s-l1000
Buffalo Springfield iTunes Tracks

Buffalo Springfield

+ {Au Go-Go Singers}

Although BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD came from Los Angeles, California (in March ’66), two of the group’s leading lights, Stephen Stills and Richie Furay, had kicked off their careers via off-Broadway ensemble the AU GO-GO SINGERS. Performing around the Greenwich Village area in 1964, the evolving cast of singers and musicians (Bob Harmelink, Nels Gustafson, Michael Scott, Fred Geiger, Roy Michaels, Jean Gurney & Kathy King – some from the Bay Singers) found their way on to the roster of Roulette Records. However, this was the year of The BEATLES, and not so much their worldly-folk counterparts, The SERENDIPITY SINGERS, The GATEWAY SINGERS, et al, and naturally another bunch of hootenannies were for the musical chopping block. THEY CALL US AU GO-GO SINGERS (1964) {*4} failed to generate much interest outside their student-y folk-pop audience and they broke up. The album itself was a mixture of traditional cues (`Lonesome Traveler’ and `This Train’) plus renditions of folk-blues staples such as JESSE FULLER’s `San Francisco Bay Blues’, MALVINA REYNOLDS’ `What Have They Done To The Rain’, BILLY EDD WHEELER’s `High Flying Bird’, etc.). Stills would travel to Canada with a band called the Company, a band who actually opened for Neil Young & The Squires – BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD could well’ve evolved from these meetings; read on.
In a well-documented incident, Stephen Stills and guitarist Richie Furay were caught in a traffic jam on Sunset Strip, when by pure chance, Stills recognised the driver of a black hearse, Neil Young. Along with bass player and fellow Canadian Bruce Palmer, Young had travelled down to Hollywood to try his luck in the fabled City of Angels. This fated get-together also led to another member being recruited, drummer Dewey Martin. Stills and Young clashed right from the off, but it was essentially this tension that fuelled the band’s creative spark in a JAGGER-RICHARDS kind of fashion. Taking their name from a type of steamroller, and with the help of the SONNY & CHER management team of Charlie Greene and Brian Stone, the band were signed to Atlantic offshoot Atco in a matter of months. With the combined talent of Stills and Young’s soaring harmonies and driving rhythm, the band often came on like a folk-ified BEATLES, although their albums are notable for their striking stylistic diversity.
The ambitiously eccentric Young-penned debut single, `Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing’, did nothing, while `Burned’, the 2-minute pop thrill of a follow-up, fared equally badly. But then Stills struck gold with the famous protest anthem `For What It’s Worth’, released in the same month as the band’s fine BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD (1967) {*7} debut album. The song concerned itself with the previous summer’s riots whereby a coterie of businessmen had threatened Sunset Strip’s nightlife by proposing the building of a business district. Of course the students were none too happy, especially when 300 protesters were arrested. The song was duly adopted by rebels everywhere as a general mascot for fighting the good fight, and its vaguely psychedelic, menacing tone perfectly evoked the feelings of persecution felt by the emerging flower children.
Throughout 1967 the band was rocked by internal squabbling, with various members coming and going. An album, “Stampede”, was recorded but never quite completed. It later surfaced as a bootleg and one track from it, `Down To The Wire’, featuring an impassioned Young vocal, was included on his “Decade” (1976) compilation. Young also missed the band’s slot at the Monterey Pop Festival, David Crosby taking his place.
Despite all this, the band completed a follow-up, BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD AGAIN (1967) {*9}. Opinions on the album are mixed, with some critics deeming it a classic of its time, others criticising its watered-down production. The best moments are Young’s Jack Nitzsche-arranged numbers, `Broken Arrow’ and `Expecting To Fly’; the latter possessed a haunting, lysergic quality. Stills’ compositions, `Bluebird’ and `Rock ‘n’ Roll Woman’, lack the sophistication of Young’s surreal epics but are enjoyable none the less.
The tension between Young and Stills eventually finished the band (Crosby once commenting that they used their guitars as weapons, on stage and off!) with a final country-rock album, LAST TIME AROUND (1968) (*6), released after the split. Young contributed the fragile `I Am A Child’ and one other song before leaving the band early on during the sessions. YOUNG went on to an erratic, often mercurial career, while Stills went off to help form CROSBY, STILLS & NASH (re-united with YOUNG in 1970). Furay meanwhile, went off to join country rockers POCO. Along with The BYRDS, JEFFERSON AIRPLANE and LOVE, BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD were one of the most influential, if somewhat short-lived, bands to come out of L.A.
© MC Strong 1994-2010/BG-GRD/GFD // rev-up MCS Jul2012

Share this Project

Leave a Comment