Thursday Trivia

Welcome to Thursday Trivia where we offer up a historical automotive trivia question and you try and solve it before seeing the answer after the jump. It’s like a history test, with cars! 
This week’s question: What model of car was involved in the accident that inspired John Lennon to write A Day in the Life, which contained the verse: “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…?”
If you think you know the answer, make the jump and see if you are right!
Rock and roll songwriters often base songs on actual events. Write what you know is what my English teachers used to say.
A prime example of that is Deep Purple’s famous Smoke on the Water which details a notorious 1971 hotel fire that took place at the Monteux Casino right in the middle of a Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention concert, being held in the facility’s theater.
Deep Purple was there to record an album using a mobile recording studio owned by The Rolling Stones. The song calls out specifics of the event, including how it was started by “some stupid with a flare gun” and a reference to Montreux Jazz Festival promoter Claude Nobbs who was “running in and out, pulling kids out the ground.” It’s like you’re there, accented with organ and guitar fills.
Another song that is based on real-life events, but which perhaps masks their identity to the point of making them cryptic is A Day In A Life by the Beatles. It opens with a description of an auto accident, specifically one in which someone of minor fame (or infamy) is killed. The second stanza goes as follows:

He blew his mind out in a car
He didn’t notice that the red 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.

There’s not much to go on there, and the lyrics are so obscure that you might think that John Lennon was just making the whole thing up out his imagination. The facts are that the verse describes a real accident in which an acquaintance of Lennon’s was killed. 

From the BMW 2002 FAQ Forums:

…Sally’s stepson, Tara Browne, from her husband’s second marriage, was a friend of John Lennon’s. Tara drove his Lotus Elan into a lamp-post in Redcliffe Square, London, in 1966, and became a subject in the Beatles’ song “A Day in the Life,” which contained the memorable verse: “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…”.
“On 18 December 1966, Browne was driving with his girlfriend, model Suki Potier, in his Lotus Elan through South Kensington at high speed (some reports suggest in excess of 106 mph/170 km/h). It is not known whether he was 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 and died of his injuries the following day. Potier claimed that Browne swerved the car to absorb the impact of the crash to save her life.”
Tara’s Lotus crash (the Lotus license plates must have been in the name of Tara’s father, the House of Lords member, causing the confusion). . .

No one ever questioned The Beatles’ use of the tragic accident as lyric fodder. That’s probably a good ting as around the same time the Sgt Pepper album came out Lennon was already busy fending off questions about burying Paul McCartney and attempting to insert subliminal messages about LSD in his song Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds. 
Image: Beatles Conspiracy

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8 responses to “Thursday Trivia”

  1. Tiberiuswise Avatar

    Simplify and add carnage?

    1. 0A5599 Avatar

      Carnage and trucknage, apparently.

  2. Batshitbox Avatar

    Like a lot of people, I’d taken this line to indicate a suicide committed during a red light (as if to say, just hang on a little longer, the lights will change.) The rest of the song is about the dullness and maybe ennui of day to day English life. The four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire evidently were mentioned in an article from the same newspaper* about the state of England’s highways.
    *Daily Mail for Jan 17th. 1967, where the crash was reported. Either news moved very slowly that winter, or my research is faulty.

  3. Fred Talmadge Avatar
    Fred Talmadge

    I have an Elan and I’m aware it’s an unsafe car. Still I need to be reminded of it so I don’t forget and do something stupid.

    1. Rover 1 Avatar
      Rover 1

      No. They’re a very safe car that handle and brake well so that you can avoid an accident.
      But if you have a crash they’re not as safe as later cars are. Not unsafe, just less safe.

    2. Rob Emslie Avatar
      Rob Emslie

      When you say “do something stupid” do you mean… like sell it?

  4. Fuhrman16 Avatar

    Neat. I’ve always wondered what that part of the song was about.

    1. Rob Rose Avatar
      Rob Rose

      I heard it was about the Kennedy assassination.