As the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love approaches next year, its epicentre in San Francisco is these days less counterculture and more just countering rising property prices.

Haight-Ashbury became a flower-child mecca in 1967. Most accounts say the "summer" actually began on January 14 with the "Human Be-In", billed as "a Renaissance of compassion, awareness and love" in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, which drew about 20,000 people. The Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane performed, and among the speakers were poet Allen Ginsberg and LSD guru Timothy Leary, who for the first time used the phrase he would make famous: "Turn on, tune in, drop out".

The curtain came down on the Summer of Love in October 1967 with a mock "Death of Hippie" funeral in San Francisco, with the clear message that America's flower children should plant themselves elsewhere.

Singer Janis Joplin.
Singer Janis Joplin.

Walking around sites from the Summer of Love in 2016 is a sobering reminder of how the hippie heyday has faded.


My first stop is a grand three-storey mansion at 2400 Fulton St, where Jefferson Airplane once lived. Few bands embodied the hedonism of the late 1960s as the Airplane. The band advocated sex, psychedelic drugs, rebellion and a communal lifestyle and plenty of each operated out of this legendary party house.

Further on is Ashbury St which counts The Grateful Dead, the Hell's Angels and Janis Joplin as former residents.

On a sunny winter's day I walk past the infamous Hell's Angels house (719 Ashbury St), where its San Francisco chapter established a headquarters during the late 1960s. It's hard to imagine that this pretty Queen Anne Victorian home was once a hub for the counter-culture movement.

I catch the Grateful Dead wafting from a nearby cafe, which helps lead me to the band's former headquarters at 710 Ashbury St. It was here that the Dead's unique style of rock, folk, blues and jazz came together as one the city's seminal bands began its long, strange trip.

All of this homage to Haight-Ashbury's hippie scene puts me in the mood for a record store crawl. My quick trawl takes in Amoeba Music, Rasputin Records and Recycled Records, each with a point of difference.

Amoeba, housed in a converted bowling alley, bills itself as "the world's largest independent record store" and is truly staggering. It has racks of vinyl, CDs, books and other bits which seem to stretch on forever.

Rasputin Records is known as the Bay area's biggest independent record store and features a vast selection of new and used indie, punk, metal, goth, electronic, hip hop, world, soul and R&B music.

My favourite is Recycled Records, which has no grandiose claims, except that it's something of a Haight St landmark. First opened in 1977, the store is crammed with a mind-bending collection of second-hand vinyl. I'm dizzy trying to make decisions about where to start.


This is a place for aficionados and a must for anyone searching for rare and vintage vinyl. Nothing is too obscure in this vinyl shrine.

I finish my ramble through the Haight and walk further on to Alamo Square with its postcard views of San Francisco's classic Victorian architecture. I sit on a bench taking in the "Painted Ladies", a row of exquisite Victorian houses against the city backdrop, and think of Rudyard Kipling's famous quote.

"San Francisco has only one drawback — 'tis hard to leave."

How true.

 Legs on Haight-Ashbury, California.
Legs on Haight-Ashbury, California.




is billed as "a two-and-a-half-hour flashback to the vibrant 60s".

Accommodation: Hotel Zephyr at Beach St, Fisherman's Wharf, features 361 stylish waterfront guest quarters, many including personal balconies with views of San Francisco Bay.