Monday, 30 January 2006

Lennon lyrics - all you need is money …

There is something inherently sad about the sale of John Lennon's handwritten lyrics to the Beatles classic A Day in The Life. I was at the Sotheby's sale in London in 1992 when they sold to an anonymous private collector for £56,500.

They were sold then by the widow of Beatles roadie Big Mal Evans, the Liverpool Post Office telecoms engineer who quit his job to travel the world with the Fab Four, leaving his wife to bring up two children on her own.

Mal was devoted to the group and was very much the unsung hero, receiving little reward for his devotion. But he had his memories. He appeared in the films Help!, Magical Mystery Tour and Let It Be and even played on some of their albums, notably one of the pianos on A Day in the Life and the hammer sound effects on Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.

When things went bad at Apple, Mal, by now estranged from his family, moved to Los Angeles and fell in with a woman and her four-year-old daughter. Depression over the lack of direction in his life got the better of him and one day he locked himself in the bathroom with an air pistol.

The woman called the police and when they burst into the room and saw the weapon, they fired six shots killing him instantly.

One of Mal's duties as the Beatles’ personal assistant was to clean up after them and the lyrics were among a number of mementos which Mal had saved from his days on the road with them. The money they raised came in very handy for Mrs Evans.

The decision to hold this new sale in New York is understandable: Lennon has a big following there and there is no shortage of money. But a sealed-bid auction is a weird tactic.

Predictions of £1 million sale seem ambitious without the razzmatazz of at public auction. Bidding ends on March 7 and it will be interesting to learn of the outcome – if we ever do.

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