George Harrison visits Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco

After spending six days in Los Angeles, George Harrison, his wife Pattie, Neil Aspinall, Derek Taylor and Alexis 'Magic Alex' Mardas, flew to San Francisco where they walked around the hippy district of Haight-Ashbury.

George and Pattie Harrison in Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco, 7 August 1967

Photographs tell the story of this great visit by one of the Fab Pied Pipers; it is one of the best-known moments in The Great Novel. The crowds that gathered, well-meaning though they were, pressed upon the English visitors and made life difficult and a little dangerous. George didn't enjoy Haight-Ashbury, yet it was right and inevitable that one of Them should have been there in those times.
Derek Taylor
Anthology

The visit to Haight-Ashbury wasn't the purpose of their time in San Francisco; they had gone there to visit Pattie Harrison's sister Jenny Boyd.

George and Pattie Harrison with Derek Taylor in Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco, 7 August 1967We also went to see my sister Jenny, who was living with a friend in San Francisco. We flew there in a private Lear jet with Derek Taylor and Neil Aspinall and were met by a limo, then picked up Jenny, and we all went to have lunch. Afterwards we thought it would be fun to go and have a look at Haight-Ashbury, the district that had been taken over by hippies. Musicians like Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin lived there, and it was the LSD capital of America. On the way, Derek produced a tab. Would we like some? Since we were going to Haight-Ashbury, it seemed silly not to.

The area is named after the intersection of two streets, Haight and Ashbury, and as we approached, the driver said he wouldn't drive down the street itself, he'd park among the side-streets. It seemed a little odd but we didn't argue. We got out of the car, the acid kicked in and everything was just whoah, psychedelic and very... I mean, it was just completely fine. We went into a shop and noticed that all these people were following us. They had recognised George as we walked past them in the street, then turned to follow us. One minute there were five, then ten, twenty, thirty and forty people behind us. I could hear them saying, 'The Beatles are here, the Beatles are in town!'

We were expecting Haight-Ashbury to be special, a creative and artistic place, filled with Beautiful People, but it was horrible - full of ghastly drop-outs, bums and spotty youths, all out of their brains. Everybody looked stoned - even mothers and babies - and they were so close behind us they were treading on the backs of our heels. It got to the point where we couldn't stop for fear of being trampled. Then somebody said, 'Let's go to Hippie Hill,' and we crossed the grass, our retinue facing us, as if we were on stage. They looked as us expectantly - as if George was some kind of Messiah.

We were so high, and then the inevitable happened: a guitar emerged from the crowd and I could see it being passed to the front by outstretched arms. I thought, Oh, God, poor George, this is a nightmare. Finally the guitar was handed to him. I had the feeling that they'd listened to the Beatles' records, analysed them, learnt what they'd thought they should learn, and taken every drug they'd thought the Beatles were singing about. Now they wanted to know where to go next. And George was there, obviously, to give them the answer. Pressure.

George and Pattie Harrison in Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco, 7 August 1967

George was so cool. He said, 'This is G, this is E, this is D,' and showed them a few chords, then handed back the guitar and said, 'Sorry, man, we've got to go now.' He didn't sing - he couldn't have: he was flying. We all were. I was surprised he could even do that.

Anyway, we got up and walked back towards our limo, at which point I heard a little voice say, 'Hey, George, do you want some STP?'

George turned around and said, 'No, thanks, I'm cool, man.'

Then the bloke turned round and said to the others, 'George Harrison turned me down.'

And they went, 'No!'

And then the crowd became faintly hostile. We sensed it because when you're that high you're very aware of vibes, and we were walking faster and faster, and they were following.

When we saw the limo, we ran across the road and jumped in, and they ran after us and started to rock the car, and the windows were full of these faces, flattened against the glass, looking at us.

Pattie Boyd
Wonderful Tonight
Also on this day...

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9 responses on “George Harrison visits Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco

      1. Lary A.

        The sit down was probably in the top of the Panhandle in closest proximity to the park proper but I wasn’t there. I was only within ‘touching’ distance of him and Patti on the corner of Haight and Ashbury as the crowd was turning down Ashbury toward the Panhandle. But that was enough to remember for a lifetime.

  1. pam4change

    What the hell was George thinking? That he wouldn’t be noticed? Gimme a break!! He also missed the obvious. Drugs were made more available to mere children than Bazooka bubble gum was because the powers that be would MUCH rather have prospective revolutionaries preoccupied with watching the colors of the leaves change than with actually figuring out AND FIXING a totally screwed up system (i.e. capitalist/nuclear family/authoritarian/based on greed not need/etc). DRUGS were intentionally available to DERAIL the revolution. And even at that the hippie agenda finally made it thru to mainstream America … altho it is now “too little too late.” The planet likely can no longer be rescued. Had they listened THEN it could have been. To live in greater harmony with our mother earth, with the diverse cultures around the world REALLY IS ALL WE WERE SAYING…and “they” (the establishment) obliterated a vital movement in its prime. Shame on all who participated in wiping out a caring culture.

    1. Race Baker

      I don’t buy it. Conspiracy theory talk. Psychedelics have been and always will be the biggest enemy against the conventional thinking that reinforces the “system”. Now, if you wanna talk about cocaine and heroin being introduced to thwart a revolution, then that is totally believable.

    2. jakdwak (@jakdwak)

      The drug culture was financed and supported by the KGB. Found this out in the great book on the history of the CIA, Legacy of Ashes. But I guess from the tone of your post you would have liked to given up your personal liberty to a Soviet style politburo.

  2. Bill

    “The planet can likely no longer be rescued”? Are you kidding me? The planet’s not going anywhere, WE are! Every species that has existed on this planet has gone (or will go) extinct. Humans are no exception, & it’s incredibly arrogant to think that we are. There’ll come a day when we’re gone, & then the planet will correct any damage we’ve done to it, for it is a self-correcting, ever-evolving system. It’ll shake us off like a bad habit. Nothing lasts forever, everything is finite. Case closed!! Jeez…

  3. terri

    I know precisely where I was that day ! George and troupe stopped by my office on their way to GG Park ! I was working in the music business at that time and he had some personal business to take care of on his way there. One of the greatest days of my life ! Thank you Tom, Bob and Bob !

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