Thursday, February 1, 2018

Buffalo Springfield

With the Compendium of When, AM's goal was to create a timeline of 70's music leading to post-punk. The goal was to create some type of continuity for a series on 80s music that begins with Joy Division. But I'm just not into it. The Zen of our connections are moody beasts, and after the month-long history of progressive music, I just want to chill; as Neil Young would say, "I felt like getting high." Oh, speaking of Neil, that's where we're headed instead.

In 1968, Neil Young and Stephen Stills were winding down from Buffalo Springfield. Despite their incredible success, the band's tenure was hampered by just not getting along. Their folk/psychedelic rock sound began two years earlier in Los Angeles. Getting stuck in traffic on Sunset Boulevard, Stephen Stills and Richie Furay spotted a black Pontiac hearse that Stills knew belonged to Neil Young. He and Bruce Palmer were grabbing a couple burgers.

Stills had met Young in Toronto, Neil's first break away from Omemee, Ontario (which is Canadian for Timbuktu). Young subsequently met bassist Bruce Palmer, and following a botched record deal for the Mynah Birds, the two set out for L.A., specifically to find Stills. It was on that day in L.A., we can assume, that Stills, Furay, Young and Palmer formed Buffalo Springfield, later adding drummer Dewey Martin.

The band commenced a short California tour, as an opening act for Martin's former band The Dillards and for The Byrds. Touring constantly, the Springfield secured a deal with Atco, a subsidiary of Atlantic Records. While Buffalo Springfield was short-­lived, having existed all of two years. those two years witnessed the band releasing three remarkable studio LPs: Buffalo Springfield (1966), Buffalo Springfield Again (1967) and Last Time Around (1968). The band recorded their eponymously titled Buffalo Springfield (released in late 1966) following the release the single, "Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing," which made little impact on the charts. Early in 1967 another single from the album, "For What It’s Worth," was released. Penned by Stills, "For What It’s Worth" rapidly rose as a popular protest song. It became the Springfield's only big hit, peaking at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100. While it succinctly fit the protest era, the song was really a reaction to the Sunset Strip riots of 1966.

Creative differences and contrasting egos, especially between Stills and Young, resulted in tensions during Buffalo Springfield's recording of their second album, Buffalo Springfield Again (1967), which garnered positive critical reviews. Following Bassist Bruce Palmer’s consistent struggle with the law, Jim Messina assumed a permanent place in the group as a new bassist, stepping out of his role as production engineer.

Their final album, appropriately titled Last Time Around (1968), was recorded and released to fulfill the band's contractual obligations. Tensions were so great within the group that the album was more a showcase of each individual member's talents rather than the construct of a band. During that time, Young launched his solo career, but reunited with Stills in the latter's supergroup Crosby, Stills & Nash, making himself the occasional fourth member. Stills had also recorded and released albums under his own name. Messina and Furay formed their own act, Poco, but Furay eventually started his own solo career while Messina teamed up with Kenny Loggins as the duo Loggins & Messina. Yet it was an all-star drug bust on March 20, 1968 that truly split the band.

It seems that Buffalo Springfield was hanging out at Stills' girlfriend's in Topanga when Young, Jim Messina, Richie Furay and Stills started jamming with Eric Clapton. "They were partying ... the Marshall amps were stacked," friend Linda Stevens told Jimmy McDonough in the Neil Young biography Shakey. "Clapton and Stephen were playing so loud, the mountains were ringing. One of the neighbors didn't think it was so cool." 

Dewey Martin saw the patrol car headed toward the house, but "it was too late to warn the band," Martin said. As the cops arrived, band members and friends tried valiantly to dispose of any illegal substance. "Being the road manager, they handed it all to me," Chris Sarns said. "I tried to flush is down the toilet and the toilet backed up. The cops came running in the bathroom, and I'm sitting there looking at this pot floating around." Everyone there was arrested except Stills, who managed to crawl out of a window and escape. The rest were hauled off to jail where, according to Jim Messina, Eric Clapton's long hair and manner of dress – including pink boots – amused the cops. "They set him out front of us to humiliate him," said Messina. "It was a time when long hair was not cool." With tensions already rocky, the bust proved the final straw, and the Buffalo Springfield’s short reign was over.

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