George Harrison Said Hippies Were ‘Hypocrites’ and ‘Bums’

George Harrison traveled to the capital of love, Haight-Ashbury, in San Francisco in 1967. He’d taken LSD two years earlier and wanted to see what the hallucinogen had done for the people there. George expected the hippies to be God-conscious or at least charming artistic beings. He found the opposite.

George Harrison during the filming of 'Magcal Mystery Tour' in 1967.
George Harrison | Chapman/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

George Harrison thought the hippies of San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury would be ‘groovy’ people

In Here Comes The Sun: The Spiritual And Musical Journey Of George Harrison, Joshua M. Greene wrote, “According to astrological calculation, by 1967 Earth was supposed to be emerging from a thousand years of confusion under the sign of Pisces—two fish swimming in opposite directions—and entering a golden age under the sign of Aquarius. 

“Writers and poets prophesied that this new age would be one of harmony and understanding, and underground newspapers depicted San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district as its epicenter, the home of LSD consciousness, filled with beautiful people in colorful costumes, dancing to psychedelic music and living the dream of the Aquarian Age.”

Initially, LSD played a huge part in George’s spiritual awakening. So, George was excited to see what the hallucinogen had done for the hippies of Haight-Asbury.

In 1967, George and his then-wife Pattie Boyd visited Haight-Ashbury with Boyd’s sister Jenny and her husband, Mick Fleetwood.

“George had dressed in psychedelic pants, tassled moccasins, and heart-shaped sunglasses, expecting to be part of something beautiful ‘with groovy people having spiritual awakenings and being artistic,'” Greene wrote. 

Later, in Martin Scorsese’s documentaryGeorge Harrison: Living in the Material World, George said, “I went to Haight-Ashbury expecting it to be this brilliant place. I thought it was gonna be all these groovy kinda gypsy people with little shops making works of art and paintings and carvings.”

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George said the hippies of Haight-Ashbury were ‘bums’

The streets of Haight-Ashbury shocked George. “Garbage littered the streets,” Greene wrote. “Hippies lay sprawled on benches and sidewalks. Panhandlers—’horrible, spotty dropout kids on drugs,’ George called them—haunted the streets begging for coins in the name of love and peace.”

He thought he’d find some of the most artistic people. “Instead, it turned out to be just a lot of bums,” George said in Scorsese’s documentary. “Many of them were just very young kids who’d come from all over America and dropped acid and gone to this mecca of LSD.”

In 1967, George told Melody Maker (per George Harrison on George Harrison: Interviews and Encounters) that people started recognizing him. They swarmed him and treated him like he was the Messiah. George was upset by what he saw. Instead of using LSD to open doors, the hippies didn’t stop taking it and turned into bums.

George explained that when the media started reporting on The Beatles’ use of pot and LSD, they didn’t want to tell anyone to take anything. It opened doors for them, but telling people what to do wasn’t their job. However, their drug use made people want to try it regardless.

LSD wasn’t the answer to everything. “It enables you to see a lot of possibilities that you may never have noticed before but it isn’t the answer. You don’t just take LSD and that’s it forever, you’re OK,” George continued.

“A hippie is supposed to be someone who becomes aware–you’re hip if you know what’s going on,” George continued. “But if you’re really hip you don’t get involved with LSD and things like that. You see the potential that it has and the good that can come from it, but you also see that you don’t really need it.”

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The neighborhood was full of hypocrites

While George met some friendly hippies at Haight-Ashbury, there was still “the black bit, the opposite.” Those hippies were hypocrites. George didn’t like the hippies who always sat around high expecting things.

“There was the bit where people were so out of their minds trying to shove STP on me, and acid—every step I took there was somebody trying to give me something—but I didn’t want to know about that,” George explained. “I want to get high and you can’t get high on LSD. 

“You can take it and take it as many times as you like but you get to a point that you can’t get any further unless you stop taking it. Haight-Ashbury reminded me a bit of the Bowery. There were these people just sitting round the pavement begging, saying, ‘Give us some money for a blanket.’ These are hypocrites. They are making fun of tourists and all that and at the same time, they are holding their hands out begging off them.

“That’s what I don’t like. I don’t mind anybody dropping out of anything, but it’s the imposition on somebody else I don’t like. The moment you start dropping out and then begging off somebody else to help you then it’s no good. I’ve just realized through a lot of things that it doesn’t matter what you are as long as you work.

After visiting Haight-Ashbury, George knew where to find like-minded people; in India and Hare Krishna temples worldwide. The love capital didn’t have the answers or the people.

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