Tara Browne (1945-66)

Hugo Williams

I read the news today, oh boy,
About a lucky man who made the grade.

The Beatles, ‘A Day in the Life’

If you’d apologised just once
for green shirts and amethyst cuff-links
you might have survived,
but who would have believed
that Irish-ironical ‘Sorrry, sorrry’
as you fell about laughing?
You were only fifteen
when we followed you across Paris
after midnight, trying to keep up.
If our money ran out
you pretended to find a dix mille note
lying in the gutter – our student grant
for the further study
of Bloody Marys and rock ’n’ roll.
You had the latest American singles
under your coat
in case the clubs weren’t cool.

‘Cut Across Shorty’ by Eddie Cochran
was your signature tune
when you rubber-legged-it across the floor
of the Club de L’Etoile,
smoking a Salem. After hours,
we took your portable singles player
to the Aérogare des Invalides,
its photomat and coffee machine,
dancing for the cleaners:
‘Summertime Blues’, ‘C’mon Everybody’.
Our faces of children
are squashed together fighting
in the faded photo-strips.
We were still dancing
when Eddie flew through the windscreen
of a British taxi, followed to heaven
by his precious flame-coloured Gretsch.

We all came home from the party
safe and sound, but you didn’t come home.
You went on into the night,
dancing your crazy doodle-step
on the pedals of your turquoise Lotus Elan,
till the music stopped
in the middle of Redcliffe Gardens,
at midnight, December 17th 1966.
It was the midway point
of a broken-backed decade.
Before it, the mini-skirt, the Twist,
‘I wanna hold your hand’. After it,
long hair, old clothes, ‘A Day in the Life’.
Tara, the day you died
your friends went out of date.
Now there’s a thought
you would definitely have agreed with.