Sunday, December 5, 2021

Mal's version of George's walk out

 So much has been talked about the amazing Get Back documentary lately.  There has also been a renewed appreciation for Mal Evans since watching him in the film.   Everyone here knows how much MTBFR loves Mal Evans.  I spoke up for him and called him the 6th Beatle during a panel at the Fest several years ago.   Mal had a special bond with the Beatles fans and he has a very special place here where his fan gather.  

Anyhow -- this got me all thinking about how Mal used to write for the Beatles Book Monthly.  So I dug into my archives and found the March 1969 (issue 68) and typed up this information Mal wrote about George leaving The Beatles recording session.   I always figured that the things Mal wrote for BBM wasn't the 100% story, but the PR friendly version of events.   BBM was the Beatles magazine and they never would want to put the boys in a negative light.   However -- having seen the film, when I went back and read what Mal wrote, I realize that it really wasn't too far from the truth.    I will be sharing the rest of what he wrote for the magazine in issue 68 this week.    I find it fascinating after watching the new documentary.  

Photo taken by Ethan Russel 
Mal's Diary 

Written by Mal Evans

Beatles Book Month Issue 68 (March 1969)

Mind you, when rehearsals started on January 2 the basic idea of the whole project was different.  You might think it was surprising that the fellows should want to plunge straight into making another LP right after Christmas when 30 new tracks had only just gone out on the November double-disc album.  Well, the thinking behind it was this.  They wanted to put something quite new before the public.  The film clip they’d done for “Hey Jude” was such a success that The Beatles wanted to expand the same format of performing “live” in front of an audience, letting the fans join in and get a bit of a party mood going, into a full-length TV show.  An hour of Beatles numbers, one after another, no guests stars and very little filming done outside where the concert performance was to happen.

 So the January work began in the film studios down at Twickenham with January 18 or thereabouts agreed upon for two or three “audience shows” at which all the filming would be done.

 At the same time everyone agreed it would be great to film all the rehearsal work too.  Make a sort of “Beatles at Work” documentary production on the side and quite apart form the TV special, a film which could be saved and shown later, perhaps even 10 years later, to let people see what goes on, what’s to be seen and heard, when The Beatles start off to build up a new set of songs.

 We went out looking at different places to hold to the actual show.  The Roundhouse in North London, for instance.  By the New Year we hadn’t found a suitable venue so Twickenham Film Studios were made the home-base as it were for preparatory work.  We looked at an old flour mill on the Thames quite close to town.  We considered a dozen other alternatives in London and in the provinces.  The ideal place was impossible to find – somewhere good visually and good from the sound point of view, both equally important factors for the show we had in mind.

Michael Lindsay  Hogg who had been brought in as show direction suggested Africa.  Certainly we wanted sunshine and if we had to do the filming outdoors the British winter weather couldn’t be relied upon.  Michael and producer Denis O’Dell knew an old Roman theatre on a shore in Tripoli which sounded just the thing.  But that one had to be blown out too.  On Monday, January 13, I was due to fly over to Africa to look at the Roman theatre.  On Sunday, January 12, the fellows finally gave up all ideas of doing the TV show.  Here is what happened.

If you read certain national newspapers at the time, you may well have believed a load of rubbish about George having a punch-up with the others.  It wasn’t like that at all.  There WASN’T a fight, physical or verbal.  There WEREN’T any tempers or shouting.  I just couldn’t believe it when I saw the press afterwards.  So, to set the record straight, here’s the truth behind George’s “walk out” and the canceling of the TV special.

Of the four Paul was the most enthusiastic all along about doing the “live” show.  John would have gladly taken the whole production unit to Africa or America to find the right location.  John and Ringo had mixed feelings about the plan, agreeing with Paul on a lot of the ideas but feeling this might not be the best way of making a 1969 Beatles TV film.  George wasn’t keen at all.  Ever since the last Beatles tour of America in the summer of 1966 he had considered “one night stands” to be a thing of the past, a backward step for a group he believes should concentrate on perfecting recordings rather than churning out the same programme of too-familiar songs on stages here and abroad.

So on Friday at Twickenham George stated his case.  Singing and playing together would always be fine with him and the last thing he was suggesting was any break up of The Beatles.  So that day, January 10, George didn’t want to stay at Twickenham rehearsing for show he couldn’t believe in.

We were all having lunch when George came over and said very quietly that he was going home. With that he went off, climbed into his car and headed for Esher.   Later he told a bunch of press people, “Look, we’re old enough and wise enough to be past all this punching-up rubbish.  We’ve been through everything together for so long we don’t need that sort of a row.  We discuss things and we finish up agreeing or disagreeing and that’s the finish of it.”

So George’s departure made it impossible to continue with the original project.  If there HAD been a real row the others might have gone ahead.  But Beatles don’t work like that.  If all four are not united on anything it’s dropped in favour of an alternative that everyone likes and wants to be enthusiastic about.

In this case the alternative that George was as happy as the rest about was to continue rehearsing the new stuff, finish writing all the new material which had been intended for the TV performance, but use it for an LP album instead. And to go on with filming all the work both at Twickenham and, later in the month at the Apple recording studies [sic] when the album itself was being put on tape.  One difference was that more than a dozen new songs would be needed instead of the initial eight planned for the TV show. 


  1. Quite close in some ways. Except in the film they weren't having lunch when GH walked, they were rehearsing 'Two of Us,' and the walk-out lacked any backstory, though Jackson said he looked for footage to explore this. And other books do say something, if not a punch-up, occurred in the canteen, where Mal says the walkout happened - - so maybe something did happen in Twickenham canteen off-camera, then they came back and rehearsed, GH still festering till he walked, looking like a sulky boy. In the 'flowerpot' canteen chat next day JL observes GH's festering wound but they ignored it yesterday and didn't offer any 'bandages'. general wounds of feeling neglected? while JL-PM were skylarking over 'Two Of Us.' Even if it was written with LM in mind, it's still not 'Three of Us' let alone 'Four of Us.' Later in the film at Apple, GH, happy now, says how nice 'Two of Us' now sounds after all that fussing over it. Yet in the film the group never struggle much with 'Two of Us'. Or was the infamous "I won;t play at all if you don;t want me to" also during 'Two of Us' rehearsals, same song on another day? I forget now. The implication in GET BACK is GH feeling excluded as Lennon-McCartney bond over the song. After all, they already bonded in carving up most of the songwriting profits. Something or other is missing as the immediate catalyst, and it was in the canteen, and it's not the overcooked potatoes.

  2. Mal's comments in the first paragraph about establishing a "party mood" and letting the audience join in make me wonder if the real seeds for this came from the Rolling Stones and their "Rock and Roll Circus" project, which John attended and played in. That certainly sounds like what Mal is describing here.

    1. Nothing to do with the Rolling Stones "Rock and Roll Circus project. Mal clearly states in the article "The film clip they’d done for “Hey Jude” was such a success that The Beatles wanted to expand the same format of performing “live” in front of an audience, letting the fans join in and get a bit of a party mood going, into a full-length TV show." So not sure how you arrived at that conclusion?

    2. Well, one: As I stated, John was in the "R-&-R Circus", which was in December 1968 (months after the "Hey Jude" video, recorded in September), and if you've ever seen it, you would know it was done in a "party mood" with an audience.

      And two, bear in mind that Mal was writing for the devoted fandom, not documenting events for historical research fifty years later. I'd take that "Hey Jude" comment with a huge grain of salt. At the time, the Stones project was unreleased (and in fact, would be for decades), so nobody would have known what he was talking about if he had mentioned it.

    3. Mal's right, and so is Wizz. I've listened to a gazillion hours of LIB bootlegs. Someone tell me when there was ever a mention of the R&R Circus, bc I dont recall it. Bit I DO recall Hogg and Macca discussing the atmosphere of the Hey Jude promo film, which Hogg directed. There's no thread between the Circus and the GB project. Even if John performed in the Circus, he had no influence on the GB project -- it was Paul's initiative, not John's. The Airplane's performance on a NYC rooftop in Dec'68 prob had a bigger impact on the lads than the Circus.

    4. All I said initially was that I wonder if the Stones project may have influenced the plans for Get Back. Wizz asked how I arrived at my "conclusion" (again, just wondering out loud), so I explained the reasoning behind my questioning. Nobody knows for sure and neither John or Mal is around to ask, so there's no need for anyone to get their panties in a bunch. Ultimately it's irrelevant.

    5. No one's panties got in a bunch, darling, so no need for you to launch into one of your legendary emo-attacks. Although admittedly they are entertaining to watch.

  3. Thanks very much for reproducing this.

  4. Archives of The Beatles’ road manager to be published starting in 2023

    1. Sad this has taken so long. By the time it will be published, many of the fans who were there in the early days and loved Mal's presence in those special years, will no longer be here to read it. I have always thought Mal was one of those people in the close entourage of the Beatles who felt lost when they split up; hence the sad ending. M. Aeschlimann