♫ San Francisco ♫ (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair)

I played this one just over two years ago, and I’m reduxing tonight for a couple of reasons.  First, I’m exhausted and don’t feel up to digging up background trivia for a new song.  Second, this one was on the list David sent me a few nights ago, and it is one that I love.  Third … I was what I call a ‘bi-coastal kid’, bouncing between New York City and San Francisco for the first 17 years or so of my life.  I happened to live in the suburbs of San Francisco during the late 1960s, snuck off with a friend to visit Haight-Asbury, ended up jumping off a moving train (a story for another day), and never realizing I was living through history.   I have added some background info since last time I played this …


This song was written by John Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas, and sung by Scott McKenzie.  Released in 1967, it became one of the best-selling singles of the 1960s.  McKenzie’s version of the song has been called “the unofficial anthem of the counterculture movement of the 1960s, including the Hippie, Anti-Vietnam War and Flower power movements.”

John Phillips played guitar on this track and produced it with Lou Adler. The session musicians who played on it were top notch: Joe Osborn on bass, Hal Blaine on drums and Larry Knechtel on keyboards. They were some of the first-call Los Angeles musicians who played on many of Phil Spector’s productions.

Scott McKenzie wore flowers in his hair when he recorded this song. McKenzie was in a group called The Journeymen with John Phillips. His only other hit was the follow up to this Like An Old Time Movie, and by the end of the ’60s he’d gone to live in the desert. In the late ’80s he co-wrote the Beach Boys #1 single Kokomo.

The song became one of the best-selling singles of the 1960s in the world, reaching the fourth position on the US charts and the number one spot on the UK charts. In Ireland, the song was number one for one week, in New Zealand the song spent five weeks at number one, and in Germany it was six weeks at number one.

San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)
Scott McKenzie

If you’re going to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
If you’re going to San Francisco
You’re gonna meet some gentle people there

For those who come to San Francisco
Summertime will be a love-in there
In the streets of San Francisco
Gentle people with flowers in their hair

All across the nation
Such a strange vibration
People in motion
There’s a whole generation
With a new explanation
People in motion
People in motion

For those who come to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
If you come to San Francisco
Summertime will be a love-in there

If you come to San Francisco
Summertime will be a love-in there

Songwriters: John Edmund Andrew Phillips
San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair) lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

32 thoughts on “♫ San Francisco ♫ (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair)

  1. I was probably ten years old when this song came out and my father was heading for Vietnam via San Francisco. I must have heard the song on the radio back then and remember it, now, with a warm, mellow nostalgia like no other, though California Dreamin’ is a close second. Sometimes I wish I was born ten years earlier, but then it might have been my boyfriend going to Vietnam. Thank you for keeping the spirit of peace and love alive here with this sweet song.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love the way music brings back so many memories for us all. I was born at least a decade before you, and was dating a boy at the time … Nick Gonzales … who went to Vietnam. He had a desk job, company clerk, but nonetheless came home in a body bag. I’m glad you liked the song!

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      • I’m so sorry about Nick. I’ve been reading my dad’s letters from Vietnam. After seven months on the front lines, one of his jobs was to go through the belongings of the guys who didn’t make it. In some ways, I think that was just as hart as being in combat.

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  2. This song was an eye-opener to me. I was a confirmed Hippy, loved much of the music but had no idea what SF and Haight Asbury looked like. With the climate here I hadn’t seen so many scantily clad females either. Then this fantastic record came along and showed me I wasn’t really a Hippy, just a 16 year old boy with pretensions. Funny though, I’ve still got them.
    Cwtch

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    • Though I have difficulty picturing you as a hippie in flowered bell-bottom trousers, but I’m so glad you liked the song. Well, of course you would like it, for it was you who sent it to me! I’m glad you’ve still got them …
      Cwtch

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  3. Jill, this is one of those mileposts songs. Ironically, by the time the song aired, the movement was waning in San Francisco. But, it did capture the mood along with a lot of other good music. Keith

    Liked by 2 people

  4. That was #1 here for four weeks, just after the Government had killed the pirate radio stations and before the BBC launched Radio One. Strange times for those of us interested in pop music! The follow up had one week at #50 and then we never heard of him again! It was a song very much of its time, and I’m guessing it meant more over there given your involvement in Vietnam.

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      • Over here it was really just that one – there are plenty of tales of one hit wonders disappearing from the business so he did better than some to get those composing credits.

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          • A fair point. Many can’t cope with the riches and fame. Back in the 60s and 70s we had a footballer here called George Best, who really enjoyed life. He was on a chat show after he finished playing, and said “I spent most of my money on girls, booze and fast cars. The rest I just squandered.” Too many don’t live long enough to realise that – Best was 59 when he died.

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            • It does seem that riches and adulation are the downfall of making disgusting amounts of money. If they would use it to do good, perhaps they would feel better about themselves. Ha ha … at least George Best was honest about it! But, likely the girls, booze and fast cars contributed to his early demise. Fortunately, I will never have that problem! 😁

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              • Yet others survive and thrive: it must be part of the personality of those who can’t cope.

                Best was a one off, a footballing genius who couldn’t cope with the riches. His early death was linked to his lifestyle. I went to see his team play – he was an unexplained absentee from the published team list, the first of many such.

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                • I think you’re right … it is something in our DNA, our character, that enables some of us to survive, while others give in and perish.

                  ‘Tis sad when men and women with such talent throw it all away, but I expect it will never change. Some are strong, others not so much.

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  5. Yes, this was of course a song that went through my head as I flew into San Francisco and on to my duty station up 101 in Sunnyvale. Of course, it’s a laugh to say that, since SFO is well outside of the city. We made into the city proper within the year, though. Had a lot of good times in SF, though it wasn’t the summer of love. The city had tremendous offerings in book stores, restaurants, art museums, theater, and shopping. One quite memorable visit was when we marched against Bush’s shock and awe plan. Been at least ten years since I’ve been to the city. Don’t know when I’ll get there again. When I do, I’ll probably hear this song in my head again.

    Cheers and hugs.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Such great memories! I haven’t been back there since the early 1970s, and I’m told I wouldn’t recognize it. I’m pretty sure I won’t make it back there in this lifetime, but I certainly did enjoy it when I lived there.

      Cheers and hugs back at you, my friend!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. If you were a hippie, you were an anti-Viet Nam war protester, and a Flower Power proponent. Yes, there were anti-war people who were not hippies, but for the most part we were one big happy family.
    Given your bi status, I cannot think of you ever playing Neil Diamond’s I Am, I Said, so I will play it for you. https://youtu.be/sxDyXK93o6g
    My only question, which coast were you born on?

    Liked by 3 people

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