Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Buffalo Springfield – "For What It's Worth" (1966)

There's battle lines being drawn
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong

Most people think “For What It’s Worth” was a protest song about Vietnam, or civil rights, or some other big-ass sixties political issue.  But it was actually inspired by something much less significant: the Sunset Strip riot of 1966.

(Riots are coming back into fashion)
Los Angeles officials had responded to complaints from local residents and business owners about the traffic congestion and noise generated by the young people who flocked to the clubs along the “Sunset Strip” by instituting a 10 pm curfew.  

On November 12, about a thousand protestors – including Jack Nicholson and Peter Fonda – congregated on the Strip to demonstrate against the curfew, blocking traffic and generally making a ruckus.  Fights broke out, store windows and car windshields were broken, and a city bus was trashed.

Rioters punish an innocent LA city bus
Stephen Stills seems to have stumbled upon the demonstration by accident.  After observing the melee, he headed back to Topanga Canyon and wrote “For What It’s Worth” in about 15 minutes.  

Buffalo Springfield recorded the song on December 5 – barely three weeks after the Sunset Strip riot – and it eventually climbed to the #7 spot on the Billboard “Hot 100.”

It’s one of the seminal songs of the sixties, but it’s not a song I would have expected to peak that high on the pop charts.

Tomorrow 2 or 3 lines will feature another Stephen Stills song that was recorded by Buffalo Springfield.

Here’s “For What It’s Worth.”  (Nice chapeau, Stephen Stills!)

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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