How a Cobra is the raison d’etre for a famous Beatles song.
I don’t have Sirius radio, but whenever I have a test car that does, I tune to the Beatles Channel, where they have experts that go into each of the Beatles songs and discuss the song’s gestation. Now I never happened to listen to it when they discussed the song A Day in the Life but it’s a sadder song when you realize it’s a funeral elegy for a friend of theirs–the right honourable Tara Browne. A young man whose life was cut short.
I’m sure a Cobra isn’t named in the song but it was his passion for his Cobra that got young Mr. Browne killed. The Cobra, COB6107 was one of 25 Cobra MkIIIs built with the 289 engine for the British and European market but with the body shape of the 427 big block. Shelby reserved the Cobra trademark for cars he sold, so these big block looking cars were marketed as AC 289 Sports. COB6107 was ordered new in 1965, painted red with black trim.
The buyer was a mop-haired 20-year old man about town named Tara Browne, whose father was the Anglo-Irish aristocrat, Dominick Browne, 4th Baron Oranmore and Browne and a member of the House of Lords. His mother was an heir to the Guinness brewing family.
Young Browne was in both the art and music world, and hung out with The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. When the Cobra was delivered to him, he created an art car by
hiring two artists, Dudley Edwards and David Vaughn, to do their thing, which resulted in a sort of psychedelic piece of art on four wheels.
They had previously done a Buick Electra Convertible that was featured on the cover of The Kinks 1967 album Sunny Afternoon and the so-called Magic Piano produced for Paul McCartney.
First the car was displayed at a gallery on Duke Street in Mayfair. Then that October, Tara Browne, with some partners, opened Dandie Fashions on King’s Road in Chelsea, a very trendy fashion district for young people, and the same art collective was hired to paint the shop front and interior. The plan was to display the Cobra there when the shop re-opened.
Tara Browne, on the night of December 17th 1966, was in too much of a hurry to get to the opening in his Lotus Elan and crashed into a parked lorry. He died the next day of his injuries.
John Lennon was so distraught, he wrote a song about it – A Day in the Life – which appeared on the 1967 Beatles album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
I quote some of the lyrics:
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…
The Cobra, after some subsequent owner drove it across America, where it resided for some decades, was eventually repainted and sold. It even had an American owner before returning to its native land.
You wonder if the present owner, hearing this song on the radio, has any idea it’s about the young man who saw this particular car not just as a car but as a canvas for fine art?
Well, it’s role in psychedelia is gone now, as is the man that conceived that role…only the song remains as its contribution to fine art…
Published previously on My Car Quest