George Harrison visits Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco

Although the group made it back to their limousine safely, the experience made a deep impression on them. For George Harrison, it marked the point where he moved on from taking LSD and decided to explore more spiritual matters.

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

We went up to San Francisco in a Lear jet. Derek took us to visit a disc jockey, and we went straight from the airport to the radio station in a limo. The DJ gave us some concoction and then we went off to Haight-Ashbury. I went there expecting it to be a brilliant place, with groovy gypsy people making works of art and paintings and carvings in little workshops. But it was full of horrible spotty drop-out kids on drugs, and it turned me right off the whole scene. I could only describe it as being like the Bowery: a lot of bums and drop-outs; many of them very young kids who'd dropped acid and come from all over America to this mecca of LSD.

We walked down the street, and I was being treated like the Messiah. The Beatles were pretty big, and for one of them to be there was a big event. I became really afraid, because the concoction that the DJ had given me was having an effect. I could see all the spotty youths, but I was seeing them from a twisted angle. It was like the manifestation of a scene from an Hieronymus Bosch painting, getting bigger and bigger, fish with heads, faces like vacuum cleaners coming out of shop doorways... They were handing me things - like a big Indian pipe with feathers on it, and books and incense - and trying to give me drugs. I remember saying to one guy: 'No thanks, I don't want it.' And then I heard his whining voice saying, 'Hey, man - you put me down.' It was terrible. We walked quicker and quicker through the park and in the end we jumped in the limo, said, 'Let's get out of here,' and drove back to the airport.

It certainly showed me what was really happening in the drug culture. It wasn't what I'd thought - spiritual awakenings and being artistic - it was like alcoholism, like any addiction. The kids at Haight-Ashbury had left school and dossed out there, and instead of drinking alcohol they were on all kinds of drugs.

That was the turning-point for me - that's when I went right off the whole drug cult and stopped taking the dreaded lysergic acid. I had some in a little bottle (it was liquid). I put it under a microscope, and it looked like bits of old rope. I thought that I couldn't put that into my brain any more.

People were making concoctions that were really wicked - ten times stronger than LSD. STP was one; it took its name from the fuel additive used in Indy-car racing. Mama Cass Elliot phoned us up and said, 'Watch out, there's this new one going round called STP.' I never took it. They concocted weird mixtures and the people in Haight-Ashbury got really fucked-up. It made me realise: 'This is not it.' And that's when I really went for the meditation.

George Harrison

The party was driven to the airport, from where they flew to Monterey in a Lear jet. Unfortunately, the flight was no less terrifying than Haight-Ashbury had been.

I was sitting right behind the pilots; two big brown-brogue-shoed Frank Sinatras. As it took off, the plane went into a stall - we hadn't got very high before we went into a steep turn and the plane made a lurch and dropped. The whole dashboard lit up saying 'UNSAFE' right across it. I thought, 'Well, that's it.' Alex was chanting, 'Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna,' and I was saying, 'Om, Christ, Om...'

Somehow it recovered itself, and we flew down to Monterey and stopped there. We went to the beach and became calm again.

George Harrison

In a Monterey café, the long hair and hippy-style clothes worn by the party meant they had trouble getting service.

We went on to Monterey, and had difficulty getting coffee in a coffee-shop. When the waitress, pretending not to see us in this Lytham-St-Anne's-on-Pacific, was hailed by George ('We have got the money, you know,' he said finally, not quietly, waving a thousand dollars in bills) she recognised him and dropped every piece of crockery she was holding. Dozens of plates and saucers and cups shattered on the floor - she had collected them, too many of them, as she busied herself to avoid the cloud of denim in the corner. Things hadn't loosened up everywhere yet, it seemed.
Derek Taylor
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11 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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