NEWEST ACQUISITIONS TO A&R LIBRARY/ BOOK REVIEW
Date: 28/ 03/2018
Author: Paul Howard
Title: “I Read the News today, oh boy”
Publisher &Date: Picador, 2016.
A&R library copy: No
Tara Browne and Lotus Elan: Pop, Poignancy and Performance
Pop Art is: Popular [designed for a mass audience]. Transient [short-term solution]
Expendable [easily forgotten].Low cost. Mass produced. Young [aimed at youth].Witty.Sexy.Gimmicky.
Glamorous. Big business. This is just the beginning…..
Richard Hamilton letter to Alison and Peter Smithson.16 January 1957
“Live Fast, die Young and have a beautiful corpse”
Quotation in common slang use since the 19c often used in context of James Dean etc.
This work by Howard a biography of Tara Browne is part review and part of our celebrity Lotus owner’s series.
It straddles our social history comprehension of Chapman, Lotus and the cultural envelope they influenced particularly in the 1960’s.We explore the overlaps and connectivity between pop culture and the Elan.
In this piece we refer to the lyrics of the era to reinforce connectivity.
Tara Browne is likely to engender some polarised views. He might be considered as very much part of the 1960’s Gender Generation with overtones of: –
- Little Lord Faunteroy
- Billy Budd
- Peter Pan
- Glamour melachoncolia
- See also “The Scene “below
Subscribers might like to see the directly relevant and integrated A&R pieces that complement and help structure this article:-
- Pop and Pop up headlights
- Carnaby Street
- Lotus Design Decades :1960’s
- Lotus Elan and Europa and marketing materials
- Celebrity series: Peter Sellers/Britt Ekland,Francoise Sagan ,Jimi Hendrix, Steve McQueen
- Eileen Gray
- Pop art and Lotus
Tara Browne died in a car crash whilst driving his Lotus Elan. There are suggestions the Beatles knew Tara and this influenced /inspired their song. Other sources have denied this. What is possible is that the events and lyrics capture the era, the joy and tragedy present.
From the net: –
“A Day in the Life” is a song by the English rock band the Beatles that was released as the final track of their 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Credited to Lennon–McCartney, the verses were written mainly by John Lennon, with Paul McCartney primarily contributing the song’s middle section. Lennon’s lyrics were inspired by contemporary newspaper articles, including a report on the death of Guinness heir Tara Browne. The recording includes two passages of orchestral glissandos that were partly improvised in the avant-garde style. As with the sustained piano chord that closes the song, the orchestral passages were added after the Beatles had recorded the main rhythm track.
The climax of their masterpiece Sgt Pepper, A Day in The Life found The Beatles at the peak of their creative powers, an astonishing artistic statement that saw them fearless, breaking boundaries and enthralling generations of listeners with the timeless quality of their music.”
- A Day in the Life
I read the news today, oh boy
About a lucky man who made the grade
And though the news was rather sad
Well I just had to laugh
I saw the photograph
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
I saw a film today, oh boy
The English Army had just won the war
A crowd of people turned away
But I just had to look
Having read the book
I’d love to turn you on
Woke up, fell out of bed
Dragged a comb across my head
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup
And looking up I noticed I was late
Found my coat and grabbed my hat
Made the bus in seconds flat
Found my way upstairs and had a smoke
Somebody spoke and I went into a dream
I read the news today, oh boy
Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire
And though the holes were rather small
They had to count them all
Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall
I’d love to turn you on
Paris and London
Tara was brought up in Ireland but spent a formative youth in the exciting cultural envelope of Paris through the mid-late 1950’s. This was the time when the French New Wave cinema was developing. Francoise Sagan [see dedicated article] was amongst a French artistic elite and luminary.
From the net: –
“Swinging Sixties was a youth-driven cultural revolution that took place in the UK during the mid-to-late 1960s, emphasizing modernity and fun-loving hedonism, with Swinging London as its epicenter. It saw a flourishing in art, music and fashion, and was symbolised by the city’s “pop and fashion exports”. Among its key elements were the Beatles, as leaders of the British Invasion; Mary Quant‘s miniskirt; popular fashion models such as Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton; the mod subculture; the iconic status of popular shopping areas (such as King’s Road, Kensington and Carnaby Street); the political activism of the anti-nuclear movement; and sexual liberation. Music was a big part of the scene, with “the London sound” including the Who, the Kinks, the Small Faces and the Rolling Stones, bands that were the mainstay of pirate radio stations like Radio Caroline and Swinging Radio England. Swinging London also reached British cinema, which “saw a surge in formal experimentation, freedom of expression, colour, and comedy”. During this period, “creative types of all kinds gravitated to the capital, from artists and writers to magazine publishers, photographers, advertisers, film-makers and product designers”.
During this era, London “[metamorphosed] from a gloomy, grimy post-war capital into a bright, shining epicenter of style”. The phenomenon was caused by the large number of young people in the city (due to the baby boom of the 1950s) and the postwar economic boom. Following the abolition of the national service for men in 1960, these young people enjoyed greater freedom and fewer responsibilities than their parents’ generation, and “[fanned] changes to social and sexual politics”. Despite shaping the popular consciousness of Britain in the 1960s, however, Swinging London was a West End-centered phenomenon that only happened among young, middle class people, and was considered “simply a diversion” by some of them. The swinging scene also served as a consumerist counterpart to the countercultural British underground of the same period. Simon Rycroft writes: “Whilst it is important to acknowledge the exclusivity and the dissenting voices, it does not lessen the importance of Swinging London as a powerful moment of image making with very real material effect.””
Howard’s work helps make clear the really influential people of the 1960’s Swinging London was quite small numbering about 200 based around pop groups, managers, agents and fashion industry that helped form their stage presence etc. Amongst the most powerful artistically and financially were: –
- The Beatles
- The Rolling Stones
- The models and fashion world including boutique [See below]
- The aristocracy and villains
- Marianne Faithful
- Peter Sellers and Britt Eland
- Jim Hendrix
- Irish and British artists [see below]
- Artists graphic etc helping articulate products
Tara acquired a taste for traditional Irish folk music. He travelled extensively in Ireland studying, recording and picking this up.
In France he enjoyed trad jazz through to modern jazz and hence to pop.
He moved to London in the early 1960’s when the city was on the cusp of a cultural and social Renaissance [see A&R dedicated articles]
Tara and Dandie Fashions
Tara sought to get involved in business activities to motivate himself. One of these was Dandie Fashions located at 161 Kings Road.
From the net: –
“Perhaps ‘an icon’ is not a right word here. But Tara Browne had become something of a cult figure – mostly among Beatles fans – since it was his death that inspired the lyrics of “A Day In The Life” (Little known fact: his death also inspired another song: “Death Of The Socialite” by The Pretty Things).
Born in 1945, The Hon. Tara Browne was a son of Dominick Browne, the 4th Baron of Oranmore and Browne and Oonagh Guinness – an heiress to the Guinness fortune. After completing his education in public school in Paris, he came to London, and, like other ‘hip’ aristocrats in Swinging London, he invested money in a tailoring venture – Foster and Tara. He provided financial backing for tailors Pops and Cliff Foster. Foster & Tara initially were making clothes on order for boutiques such as Granny Takes a Trip, before Tara decided to open his own boutique – Dandie Fashions, which would exclusively sell F&T designs.
Dandie Fashions (sometimes spelled ‘Dandy’ on their clothing labels) was a high fashion men’s boutique on the hip Kings Road, Chelsea for a brief period in the late 1960s.
Operating for just a couple of years, their brightly painted psychedelic shop catered to such rock’n’roll legends as The Beatles, David Bowie, The Who, The Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix, which gives you a pretty good idea of the pedigree of this short-lived label”.
Dandie Fashions or sometimes Dandy Fashions was a London fashion boutique founded in 1966, following a chance encounter at the Speakeasy Club between Freddie Hornik and Alan Holston, who then got together with Australian John Crittle, the Guinness heir Tara Browne and Neil Winterbotham, and launched the new business.
Dandie Fashions opened its shop at 161 King’s Road, Chelsea in October 1966. John Crittle had previously worked for Michael Rainey in his boutique Hung On You. Crittle and Tara Browne wanted a retail outlet for their new tailoring company Foster and Tara. In December 1966, Browne died in a car crash, while he was on his way to discuss shop front designs with the graphic artist David Vaughan. Crittle bought his share of the business.
Five months after opening their Apple Boutique in Baker Street (which ran from 7 December 1967 to 30 July 1968), the Beatles invested in Dandie, renaming it Apple Tailoring (Civil & Theatric). They were attracted to King’s Road by the presence of the clothing boutiques Dandie, along with Granny Takes a Trip and Hung On You. Apple Tailoring opened at the same 161 King’s Road premises as Dandie, on 23 May 1968. Neil Aspinall and Apple’s accountant Stephen Maltz became directors. John Lennon and George Harrison attended the launch party. However, it never made a profit and closed some months later.
From Gear Guide: –
“When Dandie Fashions first opened the Rolling Stones bought the entire stock. The place is constantly full of similarly discriminating gentlemen [and you might see Bridget Bardot-if you’re lucky!]
Outside, rainbow painting contracts strikingly with large gloomy Windows. A more than life size bust of Apollo stares bleakly out. Inside more rainbow painting contrasts with stuffed birds. The mixture is somewhere between a lumber room in an old English house and a psychedelic freak out party.
Dandie Fashion, opened originally by John Crittle in Gloucester Mews, moved to the King’s Road ……there is a lot of very handsome revivalist stuff-velvet Georgian topcoat for instance.
Suits can be made to measure for 32 guineas upwards, shoes made to measure for 6 guineas upwards; trousers also from 6 guineas.there’s a wide range of unusual ready –made gear that includes ties by Niko Kerman and exclusive silk screened shirts”
It’s a well-known fact that psychedelic recreational drugs became part of the pop scene during the 1960’s. Tara Browne participated and evidence suggests it took a toll on him his wife and family. LSD was the main drug.
The music and lyrics of the era began to reflect use .For example the works on Rubber Soul
The Elan and Fast cars
Tara loved fast cars and his mother indulged him.
He owned an Alfa Romeo.
There was also the famous A.C.Cobra that was painted in psychedelic fashion by Binder, Edwards and Vaughan.[see net for images].This car was displayed at The Frazer Gallery from 3rd.September 1966.It also found its way to the USA.
Howard also suggests Lord Snowdon took photographs of it, possibly close to the Houses of Parliament.
For an overlap into pop art see A&R on Gerald Laing]
Howard also makes reference to the 1964 Targa Florio which Tara might have attended.
The Lotus Elan was launched in October 1962 at the British Motor show, just as the Sixties started swinging. Jaguar had launched the E-Type the previous year, and AC had the Cobra and Ferrari the GTO. Big, expensive, powerful muscles cars. The Lotus Elan was very different, and typically Lotus – ultra modern, lightweight, rapid and huge fun.
It summed up the Sixties: a playful topless two-seat ticket to freedom, it was technically innovative with the first backbone tube chassis of any road car, a fiberglass body, four-wheel independent suspension, 670kg with a peachy power-to-weight ratio, bang up-to-date styling beloved by Kings Road cruisers, and a liberating, rock n’ roll attitude.
It came with luxuries that were a rarity at the time, like electric windows, carpets, a heater, and in vogue wooden fascia, but it was still light enough on the scales to outrun other automotive competition – not to mention groupies.
The Lotus Elan Sprint, a more powerful 1973 alternative, could hit 60mph in 6.6 seconds, which even now would be considered respectably fast. Back then it was Neil Armstrong territory.
Its pop-up headlights could wink at admirers. It turned heads on Carnaby Street, where the Swinging Sixties embraced cool new design. As well as its turn on TV, defeating baddies and complimenting Diana Rigg’s risqué wardrobe, it found its way onto a magazine cover with Jimi Hendrix posing on the bonnet, and even inspired the lyrics to The Beatles’ A Day In The Life.
Figure 1.Lotus brochure c 1964 capturing essence of Swinging Sixties’, A&R collection
Elan and Tara Browne
Its suggested Tara bought an Elan in April 1964 in component form?
Whilst in Ireland with the Elan he entered a local race. We understand this to be the Mercantile Credit event covered by Autosport .Details from the net :-
“MEC also ran a sprint at Rathdrum from 1962 to 1986 on a 0.8-mile triangular circuit. It was too narrow to be classed as a race so cars started at ten second intervals with passing permitted. Winners included GP driver John Watson in a Crossle, Bangor’s John Pringle, F1 Cooper Climax, Brian Nelson Crossle, Frank Keane Brabham.
An interesting driver in the 1964 May meeting was the Rt. Hon. Tara Browne , a 19 year old swinging sixties socialite , heir to the Guinness fortune and inspiration for the Beatles song “ A Day in The life ”.
He drove his road-going Lotus Elan with gusto, albeit as I remember with a couple big of spins. However, he went well enough to win the overall handicap for the Mercantile Trophy which no doubt was filled that evening with a magnum of Bollinger and not the black stuff! Sadly, as the lyrics suggest he lost his life a few years later in a road accident in London”
Howard suggests Tara might have liked to have followed a career in motor racing and that Gore Taylor was to coach him or possibly be his manager.
Figure 2.Alan Morgan’s Elan
Len Street Motors, Chelsea
Quote from the net –see also internet images of the first then expanded premises. Len Street was a Lotus dealer. There are also magazine ads confirming location.
We believe the first business might have been named Len Street Engineering based in a mews garage. The larger and more modern building was :-
|Len Street||67-69 Drayton Gdns Chelsea SW10||01370 4114|
Tara took a business interest here and possibly worked on some cars as mechanic of sorts? The suggestion is that some tuning was undertaken that might have assisted “getaway” cars in criminal activity of the era.
Film and documentary
Tara as the subject of a film/ documentary. We ought recall the Beatles impact in the era .In addition Blow Up capture the times and are essential viewing for serious students of social/cultural history.
Very much a microseism of Tara’s life is Performance ; from the net:-
“Performance is a 1970 British crime drama film directed by Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg, written by Cammell and photographed by Roeg. The film stars James Fox as a violent and ambitious London gangster who, after carrying out an unordered killing, goes into hiding at the home of a reclusive rock star (Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones, in his film acting debut).
The film was produced in 1968 but not released until 1970 due to the reluctance of Warner Bros. to distribute the film because of its graphic violence and sexual content. It received a mixed critical response initially, but gained a cult following, and since then its reputation has grown in stature; it is now regarded as one of the most influential and innovative films of the 1970s as well as in British cinema.
In 1999, Performance was voted the 48th greatest British film of all time by the British Film Institute; in 2008 Empire magazine ranked the film 182nd on its list of the 500 Greatest Movies of All Time.”
Figure 3.Complementary page to above brochure A&R collection
Tara loved gadgets of various descriptions. He was a fan of Scalextric and raced with Stones band members.
Our learning /educational opportunities are intended to be challenging thought provoking and requiring additional research and/or analysis.
These opportunities are particularly designed for a museum/education centre location where visitors would be able to enjoy access to all the structured resources available in conjunction with any concurrent exhibition.
In this instance we suggest the following might be appropriate:-
- Name groups in Exhibition title list and suggest extended exhibition titles/themes
- Identify famous pop stars or celebrities and their cars from 1960’s
- How when and where have fashion , and cars collided
- What other celebrities in 1960’s died young ?under what circumstance?
- Peacocks and dandies -identify clothes and criteria from 1960’s and present day
- What other specialist sports cars in 1960’s were offered as component ?from 1960 which newspaper colour supplements gave combined cars and fashion in shoots
- Identify films that captured the essence of 1960’s
- How many Lotus dealers existed in London in 1960’s?
- What was the nature of criminal underbelly that developed in 1960’s London compare with today
- What aftermarket tuning specialist emerged in 1960’s?
Figure 4.Lotus sales brochure; female driver .A&R collection
Exhibitions, Education, Economics and Entertainment
In the museum context the editors believe that commercial considerations are both necessary and complementary with its educational objectives.
For these reasons our suggested outline Business Plan includes provision for promoting products and services which share Chapman’s ideals of mechanical efficiency and sustainability. In addition we propose merchandising that explain and interprets the social and cultural context of Chapman’s designs in period. It’s suggested there will be catalogue for on line purchasing.
In this instance we suggest the following might be appropriate:-
- Tripping Down Memory Lane
- Carnaby street to King’s Road
- Gurus and Lotus :The enlightenment/The Guiding light
- The 1960’s:The Good the Bad and the Deadly
- Coachwork and Couture: Cars and clothes in 1960’s
- Cutting Edge Fashion
- 1960’s record title themes
|With a little help from my friends|
|Tomorrow Never Knows|
|Magical mystery Tour|
|Can’t buy my Love|
|We can work it out|
|Drive my Car|
|In my Life|
|I can’t get No|
|Its all over now|
|Dedicated follower of Fashion|
|Those were the days|
|Putting on the agony putting on the style|
Figure 5.editors sketch of Lotus Elan ;detail
The Swinging sixties is often seen as a British Renaissance and era of democratisation.
This is partly or relatively true.
There was a considerable burst of creativity and entrepreneurial spirit along with success in sports at an International level. London was the post war epicentre of motor racing.
Fashion, pop music and art collided in a ferment of ideas and a galaxy of stars including Chapman were influential in facilitating a modernisation.
However there was both underlying tragedy, loss of young lives and an exploitive tendency along with a criminal underbelly. By the mid-sixties the pop groups better understood their finances and sought to control them and achieve greater self-determination [including lyrics etc.]
Recreational Drugs propagandists suggested psychedelic drugs were liberating and mind expanding, but sadly often had negative side effects or were counterproductive. Many innocent people were damaged not least children when parents were dabbling.
Psychedelic drugs perhaps contributed to an idealistic disillusionment and eventual cynicism.
Tara Browne was within this ferment and perhaps tragically became a victim of it. [Although some may attribute his mother spoilt him and perhaps sowed seeds of self-destruction] along with many other young talented individuals.
Within this orbit it’s important to note how Chapman and Lotus were involved and interacted and shaped[literally] the agenda of the era.
Howard’s work is fully commended. Its richly redolent, sympathetic, poignant, often lyrical, evocative and haunting. For those wishing to immerse themselves in a holistic overview with a prism to chapman and Lotus this is an excellent start.
“Turn on, tune in, drop out”
Timothy Leary [Marshall McLucan ]
The Beatles on TV.Bench&Tedman.Reynolds&Hearn.2008.
Revolt into Style. Medley
Gear Guide.Johnson&Dunkley.Old House.
Behind the Song.Heatley with Leigh.Blandford.1998.
Number One Hits.Rice,Rice & Gambaccini.Guinness.1988.
Specialist Sports cars.Heseltine.Haynes.2001.
Guide to Component Cars.Haynes.Haynes.1966