The “Listen Again” series went over well enough here in the Los Angeles area that your favorite rockin’ record reviewer decided to follow the lead of some L.A. TV execs and do a spin-off. In this series we once more examine previously-released albums BUT the platters we shall peruse in this particular series will be (Rolling Stone magazine) FIVE-STAR albums. This edition we discuss Buffalo Springfield’s Buffalo Springfield.
For those of you who have forgotten or simply missed out on your pop music education, Buffalo Springfield is an American rock band that first became popular after the British invasion. The band, named after a company name on the outside of a steamroller parked near one of the artist’s houses, was first formed in California in 1966. While the short-lived band would have a lot of infighting and industry pressures that would constantly change the line-up the band roster at the time of the recording of their premiere platter included Richie Furay (guitar and vocals), Dewey Martin (drums and vocals), Bruce Palmer (bass), Stephen Stills (guitar, keyboards and vocals) and Neil Young (guitar, harmonica, piano and vocals).
Buffalo Springfield basically began as the house band at the Whisky A Go Go for several weeks. Their performances there gained the group a reputation and soon they cut a deal with Atlantic Records and started to record at Gold Star Studios in Hollywood. Furay, Stills and Young taped demos for their upcoming album but the producers felt Young’s voice was “too weird” leaving the lead vocals to most of Young’s tunes to Furay.
The band’s first single, “Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing”, was released late that summer but performed poorly outside of Los Angeles, where it made the Top 25. The band was unhappy with more of their material and immediately began to rework some of their early efforts for the rest of the debut disc. In fact, Stills and Young have always felt that their mono mix was superior to the stereo mix engineered by the producers.
The eponymous album, Buffalo Springfield, was originally put out by Atlantic’s subsidiary Atco in mono and later in stereo in late 1966. The music here was a defining, eclectic style of country rock that was both current and influential. The interesting mix of Stills and Furay’s folk and Young’s more macabre music—anchored by former Dillards drummer Martin’s percussion would garner them both critical and commercial success. It was highlighted by the songwriting skills of Stills (“Leave”) and Young (“Burned”) as well as Furay’s distinctively country-like lead vocals. It was memorably eccentric (as would be the follow-up album) and would never be repeated.
(A month before the 12-track album’s release Stills had written what some call his “landmark” tune, “For What It’s Worth”, after he witnessed the actions of some police officers against crowds of teenagers protesting the closing of the Pandora’s Box nightclub on Sunset Strip. The number was performed on Thanksgiving night at the Whisky a Go Go, taped over the next couple of days and given significant airplay on Los Angeles radio station KHJ soon after.)
The song—which had been written too late to be included on the band’s first album—became a top ten hit by March of the following year. Atco executives saw dollar signs and quickly replaced Stills’ “Baby Don’t Scold Me” with “For What It’s Worth” and re-releasing the altered album. History would prove this to be a smart move. The re-issue would reach number 80 on the Billboard Pop Album chart. “For What It’s Worth” –the group’s only major hit–went on to sell more than a million copies—going gold and slotting in at number 7 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart. Additionally, hardcore fans would hunt down both versions of the album.
Although the band disbanded after only two years, many of the individual members would go on to successful solo careers. Their later music and the continued success of the now classic “For What It’s Worth” would lead to continued interest in the album. In fact, the debut disc would be remastered and issued with two versions on the same CD in 1997. The mono mix of “For What It’s Worth” and a stereo mix of “Baby Don’t Scold Me” were oddly absent.
In fact, as this goes to press, “Baby Don’t Scold Me” has yet to be released in stereo as all CD reissues only include the mono mix. While Buffalo Springfield were generally dissatisfied with the sound of Buffalo Springfield/Atco 2-806 and thought it didn’t demonstrate “the intensity” of their live gigs, it nonetheless remains a deserving five-star record that contained some of their most indispensible material.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.