Buffalo Springfield – Introductory Page

Buffalo Springfield



As the act that served as a stepping stone in the development of the luminary careers of Neil Young, Crosby, Stills & Nash and, uh, Poco, Buffalo Springfield are easy to overlook in their own right. In fact, most conversation about them probably goes something like this:

Guy #1: Dude, I love “Mr. Soul” and “I Am A Child.” Those are some great Neil Young songs.

Guy #2: Did you know those are actually by Buffalo Springfield? That’s the band Neil was in like 40 years ago before he went solo.

Guy #1: Really? I’ve never heard of them.

Guy #2: Yeah, they also did that song “For What It’s Worth” about anti-Vietnam protests. You know, “stop, children, what’s that sound…”

Guy #1: Are you sure? I thought that was Country Joe & The Fish.

Guy #3 (walking by with Dog #8): No, no, it was Joe Cocker!

Dog #8: Bark! Bark!

Guy #12 (parachuting down onto the sidewalk from a height of 30,000 feet): You guys don’t know what you’re talking about. It was obviously Strawberry Alarm Clock.

Decorative Plant #397: Did you know decorative plants could talk? Also, Quicksilver Messenger Service did that song.

Soldier #21: Nuh uh, it was Joni Mitchell, who had gender reassignment surgery in 1965 so should sound like a man while performing this song. She changed back into a chick later. It’s true, I read it on Wikipedia.

Astronaut #16.84: Phew! I just got back from the moon. Anyway, you guys are crazy, it was Styx.

Guy #1: Whatever. “Buffalo Springfield” is a stupid name for a band.

But I don’t think they deserve to be glazed over like that. Maybe being saddled with the ridiculously unfair hype of being the “American Beatles” back in the mid-60’s is why they’re mostly remembered today for failing to live up to expectations. But hell, practically before they even got started, they imploded and split off into no less than four successful acts of varying importance (I guess it’s up to you to figure out how you’d like to arrange the scale from Neil Young to Loggins & Messina. But don’t be an idiot and arrange it the wrong way). So maybe they could’ve blossomed into something greater given the time and cohesion.

Me, I think they operated under too limiting a formula for Neil, and the world simply needed for him to go his own way, so I’m perfectly fine with the way things transpired for this band. But I still think the Springfield did plenty of things worthy of appreciation as musical accomplishments rather than just historical artifacts. They were one hell of an unlikely collective for one; their three guitarists and songwriters were an aspiring Monkee who was among the last rejects during tryouts for the TV show (Stephen Stills), an epileptic Canadian folkie (Neil Young) and, uh, I guess, some guy from Ohio (Richie Furay). Together with Dewey Martin (drums), Bruce Palmer (bass) and later Jim Messina (replacement bass) they aspired to stealthily integrate their very much folk-saturated backgrounds into a Beatles-dominated world. I certainly don’t see how they accomplished that feat to a greater degree than say, the Byrds – their songs were far more mid-60’s Stones and Beatles than Dylan. But a lot of those songs can be counted among the best their respective composers ever came up with – particularly Stills’. They also were the first band to do the three guitars thing… even if only a few months before Moby Grape did. Their career was so incredibly brief—their debut album was released in December 1966 and their third and final one a mere 19 months later in July 1968—and fraught with entropy that it’s almost unfair to judge it is a fully realized body of work. Neil had basically given up on the band by a year or two into its existence, and by the end was barely, if ever, showing up to concerts or studio sessions (legend has it that Otis Redding was set to fill in for him at one show where he was MIA… wouldn’t that have been something?). And neither he nor Stills had yet approached their full potentials by the time the band broke up. But they still left us with a few things worth remembering forever.

Ultimately, the band is probably best appreciated with a greatest hits compilation. Try 1969’s Retrospective – it’s how I was introduced to them as an impressionable young preteen, and probably why I have so much residual affection for them. But, hell, it’s a damn good greatest hits comp, and no one interested in 60’s rock music should be without it.

Leave a Reply