Books: I Read the News Today, Oh Boy by Paul Howard
I recently finished reading I Read the News Today, Oh Boy by Paul Howard. Subtitled The Short and Gilded Life of Tara Browne, the Man Who Inspired the Beatles' Greatest Song (and breathe out), I highly recommend seeking out a copy.
It's, as the subtitle suggests, a biography of Tara Browne, Guinness heir, friend to Beatles & Stones. Because Browne died so young there is little in the way of footage of him, I wondered if the book would hold interest outside of the connection to the famous musicians. I was pleased to be emphatically proved wrong from the off.
The book is evocative of several interesting places, times, characters. Tara's mother, Oonagh, could have had a book to herself and her story was at turns poignant and funny. Her marriage to a Spanish con man in particular was a very striking subplot to the main narrative of her son's bohemian upbringing.
Post-war Ireland, glamorous Paris and Swinging London are the locations - the music mentioned including traditional Irish field recordings, American R&B and of course The Beatles. Tara was friends with Paul McCartney and, after his too-short life was ended in a car crash, John Lennon began writing A Day in the Life from seeing the newspaper report of the aftermath of the crash.
His death became a marker in the Swinging London sect that they were mortal and it set in motion a darker series of events - Brian Jones, Tara's good friend, went into freefall for a start. Paul Howard captures why the in-crowd of the time would have fallen for his charm and attitude, and in doing so, has taken Tara from a footnote to a main character in his story - restoring a voice long lost. Interestingly, both this and another critically acclaimed book - Jumpin' Jack Flash by Kieron Pim, about David Litvinoff - use someone on the outskirts of the previously accepted narrative of London in the 1960's to add a fresh perspective to the decade, revealing new layers to our understanding of that time.
Tara was a lucky man, and this book really makes the grade.