affairs: The Beatles sat around the studio shouting out lyrics, which Evans recorded in a notebook.

Published excerpts from Evans’ diaries are sketchy at best — supposedly most of his diaries and notes for his Beatles memoir were confiscated by the police, after his death, and lost — and rather impossible to believe. Example:

September 13, 1968. Heard today that police arrived at EMI to bust us after we had left. On further enquiries this did not appear to have happened — wouldn’t matter anyway, what would they find?

This diary entry seems manufactured — possibly by Evans himself, for use in some imagined future drug trial as spurious evidence of innocence. Which gives some indication that Evans, author of a 1960s text (his diary) which blurs reality and fiction, includes historical falsehoods, and in which the author is a character, was a postmodernist author avant la lettre. Note that one of Evans’ jobs for the Beatles was faking their signatures on thousands of autographed photos, en route to New York for their famous American tour. How postmodernist.

Evans was also, as mentioned earlier, a former telephone engineer. Technology and postmodern literature — a potent admixture, indeed! Very Pynchon-esque. One wishes that instead of killing himself (death-by-cop is a form of suicide), Evans had gone back to school and studied English Literature. Or perhaps he already had done that. Perhaps, immediately after the Beatles’ last concert (as mentioned, it was on August 29, 1966), Evans enrolled at a university somewhere in Great Britain. If so, he most likely would have done so in Wales.


Why Wales?

It is my understanding that Evans is a Liverpudlian; however, for some reason, perhaps for the same reason that Paul McCartney began passing himself off as a Scotsman around the same time, Evans went Welsh. He was changing his identity.

Wales was important to the Beatles. Note that in 1967, in Bangor, North Wales, at a meditation seminar held by their Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the Beatles chose publicly to renounce drugs, claiming they no longer needed them. And it was here that they heard of the death of their manager Brian Epstein from (supposedly) an overdose of sleeping tablets.

Mal Evans, who at that point was (as I’ve demonstrated) reinventing himself in all sorts of ways, may have taken more from the Maharishi’s teachings — regarding reincarnation and multiple lives, surely, but also regarding the importance of challenging received assumptions about individuality, aspiration, and consumption — than the Beatles did. One wonders whether, as he stood on the London train platform with the Beatles, waiting to travel to Wales and the Maharishi, Mal Evans saw a vision of himself as he used to be: younger, thinner, more innocent and hopeful.

Perhaps both Mal Evanses boarded the train, one riding with his fellow proletarians in a coach compartment, the other in a private, luxurious Beatles car. Was it at that precise moment that Mal Evans decided to eventually stage his own death and be reborn? If so, perhaps the Evans who got off that train wasn’t the same one who boarded it.

Big Mal in Wales, 1970s

PS: The October 21, 1966 Aberfan mining tragedy in South Wales made a deep psychic impact on another band: the Bee Gees, whose “New York Mining Disaster 1941” is based on this event. The song, the Bee Gees later admitted, was a Beatles ripoff. Reading the lyrics today, I wonder if it’s really a song about Mal Evans and his determination to “die” and go underground?

I keep straining my ears to hear a sound.
Maybe someone is digging underground,
or have they given up and all gone home to bed,
thinking those who once existed must be dead?

As we’ll see, Mal Evans spent years — over a decade! — underground, straining his ears to hear the sound of someone digging for him, before finally deciding it was safe to re-emerge.


Just how Welsh did Evans go after 1966? So Welsh that in 1968 Evans single-handedly discovered Badfinger.

After seeing the Welsh rock band The Iveys play at the Marquee Cub in London, Evans pushed their demo tapes to the four Beatles until he gained approval to sign them. His support led to the band — later renamed Badfinger — becoming the first non-Beatle recording artists on the Apple label. Evans even produced a couple of Badfinger songs.

I have even more evidence of Evans’ efforts to reinvent himself as a Welshman. According to my original research, one of the things that Evans started doing during the mysterious 1966-1974 period was competing in Wales at outdoor bowls. A Malcolm Evans finished fourth at the sport’s inaugural championships in 1966; and he has even been described as the “first Welshman to win the world outdoor bowls title in 1972.”

In 1974, Badfinger frontman Pete Ham quit the band and moved back to Wales; the following year, he killed himself. Big Mal supposedly died-by-cop shortly after that. Another avenue to explore: Was Mal Evans related to Badfinger’s one non-Welsh member, Liverpudlian guitarist/co-frontman Tom Evans? Does Tom Evans’ mysterious 1983 suicide also bear investigation? Are Pete Ham and Tom Evans still alive, too? Is John Lennon? Does all of this have something to do with the anti-Beatles, anti-gnostic conspiracy?

But that’s crazy talk. This is a serious and sober investigation, concerned only with facts.


So did Mal Evans study English Literature in Wales, during the lost years of 1966-1974? Until this point, my hypothesis has been sheer speculation. But this is where things get very interesting.

According to my research, a “Malcolm Evans” began studying English Literature and Drama at the University of Wales in 1966; this same Evans received a Ph.D. from that university in 1972. It’s not impossible that there is another Mal Evans out there, I suppose, but the timing is extraordinary.

Note that “Malcolm Evans” is well over six feet tall, identifies as Welsh, and is — as recent photos at the end of this post will demonstrate — “kindly but menacing-looking.” Which is exactly how Mal Evans is described in The Love You Make: An Insider’s Story of the Beatles.

Wouldn’t Evans have assumed a different identity, if he planned to go underground? Perhaps Evans learned a thing or two from Edgar Allan Poe, whose story “The Purloined Letter” suggests that the best way to hide is in plain sight. (Note that Poe was one of the figures he had a hand in adding to the Sgt. Pepper’s cover.) The postmodern Pop artist Andy Warhol, meanwhile, had made a name for himself mass-producing surfaces devoid of content or meaning. Might it be that Evans wanted to try the postmodern aesthetics of a true signature made in flesh and bone, a substantial presence so authentic that people wouldn’t recognize it?

Malcolm Evans’ one and only book so far, Signifying Nothing: Truth’s True Contents in Shakespeare’s Text, is an erudite, postmodernist text which suggests that in the hands of the dominant order Shakespeare is a tool of oppression. In his Introduction, famed literary critic Terry Eagleton writes that Evans’ book “breaks boldly with our staid notions of critical composition and threatens to elude the conventional categories of literary studies.” Very Beatles-esque, indeed.


Here’s something very peculiar about Signifying Nothing: It is prefaced by the diary of an Edward Harrison, who in the 1920s traveled to the Caribbean to teach Shakespeare. In a sly footnote, Evans writes: “The authenticity of the Harrison journal is in considerable doubt. I would ascribe to it here no more authority or truth than if it were, in fact, only a work of literary fiction.” In fact, there is no Edward Harrison; he’s an alter ego for Evans. Who seems to have known quite a lot about alter egos!

And who undoubtedly borrowed the name “Harrison” from one of the Beatles. Who were fascinated with Shakespeare.

Remember Mal Evans’s dispute with Paul McCartney about the Sgt. Pepper lyrics he’d helped write? Malcolm Evans gets in a dig at Macca on page 86 — where he sneers at BBC Radio’s middlebrow program Desert Island Discs, “where establishment castaways as distinguished as Princess Margaret or Paul MacCartney [the misspelling obviously a dig at Paul’s attempt to go Scottish] were shipwrecked with only a handful of gramophone records…”

Here’s another funny thing about Signifying Nothing: It wasn’t published until 1986. (Amazon’s 1989 date refers to the 2nd edition; the book was selected by the American Library Association as one of the outstanding critical books of 1986.) Why would an aspiring academic wait fifteen years until after he’d earned his Ph.D. before publishing his first book? Something doesn’t add up. It’s as though Malcolm Evans was laying low.

A paranoid nut might suggest that Mal Evans had loose ends to tie up before he could risk reemerging under his purloined-letter-style nom de plume, Malcolm Evans. (See the Badfinger-Lennon murder/suicide chronology.) But this isn’t a paranoid’s fantasy; it’s data-based analysis.

NB: The Last Word, which Malcolm Evans announced in ’89 as a forthcoming book on “speech, writing, and informatics,” has never appeared.


The voices at the end of “I Am the Walrus” came from a BBC broadcast of King Lear, which John Lennon heard when he turned on the radio while they were working on the song. He decided to mix bits of the broadcast into the song. The section of Lear used came from Act Four, Scene 6, with Oswald saying: “Slave, thou hast slain me. Villain, take my purse,” which comes in at the 3:52 mark. After Oswald dies, we hear this dialogue:

Edgar: “I know thee well: a serviceable villain, As duteous to the vices of thy mistress As badness would desire.”
Gloucester: “What, is he dead?”
Edgar: “Sit you down, father. Rest you.”

A paranoid nut might find a way to connect this scrap of Shakespeare to Mal/Malcolm Evans. But I am strictly interested in the observable facts of the matter.

So… did Mal Evans die in 1976?

Corpus Delicti is one of the most important concepts in a murder investigation. When a person disappears and cannot be contacted, many police agencies initiate a missing person case. If, during the course of the investigation, detectives believe that he has been murdered, then a “body” of evidentiary items including physical, demonstrative, and testimonial evidence, must be obtained to establish that the missing individual has indeed been murdered before a suspect can be charged with homicide. The best and easiest evidence establishment in these cases is the physical body of the deceased.

But just read this passage from Philip Norman’s John Lennon: The Life:

Though Norman doesn’t question whether Evans actually died that night, the details he provides — hasty cremation, missing ashes — would make even the least skeptical person alive wonder exactly what transpired.

Note that John Lennon, who at that point was the Beatle closest with Mal Evans, apparently made a crack about Evans’s ashes being accidentally sent to the “Dead Letter Office.” (This joke is repeated in several books about the Beatles.) Would a grieving friend say such a thing? This makes one suspect that Lennon knew that Mal Evans wasn’t dead. Which might make one wonder what, if anything, Evans had to do with the assassination of the Man Who Knew Too Much four years later.

But that’s crazy talk. This is a serious and sober investigation, concerned only with facts.

Fact: The passport photo above was taken in the 1980s. The passport belongs to the “Malcolm Evans” introduced earlier. The hair is shorter, the moustache absent. But the image of Malcolm Evans bears a strong, even striking resemblance to the 1970s photos of Mal Evans, doesn’t it?


If Mal Evans did not die in 1976 — if, in fact, he went underground instead — then where did he go? What has he done since 1976? Let’s begin by asking what the Malcolm Evans character introduced above did after earning his Phd in 1972?

If Malcolm Evans had not led a double life as Mal Evans until 1976, surely it would be easy to determine his whereabouts from, say, 1972-1989. Yet I have so far been unable to do so. If I were Mal Evans, and wanted to hide out during the late 1970s through the 1980s, I’d probably have traveled the world. And perhaps, at some point, I would have used my PhD to get a job teaching English Lit., in my adopted home state of California. There is nowhere better than a university campus to maintain an obscure profile.

Below, a rare image of Malcolm Evans from the 1980s — ask yourself whether he looks like an older version of the Mal Evans we’ve seen in the 1960s and ’70s. It’s tricky because he’s not wearing glasses… and he’s artfully obscured his face in this snapshot… but I think he does.

Malcolm Evans in the 1980s

And after the 1980s? What then? Mal Evans was an intellectually restless man, as I’ve established. If it’s true that, according to my theory, he had already gone back to school once, when he was at loose ends — might he not have done so again after 1976? Perhaps even a decade or more after 1976? Recalling Evans’ pre-Beatles knowledge of technology and engineering, I did a little digging into the records of a few of those technology-oriented UK universities founded in the 1960s.

Aha! From 1989-1991, Evans — the very same Malcolm Evans who’d received a Ph.D. from the University of Wales in 1972 — earned an MSc degree from the University of Sussex. His degree was in Technology Policy and Cognitive Science. Is it plausible that there is another Mal Evans out there interested in both literature and technology? No, it is not.


Malcolm Evans in the 1990s

Malcolm Evans seems to have abandoned his career as a professor of English in the 1990s. More evidence, perhaps, that he was only in that line of work until such a time as he deemed it safe to emerge from deep cover and work in higher-profile fields.

Evans consulted from 1990-1994 with Semiotic Solutions, a firm (founded by Virginia Valentine) that had pioneered the application of semiotics to brand analysis. While working for Valentine, Evans adapted the notion of Residual-Dominant-Emergent from the influential Welsh cultural critic Raymond Williams and turned it into a “tool” (read: technology) that many commercial semioticians have been using ever since. Like Clifford Geertz, this budding commercial semiotician may have learned from the Beatles the secret of successfully launching a meme.

Since the late 1990s, Evans has taken higher- and higher-profile roles. From 1998-2001, he was Director of Semiotic Insight at the brand development and marketing insight consultancy Added Value; and a group associate at Fusion 5. Also during these years, Evans wrote, researched and taught semiotics courses at universities around the world.

In 1999, George Harrison was the victim of an assassination attempt. Did Mal/Malcolm Evans organize the assassination in order to silence (or at least frighten) Harrison, because he was about to take another step forward into the limelight, and didn’t want his cover blown? Some crazy conspiracy theorists might think so. But this investigation is concerned only with facts.

Fact: In 2000, Malcolm Evans cofounded the marketing semiotics consultancy Space Doctors, in Brighton (UK).


And since 2000?

In 2010, Evans cofounded the international cultural and brand semiotics website Semionaut. Evans’ 1960s-flavored posts appear at the site not infrequently. (Examples here and here.) In November of 2011, he wrote a post containing the following passage:

I woke thinking about: the huge cultural influence of India on the Beatles, especially George; Olivia Harrison’s words on what makes a marriage last (mainly not getting divorced but more, worth hearing), inspiring anyone with bodywork dented by life’s ups and downs; how George, recovering from cancer, survived an assassination attempt more savage than the one on John Lennon. The casual honesty and integrity of the Beatles in their early days. Viewing media constructs of themselves detachedly as almost autonomous, with puppet lives of their own. Their ability to be themselves and say what they thought (Lennon’s spontaneous comment about the Beatles being more popular than Jesus). And in UK today a certain timidity, conservatism, young people constrained again to fit a mainstream ideological mould.

No need to read between the lines. (Except to note the absence of any kind words about Macca.) Evans clearly wants to be unmasked.

Welcome back, Big Mal.


MORE FURSHLUGGINER THEORIES BY JOSH GLENN: TAKING THE MICKEY (series) | KLAATU YOU (series intro) | We Are Iron Man! | And We Lived Beneath the Waves | Is It A Chamber Pot? | I’d Like to Force the World to Sing | The Argonaut Folly | The Perfect Flâneur | The Twentieth Day of January | The Dark Side of Scrabble | The YHWH Virus | Boston (Stalker) Rock | The Sweetest Hangover | The Vibe of Dr. Strange | CONVOY YOUR ENTHUSIASM (series intro) | Tyger! Tyger! | Star Wars Semiotics | The Original Stooge | Fake Authenticity | Camp, Kitsch & Cheese | Stallone vs. Eros | The UNCLE Hypothesis | Icon Game | Meet the Semionauts | The Abductive Method | Semionauts at Work | Origin of the Pogo | The Black Iron Prison | Blue Krishma! | Big Mal Lives! | Schmoozitsu | You Down with VCP? | Calvin Peeing Meme | Daniel Clowes: Against Groovy | The Zine Revolution (series) | Best Adventure Novels (series) | Debating in a Vacuum (notes on the Kirk-Spock-McCoy triad) | Pluperfect PDA (series) | Double Exposure (series) | Fitting Shoes (series) | Cthulhuwatch (series) | Shocking Blocking (series) | Quatschwatch (series)



What do you think?

  1. I love the theory-a good read. There seems to be an eyebrow and an age problem though. The Malcolm at the end seems a good 15 years younger than the other. His eyebrows also pitch higher in the middle of the brow. the original Malcolm had less wavy brows.

  2. Thanks Lynn and Laura.

    Laura, I agree that “Malcolm Evans” seems younger than Mal Evans would be at this point — but some people have great genes, you know? As for eyebrows getting out of control, that’s the curse of every middle-aged man.

  3. Great article. Interesting that the author is a cofounder of the website Semionaut. I hope being out-ed by his colleague doesn’t prevent Malcolm from publishing his memoir.

  4. Excellent detective work, Aaron. The PRG (Paranoid Research Group) that I’ve just now founded could use a man of your talents.

  5. I know this bloke. I swear it. That last picture of him really looks like a bloke who works in the building where I work. I will investigate and possibly get in contact with you if it seems likely?

    Its uncannily like him. I feel a bit… I don’t know… a bit jittery about this. Excited. Like I’m in the proximity of greatness.

  6. Tim — small world! What are the chances that one of HiLobrow’s rising talents would work in the same building as Malcolm Evans? Now, if ME had given you a copy of “The Crying of Lot 49” for Xmas, *that* would have been uncanny.

  7. I have that book. I have it. I have that book here, now, on my desk. This is beginning to freak me out a little.

  8. It’s great to see you attaching these jump leads to the corpse of American investigative journalism, Joshua Glenn. As you know I’m always prepared to answer questions that aren’t going to put you in any direct danger. I want to deal with this in a considered way rather than behave like some kind of incontinent human Wikileak prompting the ire of the LAPD, Macca 3 or any other random nutters. I promise to do that before too long. Meanwhile I would recommend that anybody interested in the issues you’ve raised look at the current alleged Paul and some other pictures or footage from over the years. Just look. Don’t people look at things any more? My cousin Lynn recently went all the way from North Wales to Las Vegas to see ‘Barry Manilow’. I creased myself laughing when she told me. The best definition of contemporary celebrity is arguably ‘multiplicity’. They needed DNA testing to know they had the right Saddam Hussein. I’m not sure we know yet about Gaddafi. Lennon was obsessed with Poe’s ‘The Purloined Letter’ (there are a couple of hidden references in A Spaniard in the Works). He wanted to fake his own death then come back, following Poe, hidden in full view as John again (a kind of inversion of the False Paul scenario). The plan misfired twice, first time with Manson and the second occasion we know all about (I published a piece about it at the time in the local newspaper when I was living in Hayward, California – just look if you’re interested and you’ll find it). There are also some adumbrations in a song called “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide (Except Me and My Monkey)”, which I wrote with Charlie and Tom Pynchon when we played together briefly in a Southern California protopunk band called Sick Dick and the Dictators in the early/mid ’60s and let Lennon claim as his own on the white album. We all loved the Velvets and I knew John Cale (we would seek each other out so we could converse in Welsh). There are other strong links between the pop culture of that time and semiotics today. One of the world’s leading biosemioticians, Professor Wendy Wheeler of London Metropolitan University (author of The Whole Creature, which everybody MUST read), was once Cale’s girlfriend back then. It was Wendy who persuaded him to transpose ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ into a minor key leading to the version (I won’t say ‘cover’ or ‘tribute’) which is an actual improvement on Elvis’s original master work. If you don’t believe me ask Wendy. So there we are. Thanks for the compliment on my looks, Laura. You’d enjoy the UK’s best-selling Christmas calendar this year, which features that other Peter Pan of British Pop Cliff Richard in various safely provocative poses. I loved the photo-research, Josh, and what struck me most was how beautiful we all were back then. Stardust, golden, most of us didn’t realise. I never had the narcissistic beauty of a Jimi or a Jim. And I’m certainly in better shape than either of them is now, which is a consolation. Still kindly and menacing after all these years. Life’s a game of two halves as we say over here where we call what you call ‘soccer’ real football and where it’s played mainly by men not moms. But life’s not for everybody. Remember that too Josh. And watch your back. You guys gave up on investigative journalism for good reasons. We don’t want the kind of accident that supposedly happened to me and is currently proliferating in peace-loving Iran happening in Boston. So that’s all for now. Peace and love. Mal

  9. A seance, yes, or a dream. When I read your original post I felt much the same. The context within which this all starts to make sense (a kind of cultural unconscious or historical underbelly) is all here:
    This film is essential & urgent viewing for anyone with even the vaguest interest in cultural history. These fragments you’ve excavated, Josh, are like offcuts from that bigger story. I met Adam Curtis, who made the film, in Balham, South London, some time around 1999 when he was working on his documentary series The Century of the Self. Curtis wanted to find out if the work of Jacques Lacan was having any impact in the area of marketing and consumer insight broadly labelled ‘semiotic’. My words about life (above) were actually a direct steal from Lacan. John Lennon used to talk about a brutally short session of analysis with him in Paris, which resulted in this sole pronouncement from the master: “Life isn’t for everybody”. John had been drawn in that direction when he heard that Lacan too was obsessed with Poe’s story “The Purloined Letter”. Lacan was famous for his high prices and abruptly terminated consultations – 2 minutes, 5 minutes, nothing unusual there. His other patients included Roland Barthes and the renowned interpreter of Marx, Louis Althusser, who went on to strangle his wife. Lennon was pretty unlucky with analysts (he tried R.D.Laing & David Cooper as well as Lacan) until he met up with Arthur Janov and tried primal therapy. After that he seemed pretty well adjusted for a while. And out of that came the 1970 album John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (“Mummy don’t go/ Daddy come home”). Don’t try singing that one at home too many times. I did once, with Ken Harrison whose uncle, Edward, was the main protagonist in my book Signifying Nothing, and I was out of commission for a couple of weeks. Hare Krishna is safer. Or Woolly Bully. Janov seemed to free something up in John. Before that he was more of a pictures than a words man. We had to ghost three quarters of In His Own Write for him. Jim used to say “Stick a stoner dyslexic chimp in front of a typewriter for a couple of days and you’ll come up with a hatfull of authentic Lennon lyrics”. Across that fragmented Adam Curtis narrative in the film there’s a fine skein connecting semiotics with this history of popular music. The morning after I read your post, Josh, I woke up to a vivid dream in which Terence Hawkes, who supervised my Shakespeare doctorate and from whose lips I first heard the word ‘semiotics’, appeared to me. Before becoming an academic Hawkes had been drummer with Acker Bilk’s Paramount Jazz Band. I nearly wrote ‘paranoid jazz band’ there. Who could ever forget Acker’s haunting “Stranger On the Shore” – suspended at an edge beyond which The Beatles materialised to change pop music forever. Wendy Wheeler got back to me this morning to say John Cale’s version of “Heartbreak Hotel” is in F sharp, by the way. Another tip Lacan relayed to John by mail after their session, and a good one for anybody who enjoys that ‘being at a seance’ feeling you evoke so powerfully Josh (it comes through even those few words) is this: To access the unconscious you have to adopt an oblique circuitous route, viewing the door only in peripheral vision and without registering the contact explicitly, then you have to knock on the door from the inside.

  10. This is terrific stuff, keep it flowing. As long as we have you on the other end of the Ouija Board, Big Mal, what can you tell us about the Sgt. Pepper album cover that we might not have suspected?

  11. There’s not a lot to say about the Sergeant Pepper sleeve. We liked the colour, evoking Liverpool football club and the British working class movement (“The workers’ flag is deepest red”) and It was great that we put the lyrics to the songs on the sleeve — that was the biggest breakthrough at a time when normal fans didn’t have access to the words. You had to make things up to fill the gaps in your hearing or understanding before then — Rorschach ink blot test style. The rest I found too arty. Surreal and fancy, a bit vacuous. By adding in people like Edgar Allan Poe and Aleister Crowley it’s almost like we were acknowledging that — desperately trying to add a bit of edge. And what that does, with anachronistic retrospect, is to make it all rather Harry Potterish avant la lettre. It also nets out as ostentatious packaging trying to outdo what’s inside the wrapper — which it didn’t and never could. Again that’s a familiar trope now but didn’t wash then. Thank god we didn’t follow through with the Sgt Pepper idea and make it a concept album. As it is all we have is a reprise of the worst song, otherwise a bunch of great unrelated songs — and never mind. If you want a good concept album with appropriate artwork on the sleeve go forward to Dark Side of the Moon or Wish You Were Here. It’s not Sergeant Pepper. Nor is it any of that earlier stuff like Tommy or Aqualung.

    Now I return to the central hypothesis of your piece Josh and, unfortunately, I have to challenge that. The suggestion has been made that there are two different people in your selection of photographs. Eyebrows can’t lie. If you were to send a drone with facial recognition software to take out one of these guys, it would need to be a little confused to take out both of them, wouldn’t it? Correct. You would need separate drones for Big Mals 1 and 2. And thereby hangs a tale. Look at this photograph taken by John Lennon in the North Welsh seaside town of Llandudno in August 1963. Front right is Billy J Kramer, who was appearing on a variety bill with The Beatles at a local theatre. On the left, who knows now?

    In the middle — did these two guys meet in the bar of The Grand Hotel a couple of days earlier? There are plenty of people in Wales called Evans but Malcolm is a Scots name not Welsh (it means ‘follower of Columba’, the saint who traveled from Ireland to Iona and brought Christianity to Britain for the first time). Had neither of them ever met another Malcolm Evans before? Did they strike up a friendship and share an identity till 1973? Then what?

    I admire your sleuthing skills, Josh (AKA Sherlock) but I don’t want to attract the wrong kind of attention. Neither I think should you. You’ll never walk alone.

  12. Second from right is supposed to be Big Mal? I don’t think so. Are you sure it’s not Buddy Holly, four years after he supposedly died? At a Portmeiron, Wales gathering (along with George Markstein and Ralph Smart, writers for “Danger Man”) a handsome young Patrick McGoohan (second from left) to plan a TV show about a British former secret agent who is held prisoner in a mysterious seaside village where his captors try to find out why he abruptly resigned from his job?

  13. You were warm there for a while but you’re getting colder now. You need to look at Tom P’s Proverbs for Paranoids: “If they get you asking the wrong questions they don’t have to worry about the answers”. You have no idea what you were nearly messing with there, Sherlock. What if the composite Big Mal was one of only a handful of people to have served on both sides in the Vietnam war, for US Special Forces and the VC? The doubling up on a single identity would naturally have left two guys with British commando training with plenty of time for other interests outside roadying and moptop security. Who do you think hid those American WMDs in the Middle East after the Six Days War? In plain view, in the style of ‘The Purloined Letter’? How many Big Mals do you think were in that bar in Coco Beach, Florida, (read about it in Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff), when the Nazi rocket scientists behind the Apollos sang the ‘Horst Wessel Lied’ as the first Americans walked on the moon? You Gen X cool skateboarding dads should consider yourselves lucky to have such apparently limitless supplies of sedative postmodernism at your disposal. Human kind, as the man said, can’t bear too much reality. And you need to realise, Josh, anything that can ease the pain like that is addictive.

  14. So, there are/were two Mals as there are/were two or more Pauls and possibly two or more of all of The Beatles? Why? Are all of the real/original Beatles dead or did they all go into different lives?

  15. Her Majesty’s a pretty nice girl but she doesn’t have a lot to say. I was there with Macca3 (the one who can’t sing) at the Jubilee celebrations. The queen either didn’t recognise me or it wasn’t the actual queen. Diana’s alive and well, settled down with Dodie in suburban bliss, wearing new identities, in the English seaside town of Worthing (featured by Oscar Wilde in The Importance of Being Ernest). I’m heading over there for a barbecue tonight with Tim Spencer (no relation) who used to play electronic saxophone with T’Pau.

  16. What all about Ian Iachimoe and the Indica gallery. The church of the final judgement and the Process. Be straight. How many Pauls were there. Who died? Its amazing

  17. I met Mal Evans in the late 70’s on numerous occasions and I can attest to the fact that even as a child he appeared to me as a man of mystery. Enigmatic, charming, carefee and without boundary. I have no doubt in my mind that any of this tale should be considered truthworthy or tested for inaccuracy.

    Interesting to read of his reinvention and the subsequent career forming latter…

    …I wonder how Little Mal would view this recounting.

  18. This man is very clearly not Mal. Mal was not only thick set because of fat; he was an all-over thick-set fellow with muscle and fat as an adult. Also, yes, Paul died. The mouth widths are different at rest, the outer ear cartilage straight-on from the side of the head is radically different, the teeth are radically different for a specific reason which can only be fixed by serious palatal surgery with a head brace and can’t be fixed by mere orthodontic work (tong-term braces work which was not historically done anyway).

    As to MAL’S BOOK:

    the book is still missing. Diary excerpts (not a complete version, note) were published some years ago.

    The book, however, may be featured in “The Winged Beatle” movie. One page purportedly is shown. If genuine, it is a major leak. (Aside: it has all the earmarks of genuineness, though the handwritten corrections have not been formally analyzed as being Mal’s handwriting.)

    A complete analysis of the page shown, the ear cartilage, the teeth (after I get it edited will be in there again), the mouths (after I edit the piece), and of John’s privately drawn, grisly and accurate drawing of Paul dead, are on my blog page, with references.

    Mal was murdered by Higby’s LAPD team; Higby was likely linked to other elements in the FBI or intel, since he kept taking over from his boss (about which his boss complained many times), and was part of the Robert F Kennedy death coverup.

    For a good Paul’s death overview, on Internet radio, hear

    NO TARBABY. JUST A FACT now knowable.

  19. Having read this article, I must say that I highly doubt that Mal was alive after the LA police unloaded their weapons into him. If you look at the photos of the Beatles in India 1968, there’s a very prominent photo of Mal and he looks nothing like the photo you pose is him during that same period of time. Otherwise the article was interesting up to that point.

  20. Sorry to burst your bubble, but there is no conspiracy here. Mal died that night. My father, John Hoernle, was there. It was a terribly traumatic event for him.

  21. This is some fascinating stuff. Thank you!
    If one look’s at the car of “He blew his mind out in a car, Tara Browne,” (actually look at it) one will apparently see sledgehammer ‘nicks.’ BUT, it is NOT crunched metal that crashed at 120 MPH.It is the ‘official’ photo.
    If one looks at the pictures located here ( one will see a picture with Three ‘Pauls” on a boat. If one looks here ( one will see the ‘Non-Assassinated’ version of a John Lennon and possibly the same human being flashing the ‘corna’ or ‘devil’s horns’ back in 1958. This entire Satanic ‘chaos magick’ marathon story is controlled from above the friendly giant eye level. Sure, the post ‘lost his ashes.’ Why was Pete Ham of Badfinger a member of the “27 Club,” ( “Mal found them.”
    We researchers are led to believe that ‘Paul’s’ face was smashed up with his teeth hanging out bringing Lennon to cry, I was the Walrus.” Read here ( how the “Crying Walrus’ is REALLY from the James Joyce work.

    Nothing IS real.

    So, if ‘Mal’ is still here and willing… Please give us a little a little insight bout who YOUR handler’s were…or STILL ARE! (any chance John Burgess, Sam Leach or Art Bicknell knew something, hmmm?)

    Respectfully Submitted,

  22. This is genius on so many levels. It was so smoothly written it takes a while to realize when the rug is being pulled…and even then it was oddly haunting, reminding me of the Frankenheimer movie “Seconds” about a man having a second life in a new body – Mal’s physical transformation not entirely unlike the one in that film… Looking forward to reading more of your work.

  23. You do know that’s not the same dude, right? Mal always looked the same, as another photo from the ashram proves:

    See? All the way over on the far right?

    And here’s a picture from John’s “Lost Weekend” period in 1975, when Mal joined John, Julian, and the entourage on a day trip to Disneyland:

    Dude never changed his look significantly.

    There’s more than one person on earth named Malcolm Evans. Do a little research before writing something this long-winded founded in a coincidence of names.

  24. Hi Joshua, I know this is an old post – I read it way back when it wasn’t old and today, for some reason, I came across Sir Malcolm Evans doing a talk online about torture, the UN, and other things. He has a certain timbre to his voice that Mal Evans also had. He holds his tall body in a forward leaning, slouched position like Mal did. His nose is different. His ears are the same. His hairline and his hair and skin coloring are the same. I too am reminded of “Seconds” and this is not beyond belief.

  25. After viewing Peter Jackson’s AI/DF “Get Back” and seeing Mal Evans in action stirred my memory of this article. I’m saddened and suspicious that the second link above in my previous post has been removed. Seeing the “real” Mal in action in Get Back made me want to revisit the video. Oh well, anything really is possible, as Get Back proves.

  26. This is absurd. Everyone knows Big Mal was assassinated in a faux suicide-by-cop by the LAPD on the orders of Phil Spector to get ahold of his manuscript

Comments are closed.