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Beatles 50th Blog

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: August 9, 1967

George and Pattie Harrison return from America

Following a week's break on the West Coast of the United States, George Harrison, his wife Pattie, and Neil Aspinall and Alexis "Magic Alex" Mardas returned to England on this day.

They flew back to London via New York. During their time in the US, the Harrisons spent time with Ravi Shankar and other Indian musicians, with The Beatles' former publicist Derek Taylor, and with Pattie's sister Jenny Boyd.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: August 8, 1967

The band member known as The Quiet Beatle had his loud-and-clear say about hippies and the Haight-Ashbury in the Summer of Love.

Harrison is quoted saying he thought the Haight “would be something like King’s Road (in London), only more. Somehow I expected them to all own their own little shops. I expected them all to be nice and clean and friendly and happy.”

Instead, after touring the hippie ‘hood and encountering  a “wild band of jeering hippies” during an impromptu song sesh on nearby Hippie Hill in Golden Gate Park, Harrison declared hippies to be “hideous, spotty little teenagers.”

Harrison said, “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.”

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: August 7, 1967

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.

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.
 
We 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 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

 

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.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: August 6, 1967

George Harrison dines at Ravi Shankar’s house

On the sixth day of his US trip, George Harrison paid a visit to Ashish, the son of sarod player Ali Akbar Khan, in Los Angeles.

The others in his party - his wife Pattie, Neil Aspinall and Alexis "Magic Alex" Mardas went to Disneyland. In the evening they regrouped and dined at the LA home of Ravi Shankar.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: August 5, 1967

George Harrison attends an Alla Rakha recording session

On the fifth day of his US trip, George Harrison attended a recording session by the Indian musician Alla Rakha in Los Angeles.

Afterwards Harrison, his wife Pattie plus Neil Aspinall and Alexis "Magic Alex" Mardas, went for a meal in the city's Olvera Street, accompanied by Derek Taylor and his family.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: August 4, 1967

George Harrison watches Ravi Shankar at the Hollywood Bowl

On the fourth day of their US trip, George Harrison, his wife Pattie, Neil Aspinall and Alexis "Magic Alex" Mardas went to see Ravi Shankar perform at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.

 

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: August 3, 1967

George Harrison and Ravi Shankar hold a press conference

On the third day of their US trip, George Harrison, Neil Aspinall and Alexis "Magic Alex" Mardas returned to Ravi Shankar's music school in Los Angeles.

Harrison and Shankar held a press conference at the Kinnara School of Music to promote Shankar's Hollywood Bowl concert, which was taking place the following day. Harrison's wife Pattie was not present; her sister Jenny Boyd had flown from San Francisco, and the pair went sightseeing in Los Angeles.

In the evening the Harrisons and Derek Taylor attended a Mamas And The Papas recording session.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: August 2, 1967

George Harrison meets Ravi Shankar in Los Angeles

On the second day of their US trip, George Harrison, his wife Pattie, Neil Aspinall and Alexis "Magic Alex" Mardas paid a visit to Ravi Shankar's music school in Los Angeles.

Shankar had opened an LA branch of the Kinnara School of Music in May 1967. The Harrisons, Aspinall and Mardas watched him teach for a while, and later in the day had a meal with Shankar on Sunset Strip.

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: August 1, 1967

George and Pattie Harrison fly to Los Angeles

George and Pattie Harrison, Alexis "Magic Alex" Mardas and Neil Aspinall flew from London to Los Angeles on this day.

We went to America in August, a couple of months after the Monterey Pop Festival. My sister-in-law at the time, Jenny Boyd (who was Jennifer Juniper in the Donovan song), had been living in San Francisco, and she'd decided she was going to come back to live in England. We all went for a day out to see her; Derek and Neil, the not-so-magic Alex, and myself and Pattie. (George Harrison, Anthology)

The Harrisons flew as Mr and Mrs Weiss, names taken from Nat Weiss, the New York director of Nemperor Artists, one of Brian Epstein's co-owned companies.

They stayed in a rented house on Blue Jay Way in Beverly Hills which belonged to the manager of Peggy Lee. George Harrison called Derek Taylor, who was living in the US, giving him directions to the house. However, Taylor got lost in the fog and, while waiting, Harrison wrote the song Blue Jay Way.

Derek Taylor got held up. He rang to say he'd be late. I told him on the phone that the house was in Blue Jay Way. And he said he could find it OK... he could always ask a cop. So I waited and waited. I felt really knackered with the flight, but I didn't want to go to sleep until he came. There was a fog and it got later and later. To keep myself awake, just as a joke to pass the time while I waited, I wrote a song about waiting for him in Blue Jay Way. There was a little Hammond organ in the corner of this house which I hadn't noticed until then... so I messed around on it and the song came. (George Harrison)

Their stay in the house was arranged by Brian Epstein, who called The Beatles' attorney Robert Fitzpatrick to enquire whether a house could be leased. Fitzpatrick persuaded the owner of the house, another entertainment attorney named Ludwig Gerber, to lend Harrison his LA residence.

Ludwig Gerber was a former US Army colonel who had managed Peggy Lee for many years. He was also a film producer and lawyer. In his house there was a Hammond S-6 organ, on which Harrison wrote Blue Jay Way.

 

The Beatles 50 Years Ago Today: July 31, 1967

Radio London, Curzon Street, London

The Beatles' support for pirate radio didn't waver rights to the end of the golden era. Radio London closed forever on Saturday, August 5th, 1967. Today, six days earlier, Ringo popped along to the station's central London office at 17 Curson St. and recorded a brief farewell message, on behalf of all the Beatles, with the company's managing director Philip Birch. It was broadcast on London's last day.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney return to England from Greece

John, Cynthia and Julian Lennon, Paul McCartney, Jane Asher, Alexis "Magic Alex" Mardas and Pattie Harrison's sister Paula Boyd all returned to England from Greece on this day.

They had been in Greece to visit an island which they intended to purchase. However, the plans came to nothing as The Beatles' interest in living in the Mediterranean waned.

The party flew to London Airport from Athens. George and Pattie Harrison had returned the previous day.