Our Sheffield correspondent simply isn’t feeling the Love.
Hit singles – a notorious equation. From that first catalytic germ to the recording studio, everyone and everything balanced; flow without compromise. Who says what works? The adoring/ paying public. Upon that melody entering your ears, it becomes trapped in your psyche; if the song is good, into your heart and soul. The melody no longer the writer’s own, it is for us to worship, hum, love… and eventually abhor.
A hit single is something of a spark, whereas albums take nurturing, time and compromises a plenty. Both, if recorded with care will last the test of time. Over-repetition however can lead to a sensory overburdening – familiarity breeding contempt. Similarities between popular music and motor cars is sometimes closer than we think. Designers over performers, technicians instead of musicians. Then add in some mystery, celebrity connections; allow that to wind through the time continuum and sixty years later we still have the E-Type Jaguar – yawn.
We all know the Modenese pig farmer pinned immortality with the free advertisement to being the world’s most beautiful car. Should Enzo have kept that to himself, half the cachet is wiped out. That the burgeoning creel baskets let slip the celebrity mackerel was inevitable. Even the clandestine prototype E1A appeared destined to succeed.
The pastel green, race inspired bolide was Chief Engineer Bill Heynes and aerodynamicist, Malcolm Sayer’s project. Loaned by Sir William himself to none other than Lt. Col. Christopher Jennings MBE. Jennings was (in 1958) editor of weekly imprint, The Motor. Living in Wales, the High Sheriff of Carmarthenshire informed Lyons of his Brecon to Carmarthen test route. Ever the opportunist, Lyons had test development driver Norman Dewis deliver the E1A for Jennings then to sample for a weekend blast. In a confidential memo, Jennings commended E1A as a “potential world beater!”
From E1A to E2A to E-Type: the hit single recipe consisted of a steel monocoque, fully-independent rear suspension, twin-cam engine, dramatic race-bred looks. Only, once the fully realised E-Type (XK-E for the US) was delivered by Dewis overnight at breakneck speed to the Geneva motor show in March 1961, those looks had (to these eyes) become iffy. The wheels look too small in too large an arch. Side-on, the car owns the phallic symbol but exercising ones optic nerves, the car’s wholeness is challenged. Unbalanced, ungainly, somewhat piscine. Slippery, indeed but perhaps more wrasse than trout.
The E-Type was a resounding hit single. Supermodel looks: £2,097 for the roadster. Add ninety nine à la coupé. The celebrities of the day beat a path to Allesley’s door. But now the album required fleshing out in order to satisfy those lucrative export markets. And lo, the series one and a half arrived in ’67 with little obvious change. More stringent measures would follow.
That job fell a year later to Series Two. If series One was the Rolling Stones’ Can’t Get No Satisfaction, series two became Their Satanic Majesties Request, an album even Mick Jagger described as “not very good, mainly acid-trip nonsense.” One could almost forgive any misgivings surrounding the early cars when placed alongside the version with the indicators below the bumper. Yes, it was all bit more civilised but overall, these changes made the stylus jump over the vinyl.
But we then enter the final stages of album production. Time and budgetary constraints alter many a plan. Band members’ egos may need massaging. Tempers can fly. When Series Three arrived, we had entered progressive rock. The E-Type still occupied attention, its mythology attracting sales but with this rendition, most of the integrity was lost. From its racing origins to a bloated, tequila-soaked, washed out rock star. The third series was porcine – some 1500Kgs – a good 2-300 more than the wraith-like originals. Four years of threes completed the E-Type opus with production ceasing in 1975.
By then, many examples were to be found in the bargain basement. Who hasn’t heard stories of early, original E’s being bought for a song, usually due to neglect and entropy? Out of some 72,500 made over an increasingly painful fourteen years, almost fourteen hundred survive (in one form or another) in the UK.
Sixty years on, the classic car market’s Crown Jewels have been propelled to values as unobtainable now as they were to most of the populace back in ‘61. And similar to many an old rock ditty, they keep getting rehashed to ever increasing levels of apathy. Why not add that pony tail?
Saturation kills. Akin to being beaten over the head by the assertion that Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody is the world’s greatest song, anything repeatedly rammed down our throats no longer holds those fervent emotions from the first encounter – the E has become tiresome to me.
Seeing one in motion will always evoke stronger feelings than seeing a pampered example, pristinely plonked on grass at a show. Of course those original examples are now borderline pensioners and the motoring journalists are overwhelmed (once again) by increasingly faint echoes of Swinging Sixties culture; expect to see the usual fawning stanzas and poetic license play on.
The E-Type turns sixty then: I shall celebrate not by playing a Beatles, Stones or Who album but by listening to a different affair, one that concertedly skews those touchy-feelings. Forever Changes by an American outfit named Love was released in 1967, central in the E’s storyline. Claimed to be titled upon an overheard conversation; “You told me you’d love me forever!” The answer from her stern faced lover cut deep. “Forever changes.”
The record groove makes the stylus skip with disdain. Enough said.
Editor’s note: A further meditation upon Jaguar’s sexagenarian will follow after the weekend.
 While the official cessation of production was announced in early 1975, the final E-Type was built the previous year. The Series III E-Type will be profiled separately later in the year.