I’ve been trying for awhile now to find a way to connect The Beatles and Hunter S. Thompson. And despite my firm and unwavering belief in the interconnectedness of everything, it hasn’t been easy.

Hunter wasn’t much of a Beatles fan — he was more of a Stones guy — though he does write in “Strange Rumblings in Aztlan” that “1967…was the era of Sgt. Pepper, Surrealistic Pillow, and the original Buffalo Springfield.” John Lennon is mentioned in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but the reference is not complimentary:

The radio was screaming: “Power to the People – Right on!” John Lennon’s political song, ten years too late. “That poor fool should have stayed where he was,” said my attorney. “Punks like that just get in the way when they try to be serious.”

I doubt that The Beatles were aware of Hunter, who did not become a household name until after they broke up. But there is a connection, albeit a tenuous one, in the fact that on May 14, 1967 the New York Times Magazine published an HST piece entitled “The ‘Hashbury’ is the Capital of the Hippies.” This was a fairly straight journalistic/anthropological look at the growing youth phenomenon then overtaking San Francisco on the cusp of the Summer of Love.

Paul had just visited San Francisco in April, and George would make the trip in August. The city changed a lot in those few months as hundreds of thousands of kids flooded in from all over the country, and George was appalled by what he found:

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.

He might not have been so surprised if he’d read Hunter’s piece:

Most hippies take the question of survival for granted, but it’s becoming increasingly obvious as the neighborhood fills with penniless heads, that there is simply not enough food and lodging to go around.

You can read “The ‘Hashbury’ is the Capital of the Hippies” here or here, and it’s well worth taking the time to do so. As a preview, here’s my favorite paragraph:

Municipal buses no longer use Haight Street on weekends; they were rerouted after mobs of hippies staged sit-down strikes in the street, called mill-ins, which brought all traffic to a standstill. The only buses still running regularly along Haight Street are those from the Gray Line, which recently added “Hippieland” to its daytime sightseeing tour of San Francisco. It was billed as “the only foreign tour within the continental limits of the United States” and was an immediate hit with tourists who thought the Haight-Ashbury was a human zoo. The only sour note on the tour was struck by the occasional hippy who would run alongside the bus, holding up a mirror.

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