On December 17, 1966, Mr. Tara Browne was driving with his girlfriend, model Suki Potier, in his Lots Elan through South Kensington at high speed (some reports suggesting in excess of 106 mph/170 km/h).
He was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. He failed to see a traffic light and proceeded through the junction of Redcliffe Square and Redcliffe Gardens, colliding with a parked lorry. He died of his injuries the following day. Potier claimed Browne swerved the car to absorb the impact of the crash to save her life.
Browne was survived by his wife Noreen (Nicky) (MacSherry) and their two sons, Dorian and Julian Browne. According to some sources, he was the inspiration for the Beatles song "A Day in the Life".
"A Day in the Life"
On January 17, 1967 John Lennon, a friend of Browne's, was composing music at his piano whilst idly reading London's Daily Mail and happened upon the news of the coroner's verdict into Browne's death. He worked the story into the song "A Day in the Life", later released on the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The second verse features the following lines:
- 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 sure
- If he was from the House of Lords
According to Lennon, in his 1980 interview with Playboy magazine, "I was reading the paper one day and I noticed two stories. One was the Guinness heir who killed himself in a car. That was the main headline story. He died in London in a car crash."
However the song's other lyricist-composer, Paul McCartney, had a very different inspiration. He is quoted as saying: "The verse about the politician blowing his mind out in a car we wrote together. It has been attributed to Tara Browne, the Guinness heir, which I don’t believe is the case, certainly as we were writing it, I was not attributing it to Tara in my head. In John’s head it might have been. In my head I was imagining a politician bombed out on drugs who’d stopped at some traffic lights and didn’t notice that the lights had changed. The ‘blew his mind’ was purely a drugs reference, nothing to do with a car crash."
Lennon remembered McCartney's contributions differently however, saying in Playboy, " Paul's contribution was the beautiful little lick in the song 'I'd love to turn you on.' I had the bulk of the song and the words, but he contributed this little lick floating around in his head that he couldn't use for anything. I thought it was a damn good piece of work."
A less well-known memorial to Browne was composed by Sean O Riada.