Today is famous in Beatles lore as the day that Tara Browne, heir to the Guinness fortune, died in a car accident. One month hence, John Lennon would see a story regarding the coroner’s verdict on Browne’s death while working on the lyrics to “A Day in the Life,” and the rest is history.

Browne was not unknown to The Beatles; he was a particular friend of Paul’s, and in fact had accompanied Paul on his first acid trip. Drugs were not implicated in Browne’s death, at least not officially; according to The Beatles Bible,

He failed to notice a red traffic light and drove through the junction of Redcliffe Square and Redcliffe Gardens, colliding with a stationary van in Redcliffe Gardens after swerving to avoid an oncoming Volkswagen car.

Browne’s death inspired the opening verse in “A Day in the Life.” Everybody knows the lines, but what the hell, let’s repeat them here:

He blew his mind out in a car
He didn’t notice that the lights had changed
A crowd of people stood and stared
They’d seen his face before
Nobody was really sureIf he was from the House of Lords

Though of course, the details were changed. Said John:

I didn’t copy the accident. Tara didn’t blow his mind out. But it was in my mind when I was writing that verse.

Paul, in his statements about the writing of “ADitL,” has been oddly coy, claiming “I was not attributing it to Tara in my head.” Which is of course irrelevant, because John was.

There will be time later for a detailed consideration of these matters; at the moment it is the Sunday before Christmas and the Internet is running at a maddening crawl. But tip your pint tonight to Tara Browne, who gave his life for rock’n’roll as surely as King Tut gave his for tourism.


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