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(back to Music Travel)
The San Francisco Oracle (1371 Haight St)
The Oracle was more than a newspaper; it was a poetic commentary on daily life in Haight-Ashbury, published from 1966-68. It was founded by Allen Cohen, who was inspired by an LSD fuelled vision to start a rainbow coloured newspaper. Close to the Oracle offices were The Drogstore Cafe at 1389 Haight, and The Phoenix (another “head shop”) at 1377 Haight Street.
The Psychedelic Shop (1535 Haight Street)
Ron and Jay Thelin managed to walk a very fine line between business and bohemia. They opened their shop in January 1966, the month of the Trips Festival. They closed it in October 1967, two days before the Death of the Hippie parade marked the official passing of San Francisco’s Summer of Love (the shop sign was ceremonially buried at the end of the Parade). After that parade, many of the Haight community's main leaders left the city in search of refuge in the four corners of America.
Over the 21 months of Love, from January 1966 to October 1967, the Psychedelic Shop offered everything that the hip young Franciscan could desire; records, esoteric books, posters, incense and tickets; it was a one-stop shop for the sixties' psychedelic consumers.
But the shop was more than business to the Thelins. When the Haight began to fill with hundreds of dysfunctional runaway teenagers, they opened a meditation centre in a back room to help counter the increasingly bad “vibes” on the street. And when tourists began stalking the street to look at the freaks, they put theatre seats in the shop’s front window, so that regular customers could relax, and watch the “straights” pass by.
Pall Mall Lounge (1568 Haight St)
This was the Home of the Love Burger in the Sixties. The Lounge is still open but the Love Burger is no longer on the menu.
Straight Theatre (1702 Haight St)
Nothing remains of the old theatre today - it was demolished in the late 70s. But the Straight represented a purer version of the San Francisco dance hall scene than the far more commercial (and successful) Fillmore and Avalon Ballrooms.
The Grateful Dead opened the Straight Theatre (formerly known as the Haight Theatre) in July 1967. Shortly afterwards the City revoked the theatre’s dance license, however the theatre got around this restriction by offering “dance lessons” featuring the Grateful Dead as dance “instructors”. The Santana Blues Band also played regularly at the theatre’s dance classes.
Nearby, there was The I/Thou Coffee Shop at 1736 Haight and Mouse Studios at 1711 Haight. Mouse studios produced many of the psychedelic concert posters of the time.
House of The Dead (710 Ashbury St)
Many of the San Francisco bands of the Sixties lived together in communes, like Rodney Albin’s Rooming House (1090 Page St, now demolished) where the Charlatans and Big Brother and the Holding Company lived and rehearsed together, and the Pine Street Commune (1836 Pine St, later moving to 2125 ) where Janis Joplin and the Family Dog collective lived together. Likewise, the Grateful Dead shared this particular rooming house at 710 Ashbury Street.
In the early days, the San Francisco scene centred on the Charlatans who were based over at Page St; but the Grateful Dead staged a kind of (friendly) coup in 1966, and replaced the Charlatans as the spiritual leaders of the Haight. The Grateful Dead’s house became a kind of community centre for Haight hippies.
Jefferson Airplane’s Mansion (2400 Fulton St)
Jefferson Airplane operated as a co-operative right from the start: they designed their own posters, organised their own dances, and lived communally in this grand old mansion (bought with recording royalties) from 1968 to 1971.
Between 1967 and 1969, the band captured the imagination of America: they seemed to be perfectly tuned to the central obsessions of sixties youth: drugs, love and revolution. Their live shows captured the mood of the times perfectly, with their psychoactive light shows and long improvisational jams.
Somehow, the dream went awry in the late sixties as the band left behind their once unquestionable hippie credentials, and ultimately came to epitomise the corporate rock ethos of the seventies West Coast. Their music mellowed and became increasingly concerned with private obsessions, like Paul Katner’s science fiction fantasies and Grace Slick’s cryptic word puzzles. Founder Marty Balin left the band in 1971, and the household at Fulton Street fell apart shortly afterwards.
Golden Gate Park
The green fields of the Golden Gate Park played a signigicant part in hippie folklore.
The Panhandle is a long narrow strip extending eight blocks from the park, between Oak and Fell Streets. Many free concerts were held on this long patch of grass, including the official start of the Summer of Love in October 1966 - the Love Pageant Rally (which was held on the very day that LSD was made illegal in the USA), and the official end of San Francisco’s hippie era, exactly one year later, the Death of the Hippie parade in October 1967. The Diggers, an anarchist activist group, provided free meals to needy hippies at the Panhandle for 6 months from October 1966 (but they eventually had to give up, when demand completely overwhelmed their capacity to supply free food).
The Polo Fields provided a venue for the Human Be In, which was held in January 1967 and was attended by a crowd of around 20,000. On June 21 1967 the Solstice party at the Polo Fields was attended by a crowd somewhere between 30-50,000 people.
Hippie Hill, which is at the end of the park nearest the corner of Oak and Stanyan Streets, was a favourite chill out spot for sixties youngsters. On the south of the meadow is a playground and an old carrousel dating back to the turn of the century,
The Free Store (1090 Cole St)
As the name suggests, everything was free at this store, run by the Diggers. The “Trip without a Ticket” was also in this area at 901 Cole.
The Free Clinic (558 Clayton Street)
This 24 hour free medical service was founded by Dr David Smith in the sixties, and it is still operating, via donations.
Kurt Cobain got the idea for the name of his band’s first album from a poster on the clinic’s wall, which advised drug users to bleach their “works” to avoid AIDS
Janis Joplin’s House (3/112 Lyon St)
Janis Joplin lived in a small apartment on the first floor (the one with the curved balcony) for a year from early 1967 (she was living here at the time of the Monterey Pop Festival, and during the recording of her first LP, Cheap Thrills).
She shared the flat with Country Joe McDonald, but was evicted after the owner discovered she had a pet dog (named George). After the eviction, Janis moved down to 892 Noe St, where she lived until the end of 1969.
Hunter S. Thompson’s Flat (318 Parnassus)
Thompson lived here as a struggling young journalist looking for a big break and his next deal. He was living here while he researched his classic study of the Hells Angels, and it was here that the Angels beat him to within an inch of his life.
Charles Manson’s flat (616 Cole)
When Manson got out of jail in the mid 1960s, he moved to this apartment, where he began to recruit his “family” from the thousands of angst ridden teenagers wandering the streets of the Haight district (at one point, up to 75,000 itinerant young people were living in the area).
Ralph Records (109 Minna St)
The record label is owned by the Residents - the anonymous avant-garde musical group.
Allen Ginsbeg's House (1360 Fell)
One of Ginsberg's many homes in the area.
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