“If you’re going to San Francisco…” Scott McKenzie’s song conquered the charts all over the world in 1967. The birth of Flower Power. The song was also played on German radio day and night. “Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair”. We heard him as a teenager, but San Francisco was somewhere far away in the unknown. The filming of Haight Ashbury in San Francisco was found by film researcher Lisa Hartjens in the National Archives in College Park.
When we turned on the radio in the summer of 1967 in the afternoon, “San Francisco” almost certainly came from Scott McKenzie. The hit was perhaps the most important propaganda for the Flower Power movement that has shaped our generation of those born in the 1950s. We knew little about the background at the time. At the age of 12 or 14, we were still firmly embedded in the context of home and school. The music on the radio was the key to the big world outside of one’s own experiences.
When I was working in the National Archives film archive with the film researcher Elisabeth Hartjens a few years ago, she came up with a copy of unpublished film footage from San Francisco in the same year, 1967. I edited the material for this short film. I added the music of Greatful Dead, the legendary band from San Francisco. The band members lived in the neighbourhood the film shows. The music was recorded in 1968.
The “Local Hero”, the bearded old man “Bo Maverick” in the film, appears in various photos and articles from the time. The real name of the freethinker was Edward Bray, he played his role as “King of the Hippies”. “Haight Ashbury Maverick” was the name of an underground magazine of the quarter. A press photo shows the old man handing over a copy of an underground magazine to Vice President Humphrey, Democratic candidate in the 1968 election campaign. In the spring of 1969, Maverick appears as a self-proclaimed hippie leader in an article in the Idaho Times. A Bo Maverick predicted an earthquake on April 19, 1969. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the old man died of a heart attack in September 1969.
Types and Topics
The footage documents typical moments of pop culture at the end of the 1960s, illustrating the turn of time in the Western world, which we now call the ’68 generation’. The imaginative clothes of the flâneurs, their shoes, the hair and beard costumes of the boys, the relaxed hanging around. The poster shop with the Harleys and the psychedelic ornaments. The self-organised medical service set up to deal with the consequences of drug use. Andy Warhol’s film “I, a man” is announced in the cinema. The film is a central document of the sexual revolution. The underground magazine “Haight Ashbury Maverick” also spread the new feeling of sexual freedom. The articles circulated on the campuses of universities around the world.
The film’s images illustrate a profound cultural turning point. Pop culture and the hippie movement have revolutionized the societies of the Western world more than the radical left-wing political movement that ignited in the United States during the Vietnam War. This subtile process of change apparently culminated in the 1990s. The authoritarian harshness of the war generation was overcome by a more open and freer way of life. Only in recent years have authoritarian and repressive trends and ways of thinking returned noticeably.
Author: Stephan Bleek. Film editor: Stephan Bleek. Film material available from zb Media.