Who “Blew His Mind Out in a Car” in the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life?”

First, forget all the stories about “A Day in the Life,” the epic closer of the Beatles Sgt Pepper album, being the cryptic story of Paul McCartney’s “death.” The person who “blew his mind out in a car” was 21 year-old guy named Tara Browne. The Daily Mail has his fascinating story.

Just after midnight on December 18, 1966, in a London festooned with Christmas lights, 21-year-old Tara Browne, a Dublin-born brewery heir, music lover, style icon, racing car driver and sometime Vogue model, lost control of his light-blue Lotus Elan in South Kensington, London, and collided with a black van.

His passenger, girlfriend Suki Potier, later claimed that Browne wasn’t going particularly fast – although that would have been wildly out of character for the speed-obsessed young aristocrat. In her version of events, a white car – either a Volvo or an E-Type Jaguar, never traced – emerged unexpectedly from a side street and forced Tara to swerve.

Browne’s final act in life was to pull the steering wheel to ensure that he, not Suki, took the full impact of the collision. ‘A gentleman to the very end,’ said his friend, the model and actress Anita Pallenberg.

A month after that fatal crash – and the day after Browne’s mother Oonagh won custody of her late son’s two small children in the High Court – John Lennon, suffering from writer’s block during the making of The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, propped a copy of the Daily Mail on his piano music stand and turned over the front page. There, in the middle of page three, was an article headlined: ‘Guinness Heir Babies Stay with Grandmother’.

John had heard about Tara’s death, though unlike Paul McCartney, he hadn’t known him well. The two Beatles had just been discussing whether or not Browne, son of Lord Oranmore and Browne, would have inherited his father’s seat in the House of Lords had he lived.

Lennon touched the piano keys and out came the opening line of a song:

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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