|Tara Browne at his home a few months before his death|
Most Beatle fans know that the song "A Day in the Life" from the Sgt. Pepper album was inspired by newspaper stories that John Lennon read one morning in January 1967 in the Daily Mail. One of the stories was about Tara Browne, the heir of the Guinness beer fortune, who had died in a car accident a month earlier. John wrote the lines "He blew his mind out in a car/he didn't notice that the lights had changed..." based on the news story.
But there is much more to this tragic story. Tara Browne and Paul McCartney were actually very good friends. They ran in the same circle of artist types including John Dunbar, Barry Miles and Robert Frasier. The group met Tara one night out in a club, most likely the Bag o' Nails. Paul described Tara as a "sensitive" guy and he often invited Tara to hang out with him at his Cavendish home.
|Tara is sitting in one of his mod cars. He is the middle in the back.|
Two important things happened in Paul McCartney history that involve his friend, Tara. The first one was in December 1965, Paul felt Tara to be a good enough friend that he invited him on a trip back to Liverpool to visit with Paul's family. The two friends were traveling around the streets of Liverpool on mopeds, on the way to see Paul's aunt when Paul was looking at the full moon and ended up crashing his moped, causing his tooth to chip. Paul didn't bother to get that tooth fixed until late in May of 1966.
Paul had not taken LSD when the other Beatles did. He was not with George and John when the dentist slipped it into their drink in 1965 and he did not take it during the "she said she said" inspiration trip in L.A. when the other three took it. Paul would not take LSD with his bandmates until March 1967 during Sgt. Pepper sessions.
However, the three other Beatles weren't the only friends of Paul's that took LSD. Tara Browne was a regular user and it was with him that Paul had his first trip at his home.
Tara was an interesting guy. He was very wealthy and very into the social scene in "swinging London." He used his money to finance many of the mod shops on Carnaby Street and then decided to open his own shop, Dandie Fashions. After Tara's death, Dandie changed owners (obviously) and was opened as Apple Tailoring. It isn't too far fetched to think that if Tara hadn't died, that Paul would have appointed him as the head the Apple Tailoring. Tara also was somehow involved in Syllbia's club, which was financed by George Harrison. It isn't sure if he was just a regular customer there or if he had money tied into the club. Nonetheless, Tara Browne was quite the socialite and was more than just an acquaintance of Paul McCartney's. For his 21st birthday, he had a huge party, where he paid for the Lovin' Spoonful to fly into London from the States and perform. No word if any of the Beatles were had the big party, but I would have guessed that they were.
In December 1966, Tara was separated from his wife and there was custody issues with his children, who were living with their Grandparents. He was dating a 19 year old girl named Suki Potier. According to the newspaper reports given by Suki, on December 18, 1966 she and Tara left a restaurant at 11:50pm and got into Tara's light blue Lotus Elan. They were traveling "not very fast" down South Kensingston when a white car that was either a Jaguar or a Volvo suddenly appeared in the crossroads. The white car was going very fast and did not slow down. It went behind Tara, who swerved to avoid it, hitting a parked van.
|Tara Browne's car after the accident|
Tara had severe head injuries and died at the hospital shortly after arrival. Test results showed that he had a half-a-pint to a pint of beer in his system. Suki walked away unhurt.
Many reports written today state that Tara was driving 120 miles an hour. They think that because the newspaper reported that Tara was driving a 120 miles an hour Lotus sports car. That does not mean that he was traveling 120, but that the car could go up to 120.
As you see---he did not run a red light or "blow his mind out in a car." But his story did give John the idea for the lines in the song. John would have known Tara Browne, but he was not good friends with him like Paul.