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Buffalo Springfield was a short-lived but influential folk rock group that served as a springboard for the careers of Neil Young, Stephen Stills, Richie Furay and Jim Messina and is most famous for the song "For What It's Worth." After its formation in April 1966, a series of disruptions, including internal bickering, as well as the pressure of working in the music industry, resulted in constant changes in the group's lineup ó and ultimately culminated in the group's disbanding after roughly 25 months. Buffalo Springfield released a total of three albums but also left a legacy that includes many demo recordings, studio outtakes, and live recordings.
Although Buffalo Springfield was formed in early 1966, the groupís genesis might very well be attributed to a chance meeting nearly a year earlier when Neil Young and Stephen Stills first crossed paths at a folk club in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Young was there with The Squires, a group he had been leading since February 1963, and Stephen Stills was on tour with The Company, a spin off from the Au Go Go Singers. Although the two would not see each other again for almost a year, the encounter left both with a strong desire to work together
Some time later, when The Company broke up at the end of that tour, Stills made the move to the West Coast where he worked as a studio musician and auditioned unsuccessfully for, among other things, The Monkees. Told by record producer Barry Friedman that there would be work available if he could assemble a band, Stills invited fellow Au Go Go Singers alumnus Richie Furay and former Squires bassman Ken Koblun to come join him in California. Both agreed although Koblun chose to leave before very long and rejoined 3's a Crowd.
In early 1966 in Toronto, Young met Bruce Palmer, who was then playing bass for a group called the Mynah Birds. In need of a lead guitarist, Palmer invited Young to join the group and the offer was accepted. The Mynah Birds were set to record an album for Motown Records when Rick James, their singer, was arrested for draft evasion. With their record deal cancelled, Young and Palmer decided to head for Los Angeles where they hoped to hook up with Stills.
Roughly a week later, discouraged at having been unable to locate Stills and ready to depart for San Francisco, they were stuck in traffic on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles when Stills and Furay recognized Youngís 1953 Pontiac hearse, which just happened to be sitting in the opposite lane. After an illegal u-turn by Furay, some shouting, hand-waving, and much excitement, the four men realized that they were united in their determination to put together a band. Less than a week later, drummer Dewey Martin, who had played with country artists such as Patsy Cline and The Dillards, was added to the roster after contacting the group at the suggestion of the Byrds' manager, Jim Dickson.
Taking their name from the side of a steamroller -- made by the Buffalo-Springfield Roller Company -- that was parked on the street outside Friedmanís house (where Stills and Furay were staying), the new group debuted on April 11, 1966 at The Troubadour in Hollywood. A few days later, they began a short tour of California as the opening act on a bill featuring the Dillards and the Byrds.
The Whisky A Go Go, a recording contract, and the Sunset Strip riots:
No sooner had the Byrds tour ended than Chris Hillman persuaded the owners of the famous Whisky a Go Go to give the band an audition. Subsequently, the Buffalo Springfield essentially became the house band at the Whisky for a seven-week period from May 2 to June 18, 1966. This legendary series of concerts solidified the bandís reputation for exhilarating live performances as well as attracting immediate interest from a number of record labels. It also brought an invitation from Friedman to Dickie Davis, who had been lighting manager for the Byrds, to become involved in the groupís management. In turn, Davis sought advice from Sonny & Cherís management team, Charlie Green and Brian Stone. They eventually struck a deal with Ahmet ErtegŁn of Atlantic Records and arranged for the band to start recording at Gold Star Studios in Hollywood.
Young, Stills, and Furay would all record demos for the album, but Greene and Stone, who had installed themselves as the album's producers, deemed Young's voice "too weird" and assigned lead vocals on the majority of Young's songs to Furay.
Their first single, "Nowadays Clancy Canít Even Sing," was released in July but made little impact outside of Los Angeles, where it reached the Top 25. The group was dissatisfied with and reworked some of their early recording efforts for the rest of the album. In fact, Young and Stills have long maintained that their own mono mix was superior to the stereo mix engineered by Greene and Stone. The album - eponymously titled Buffalo Springfield - was originally released by Atlanticís subsidiary Atco in mono and in stereo in October 1966; a revamped version (see below) issued both in mono and stereo with a different track order came in March 1967.
In November 1966, Stills composed his landmark song, "For What It's Worth" after witnessing questionable police actions against crowds of young people who had gathered on the Sunset Strip. The song was recorded in December, and by March 1967, the Buffalo Springfield had a Top Ten Hit. Atco took advantage of this momentum by replacing the song "Baby Don't Scold Me" with "For What It's Worth" and re-releasing the album, which eventually reached the number 7 spot in the charts.
A stampede of line-up changes:
In January 1967, the group took an advance from the record company and flew to New York to perform at Ondineís. It was at this time that Palmer was first arrested for possession of marijuana and summarily deported back to Canada.
The band now moved back and forth between recording sessions and live appearances on both coasts. They used a number of different bassists, including Koblunówho was unable to cope with the pressure and soon quitóand Jim Fielder of the Mothers of Invention.
Under these conditions, work on the new album, tentatively titled Stampede, was markedly tense. Ever distrustful of Greene and Stone, Young and Stills also bickered among themselves, and each insisted on producing the recording sessions for his own compositions. Furay, who had not contributed anything to the first album save for his guitar and voice, also stepped forward and equaled Young's number of contributions for the group's second album.
Although Palmer returned to the group at the beginning of June, Young had already left and thereby managed to miss the celebrated Monterey Pop Festival at which the band performed with former Daily Flash and future Rhinoceros member Doug Hastings on guitar and also with a guest appearance by David Crosby. Young eventually returned in August, and after bidding adieu to Greene and Stone (ErtegŁn convinced the duo to release the band from production and management agreements), the band divided its time between concert gigs and putting the finishing touches on its second album, ultimately titled Buffalo Springfield Again, produced by Ertegun himself.
Although more of a hodgepodge of individual work than an integrated group effort, many critics and fans alike consider Buffalo Springfield Again, released in November 1967, to be the groupís finest record, and it includes tracks such as "Mr. Soul", "Rock & Roll Woman", "Bluebird", "Sad Memory", and "Broken Arrow." Trivia; The single of "Mr. Soul" (B side of the edited "Bluebird") has a completely different guitar lead than the stereo LP version. It has yet to be issued on CD.
However, for many Buffalo Springfield fans, it is the Stephen Stills composition "Bluebird" that was then and remains now the band's peak. The "Bluebird" of the title, spoken of throughout the song, was Stills' lover at the time, singer Judy Collins, who was also the subject of a later Stills song, Suite: Judy Blue Eyes. Unlike the studio version -- which winds down after the instrumental break with a plaintive rendition of the third verse, accompanied by a banjo -- in live performances, the opening verses of "Bluebird" serve as little more than a springboard for an extended jam session, during which Stills, Young and Furay intertwined guitars for minutes on end. . One such "live jam" version was officially released on the 1973 compilation Buffalo Springfield (Collection), although it had previously been available on a bootleg issue of what was supposedly a Stampede recording session and had become a staple of FM radio in the late 60s and early 70s.
Last Time Around:
With strong reviews appearing all over the country, not only of Buffalo Springfield Again but of the bandís performance as part of the Beach Boys Fifth Annual Thanksgiving Tour, things were looking up.
However, in January 1968, Palmer's second deportation for possession once again threw a wrench into the works. This time, guitarist and studio engineer Jim Messina was hired as a permanent replacement on bass. With Palmer gone for good, Young also began to appear less and less frequently, often leaving Stills to handle all of the lead guitar parts at concerts. Recording sessions were booked, and all the songs that were to appear on their final album were recorded by the end of March usually with Messina producing, but the group was clearly on the verge of disbanding. In April 1968, after yet another drug bust involving Young, Furay, Messina, and Eric Clapton, the group decided to break up.
Their final concert appearance was at the Long Beach Arena on May 5, 1968. After playing many of their best-known tunes, an extended version of ďBluebirdĒ became the group's swansong. Buffalo Springfield disbanded a little more than two years after it had begun.
After the groupís break-up, Furay and Messina compiled various tracks recorded between mid-1967 and early 1968 into a third and final studio album titled Last Time Around. Only a few of the songs featured more than two or three members of the group at a time, and it is often described as the groupís weakest effort. Even the cover photo of the group was a montage, with Young's image added a group profile of other four members. Stills and Furay appeared on more tracks than any of the others, essentially dominating the album, but it did not light up the charts.
Legacy and Recognition:
Although the Buffalo Springfield was never a major commercial success, "For What Itís Worth" was a legitimate hit, and the groupís reputation would only grow stronger with the later successes of its members. Stills went on to form a band with David Crosby of The Byrds and Graham Nash of The Hollies in 1968. Young launched a solo career, but in 1969 also reunited with Stills in Crosby, Stills & Nash, which saw the beginning of his sporadic relationship with that trio. Furay and Messina both became founding members of Poco before going on to other things. Eventually, Furay becoming one third of the Souther, Hillman, and Furay band, and Messina was one half of the Loggins & Messina duo.
After recording a jam-oriented solo album in 1970 that was a commercial failure, Palmer faded into obscurity although he occasionally played with Martin's "Buffalo Springfield Revisited" tribute. He was also CSNY's first choice to play bass, but due to various personal problems was replaced by Motown prodigy Greg Reeves. In the 1980s, Palmer would appear on several of Young's Geffen-era records.
Dewey Martin carried on with The New Buffalo Springfield in September 1968. The original line up comprised Jim Price on horns, Dave Price (no relation) on guitar, Don Poncher on drums, Bob Apperson on bass, and Gary Rowles on lead guitar. The New Buffalo Springfield gigged in the western part of the U.S. before losing a lawsuit involving the band's name. Billed as Dewey Martin's New Buffalo (and New Buffalo Springfield on occasions), the band was whittled down to a four piece with Martin, Poncher and Dave Price joined by Randy Fuller from The Bobby Fuller Four. By late July 1969, however, Martin had left to form a new band, Dewey Martin and Medicine Ball and recorded an LP with UNI Records while the others became Blue Mountain Eagle.
In 1997, the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame although Young did not appear for the induction. In 2001, an eponymous, career-spanning box set was assembled by Young and released. It features many alternate takes, demos, and alternate mixes over the first three of its four discs with the fourth disc containing the groupís first two albums. The third, never a favorite of Youngís, was relegated to highlights on the third disc.
On his 2000 album Silver & Gold, Young sang of his desire to reform the group and to "see those guys again and give it a shot." Unfortunately, with the October 2004 passing of Palmer, that reunion is no longer a possibility.
Their song "For What Itís Worth" features as the opening music to the 2005 film Lord of War.