ISSN 1989-4163



Tara Browne and the Swinging London Colour Revolution

Coos Palmboom

Tara Browne, heir to the Guinness fortune, was a leading light of the great societal chance that started in London in the early nineteen sixties and then swept the rest of the country, the United States, and most of the western world. I wrote a story about this fascinating character, who died at young age in a car accident. Here, I present an excerpt. For copies and other interest, write to:

In June of that year (1962) Sir John sent me on a mission, the first of its kind. I were to go to Liverpool, to check out this rock and roll band that was becoming increasingly popular in the port city. See what they are like. Are they any good? What about stage presence, rapport with the audience. What do people think of them. I want a full report of every detail you can think of.

Aye, Sir.

Nicki and I set off after early breakfast. In the days before the M1, the 200-mile journey was a good five-hour drive. I knew I could do it somewhat quicker, but we wanted to enjoy the trip as neither of us had seen much of the country north of London. I’d been to Silverstone once to see the Grand Prix, together with Garech, who then had his first car. We came the other way, from Holyhead cruising eastwards north of Birmingham and then turning south. Today we chose a westerly route over Oxford and south of the Black Country, then turning upwards. England was the quintessential manmade country, much more so than Holland with its ugly utilitarianism, and it was of a stunning pleasantness. Every corner in the road, every stretch of open throughway, every narrow passage over a small-town main street, it was all perfectly embedded in a day’s adventure. Car was humming and my girl was purring, and the wheels were singing on the corrosive asphalt. Every individual entity of life, whether human or mechanical, was looking for rhythm and harmony. It felt like a real strong emotion at the time, and my driving was drawn to perfection. Driving is like dancing, you want to feel it in your hips. Now your hips aren’t moving much while seated behind the wheel, but they transport their needs to your limbs. So you tread the pedals like Rudolf Nureyev would and you show pure artistry in your handling. You feel the car and you are in control, you know the both of you take care of each other. Meanwhile, you try to take in as much of the scenery as traffic allows for. It’s a bit of a sport to have sharp memories of a town you basically raced through, so you tend to blend anecdotes into a never-ending story of hedges and hills and tractors and cattle and smooth take-over moves and the odd botched attempt because your prey was freaking out at the wrong time. Green hills and brown towns and grey factories abound, I welcomed every stretch of dual carriage way to put the pedal to the metal. While I missed France’s three-lane routes nationals, this time I took a more cruising approach, as there was no sense in feeding my frustration and scaring off Nicki on her first long ride with me. Nicki loved the Alfa. We’re so cool, she kept saying. I wish we could drive into a TV studio.
That’d be a great idea!

She was right of course. We were both looking our best, Nicki was wearing a green Christian Dior combination, with a war pilot’s jacket and boots that could stand a cellar floor, a hat safely tucked away for after the ride, and we were abysmally different from the townspeople we saw en route and equally so at the Cavern Club in downtown Liverpool. Though distinctly not traditionally, the audience was mostly dressed colourless. There were also quite a few rockers around, as were the Beatles themselves. They played two sets in which they performed a variety of songs, from straightforward rock and roll to more bluesy and even mellow. I wasn’t too impressed by their handling of the songs, which were mostly covers. But I liked how the bass player and the rhythm guitarist sang together. We were informed by the girl next to me, quite fattish and with a wealth of thick black hair, that they were Paul McCartney and John Lennon. Paul was a strong singer with a high pitch and a wide tonal range. He was good at screaming and clearly loved doing so. He seemed like a fun guy who had a lot of rapport with the audience. John’s voice was weaker, certainly lacking in range, but he possessed a very distinct sound, a voice you wanted to listen to. It was noticeable in the short chats in between songs. Paul stuck to a simple thank you and the title of the next song, all very charming and polite. John somehow managed to turn such a simple announcement into a statement. And he knew how to use this feature of his voice to great effect when he sang the naughtier bits of the songs they’d chosen. Overall, I thought they were quite hip but lacking in instrumental skill. The lead guitarist, a good-looking bloke who seemed a bit shy on stage, clearly was the better musician. The drummer was simply not good enough, but this was a common problem with emerging bands. Those with some talent picked up the guitar, and the drummer was usually a friend or neighbour who was asked to follow the beat.

What do you think? I asked Nicki.

They stink, but they’re fun, answered my angel in under seven words. They’re definitely hip.

Who do you like best?

She laughed. Paul is a ladies’ man, he already caught my eye, but John is dangerous.

Do you like dangerous men?

You’re dangerous enough for me, sweety.

Although she meant it to sound as consolation, her words created the first pang in our happiness. I was suddenly much younger again and she not out of reach for a dangerman like John Lennon.

Let’s go, I said. I don’t want to stay till the end. We’re not supposed to be here, anyway.

Nicki didn’t catch my words at once. I whispered in her ear: we’re here to check out the marketability of the Beatles. A record producer asked me to. We’re just a hip couple from London seeing the new sensation.

Shame, said Nicki, I would have loved to go party with them.

You will, I promised, if they make it, we’ll get to meet them.

We left town that same evening and returned to London via a northerly route, staying the night in a hotel in Derby, where our sex made up for the cooler mood of the last few hours.

Who are you, Tara Browne, asked Nicki when we were sharing a cigarette.
I know a lot of people. I’ve always known lots of people and I enjoy bringing them together, see what happens. I learned that from my mother, who is doing the same.

Your mother who doesn’t approve of me.

She’ll come round once she sees you’re the best for me. I was lucky to be born in a wealthy family, but I don’t feel better because of it, just lucky, and I like sharing some of that luck. Your father is a mere postman, but you are the most amazing chick. It’s just the body you were born into.

You’re right there, love, said Nicki, and all was good again between us.




















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