The other night saw the last in the current series of Top Gear. And the last item, with Clarkson driving a V12 Aston Martin to the sound of churchy music and being uncharacteristically quiet and downbeat, forced a sad thought to cross my mind. Could it be that that’s the end for Top Gear?
If it were it would be the latest in a long series of parallels with the career of the Beatles - its nearest cultural equivalent.
Just look at the way the two spanned the decade. The Beatles’ recording years were 1962-69. Top Gear’s: 2002-9. The end coming in August both times.
Both were hugely successful, going way beyond their origins. Top Gear has never really been about just cars in much the same way the Beatles were never just about good tunes. New ideas attached themselves to both. Stars wanted to be associated with both. And the Establishment hated both.
Even the main participants seem to find equivalents in the Beatles. Clarkson is Paul McCartney, Hammond: George Harrison and James May: Ringo.
So, who is John Lennon? That’s easy: Andy Willman, producer of the show and long-time Clarkson associate.
Hey, it’s even had its own “Pete Best” moment in the sacking of Jason Dawe just after the first season.
OK, so what is Top Gear’s “Revolver” - that moment when they were absolutely at their peak? There was a show at the end of 2007 which had Hammond driving an F1 car, Clarkson and May pratting about in vintage cars and Lewis Hamilton as the special guest. Car shows just don’t get any better.
But, Crozier, do you really think Top Gear can truly be put in the same category as the Beatles - the very symbol of a profound and dramatic cultural shift? Well, not really. At least, not yet. The change that the Beatles symbolised was there for all to see by 1969. Top Gear far less so. But who knows where the ideas - in essence: it’s alright to be a bloke - might go.
At very least - and I accept it’s difficult to give TG all the credit - there seem to be far fewer speed cameras around the place nowadays.