For two years during the late 1960's Buffalo Springfield were regarded by many
people, along with The Byrds, to be America's answer to The Beatles & although
they never got anywhere near that level of commercial success they turned out
to be a major influence on American music during the next decade. Also during
that time & up to the present day, band members Stephen Stills & Neil Young have
got the attention that they & the band deserved.
In many ways comparisons with The Byrds are fully justified as both bands came
from similar folk backgrounds & McGuinn & co. were one of the few bands at the
time to boast as many creative members. As well as the songwriting & guitar playing
of Stills & Young they had another excellent vocalist/songwriter in Richie Furay.
This meant while The Byrds seemed to drift into a new style with each LP, Buffalo
Springfield featured folk, country & even latin influences on each of their releases.
Also due to the competition within the band they had a wealth of first rate songs
to choose from.
The band were formed in Los Angles in 1966 when Stills & Furay supposedly spotted
Young's black hearse in a traffic jam, raced over & persuaded him to join their
as yet unformed band. His passenger was fellow Canadian bassist Bruce Palmer &
they soon found a druumer & yet another vocalist in Dewey Mertin. The name came
about one day after they saw it painted on the side of a steamroller (and why
After touring with The Byrds they were signed by Atlantic records & in October
66 their first album, "Buffalo Springfield", was released containing 12 songs
by Stills & Young. It features a stunning mixture of electric & acoustic guitars,
gorgeous harmonies combining to create one of the greatest debut albums of the
60s. Highlights include "Do I Have To Come Right Out & Say It" a song The Beatles
would have killed for & the song which via a wonderful cover version introduced
me to the band "Flying On The Ground Is Wrong", an acoustic folk style "I miss
you" experience everyone should hear. After a couple of months the album was re-released
with a new song as they'd got their one hit single in the shape of "For What It's
Worth". This protest song was originally written by Stills following scenes of
police brutality after a rally by teenagers on Sunset Strip but with the events
in Vietnam became an anthem for the time & reached the top ten of the US charts
& was recently resurrected by Public Enemy to great effect & featured the "confused"
Stills alongside Chuck D & Flavor Flav.
This should have signalled the start of great things for the band but in many
ways led to their break-up. As recordings for their 2nd album progressed the pressure
for another hit increased leading to Stills & Youngs relationship becoming even
more strained. At the same time Bruce Palmer was deported back to Canada on drugs
charges to further unsettle the band. An album called "Stampede" was recorded
& even got to the stage of sleeves being printed but was then scrapped with only
a few of it's songs having seen the light of day since. With these problems it
was surprising another album was released at all but when "Again" did in 1967
it was beyond most critics belief & is now quite rightly regarded as a classic.
With Furay contributing three songs the album is even more diverse than the first
as he brought with him more country elements. Stills moved into more mainstream
rock while Young excelled himself with the melancholic ballad "Expecting To Fly"
& the record's pinnacle the closing song "Broken Arrow" This is six minutes of
magic that incorporated other songs from the record in a collage of sound that
would've fitted onto "Revolver".
There were no hit singles on "Again" though & by now Stills & Young had reached
the stage where they wouldn't record if the other was in the studio & meant the
band splitting in May 68 was inevitable. During 1969 another album was released
called "Last Time Around" & although there are some fine songs on there particularly
"Pretty Girl Why?" from the "Stampede" recordings it couldn't live up to the previous
Since then of course Stills & Young were intermittently reunited alongside Crosby
& Nash becoming more famous with several inferior albums to Buffalo Springfield
& Young has since become the rock dinosaur it's ok to like. There's also a Buffalo
Springfield compilation out there called "Retrospective" & persistent rumours
of Young putting together the definitive box set in-between tending his real life
buffalo on his farm which would be a fitting tribute to a great band.