Who Was the Fifth Beatle?

The question sounds like a mystery - something that would be solved with a game of Clue, perhaps. But there's a laundry list of suspects we can examine who can lay claim to being the famed "Fifth Beatle," the unofficial member of the band that contributed to their success. Who are they? Mal Evans - Of course, he's my pick. He was there for the four from their days in the Cavern Club in Liverpool to the last notes played for Abbey Road. He got them drinks, lugged their equipment around, and even played various instruments and sound effects on several notable Beatles songs, He was indispensable. Neil Aspinall - Neil had a similar role to Mal, mbut drifted more toward the administrative side, eventually heading Apple Records. Brian Epstein - Brian was the first manager for the Beatles, getting them  on the map and directing every bit of their rise...

Read More

‘Now and Then’ – the Missing Beatles Single

In 1995, the surviving Beatles - Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr - took two cassette demos from John Lennon's archive and created two masterpieces that appeared on Anthology 1 and 2. It took a lot of work - the demos were in bad shape - but with the help of ELO frontman Jeff Lynne at the production helm, the two singles turned out well, quickly becoming two of my favorite Beatle songs. But what about Anthology 3? Curiously enough, there was a third Lennon demo that the three began work on - a snippet of a song called "Now and Then." It was written while Lennon lived in the Dakota apartment in New York around 1979. Found on an old cassette marked for Paul, it contained that demo and rehearsal of the eerily-named "Grow Old with Me" - a song that would eventually make it on the John Lennon Anthology. ...

Read More

The Beatles Apart: Ringo Starr

When the Beatles broke up in 1970, one would naturally fear for dearest Ringo Starr. The other three had established themselves as talented songwriters, but Ringo was, well, Ringo. He was a great drummer. But he was the funny one, the odd man out, the tone-deaf musician who depended upon the other three.  Stephen Colbert once proclaimed “Paul the cute one; John the smart one; George the quiet one; and Ringo the luckiest man on earth.” Sure enough, of the four musicians, Ringo was the least successful as a solo artist. But realizing this, he made up for it in other areas, adding such jobs to his resume as actor and entrepreneur. With low expectations, he recorded several huge singles, kept his name in the spotlight and over time has seemed to be the most comfortable with his status as an ex-Beatle. So what does a drummer do for a solo...

Read More

The Beatles Apart: Paul McCartney

Perhaps no one in pop music history has been more decorated and recognized than Paul McCartney: Dozens of albums, scores of Top 40 hits, Grammy awards, an Oscar nomination, even a knighthood. Melodies seem to pour effortlessly from his head, as if they were there all along in nature, waiting to be found. Heck, he even dreamed the melody to “Yesterday.” In light of all the acclaim and fame, why has his solo career been so disappointing? Paul fought with his own ego and the ghost of John Lennon for years before realizing that (a) making a good album is hard work; (b) no one can replace Lennon as a songwriting partner. He was an album-making machine when the Beatles broke up, pouring out at least one album per year during the 1970s. But without John’s cynicism and vision reeling him in, the little Broadway tunes were even more apparent....

Read More

The Beatles Apart: John Lennon

Resolved: That John Winston Ono Lennon, having been blessed with an extraordinary songwriting talent, a sharp wit and creative mind, has been duly canonized it such a way that the legend is bigger than reality. Be it further resolved that Mr. Lennon needed his former songwriting partner, James Paul McCartney, more than he would ever admit. All it took was one great visionary song, “Imagine,” to solidify John Lennon’s status as a solo artist. And granted, he had his share of hits during the 70s – enough to fill a greatest hits album. But a closer look at his success reveals some flaws: Was “Oh, Yoko!” anywhere close to the genius of “Strawberry Fields Forever”? Was the controversial “Mother” anywhere near the powerful “Revolution”? I’m not trying to soil John’s reputation nor deny his rightful place among songwriting legends. He was a gifted writer with a knack for poetic, powerful...

Read More

What if I Don’t Know Anything About the Beatles?

This is a question I’ve gotten a few times from friends who, for some reason, just haven’t listened to the Beatles that much. They wonder whether they’d understand enough about what’s going on, whether they would get the inside nuances that only Beatle fans might understand. Granted, you get more out of the book the bigger the fan you are. You understand all the solo songs that might go on a future Beatles album, and you recognize the bit players in the Beatles’ history. But for the rest of you, not to worry. This book is mainly about Mal Evans and the journey he takes throughout the 1970s. And very little is known about Evans. I have taken great care into trying to describe each song, putting it and each event into its proper context, and giving even non-fans an idea about how all the songs might fit together. I...

Read More

Marketing is Hard.

Each year, over 1 million books are published. That's about 2,700 books every day. About two weeks ago, my book, The Death and Life of Mal Evans, was one of the 2,700 books published that day. Trying to get attention in a market like that is like screaming in a football stadium. I've been screaming so much over the last two weeks I'm hoarse. I've watched my book rise and fall from the new releases charts as a day trader watches stocks - at a chart so sensitive that one purchase can move it 5-6 positions. (Right now it's at #16 because I lowered the price and submitted it to an email list that advertises price breaks in Kindle books. It jumped 24 places. But don't blink - it'll go down 5 notches.) It's maddening - trying to find the secret sauce to selling books on Amazon. You can advertise, give...

Read More

Why I Wrote ‘The Death and Life of Mal Evans’

For years, the story of the Beatles’ breakup has bothered me. It seemed so…unnecessary, so incomplete. They had just finished what was arguably their best album, Abbey Road, and judging from their first solo works after the Beatles, they were still at or near their creative peak. So why did it have to happen? And more importantly, what would have happened if they had put aside their arguing and continued to record albums? That was where I started with my book. Some 10 years ago, before Facebook, Twitter and Reddit created a forum for people with similar interests to talk and chat, there were newsgroups – discussion boards on hundreds of topics. (Anyone remember them?) And I found in the newsgroup rec.music.beatles that there were many people who asked the same question I did: What if? What if they had stayed together? What would the next Beatles album have sounded like? Members debated incessantly...

Read More

It’s Out There. Officially.

So, The Death and Life of Mal Evans is officially out there. I've spent most of the week sending out announcements, joining groups, speaking at book festivals, asking for reviews and relentlessly watching the Amazon charts to see if my book was climbing or falling the charts. It's been a nerve-wracking week. Part of my anxiety is that this has been, for the most part, my project and my project only for 10 years. No one else has seen it. And now, boom. It's on Amazon. It's on iBooks. Smashwords. Scribd. bn.com. People - mostly friends and family - are buying it and reading it. It feels a bit odd - like I'm suddenly exposed, my neck on the chopping block for anyone to come by and take a shot. (Friends have already found a few errors that eluded dozens of edits, and I'm kicking myself.) Of course, an author...

Read More

Dedication to: Mal Evans

On the eve of publication, I dedicate this book to Mal Evans, the protagonist of our story. Evans was a real person, having worked with the Beatles from their days in Liverpool all the way through the end of the group in April 1970, and to a lesser extent, with the solo Beatles and with Apple Corps Ltd. for the next six years. He died in 1976 at the hands of two Los Angeles police officers, who mistook his air rifle for a real gun. He apparently was high on Valium and police considered him dangerous. Mal adored the Beatles. From the minute he heard them playing at the Cavern Club in Liverpool in the early 1960s, he was hooked. And he did everything for them. If the band needed a glass of milk or a pair of socks, Mal ran to the store to get them. He drove the...

Read More

Back to Main Page