Imagine if this group never existed. Not only would three albums of rock and roll not been recorded, but the offshoot groups of CSN&Y, Poco, Loggins & Messina, and Crazy Horse might never have happened. Neil Young might have gone back to Canada and never recorded After the Gold Rush, Harvest or his other classic albums.
The history of Buffalo Springfield is well-documented, their meeting, the recording of their first two group albums and the misadventure of their final recordings. They were a combustible quintet, mainly Stephen Stills and Neil Young, a creative rivalry that has endured for more than half a century.
In the vast book of rock and roll, Buffalo Springfield are more than a paragraph but not a chapter by themselves. They were together for less than three years but their influence looms large. Their three album output is impressive as they hit the ground running and constructed songs that were beyond their years in musical and lyrical maturity. Yes, there were the typical pop love songs but through their amplifiers the songs seemed textured by deeper experience and haunting by the layered harmonies. Even on their debut album, these were not songs for beginners. By the second album, these guys were pros and the difference was measured in light years.
Let’s look closer at them.
Buffalo Springfield. This album was “produced” by the band’s managers who weren’t record producers. Stills and Young reportedly wanted to re-record he album but were denied, so they tinkered with the mixes prior to release. The production on the first album has been remastered several times in recent years, including in 2018.
“Go and Say Goodbye” – A nice rollicking song, bouncing along with fine guitar interplay, with definite folk influences. Written by Stills with vocal help from Furay.
“Sit Down, I Think I Love You” Stills wrote this song before he joined Springfield. A folk-rock song that hinted at his ability to write songs with deeper meaning and more complex chord structures, but it sails along in fine fashion.
“Leave” – Stills writing a pulsating rocker with blistering guitar work. A fairly standard song, but played and sung with passion.
“Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing” – One of Young’s finest songs, but he didn’t sing lead, he had Furay out front. The song is reported to be about Young’s frustrations in his career before the Springfield. It contains great backing vocals by Stills and Young, and Young’s harmonica provides a haunting signature. Young could write very sensitive songs, complex in their structure, but aching in their performance. One of my favorite Neil Young songs.
“Hot Dusty Roads” – Written by Stills, a soulful mid-tempo song bordering on a country song, with vocal help from Furay. A solid tune showing off their vocal work and lead guitar picking.
“Everybody’s Wrong” – Stills showing his folk influences with some heavy guitar work by he and Young. The trademark ringing guitar, with vocals by Stills and Furay singing together, a common approach on the first album. Not a great song but it does show off their skills.
“Flying on the Ground Is Wrong” A Young tune given to Furay to sing lead while Young drives it with his ringing guitar fills and leads. It’s sounds more commercial with Furay’s voice, although it is another song about loss and longing to be with that person again. Young’s song titles were often obtuse but clued you in to his unique view of life.
“Burned” – Another Young song about crushing and burning, and perhaps a drug reference to coming down. What a bummer. Back in 1966, that was quite a gamble with a direct reference like that. “Burned” has a straight-ahead rock beat, it’s a good but not great song, but not filler either. Young even contributes some piano.
“Do I Have to Come Right Out and Say It” – A Young tune sung by Furay, with nice harmonies, one of the best on the album. Young writes a more traditional pop song with nice chord progressions that give the vocals a chance to shine, with a nice guitar work at the song’s bridge.
“Baby Don’t Scold Me” Originally released on the first pressing but left off the second. A Stills song, not as good as “For What it’s Worth,” the song substituted for it, but as good as some of the other tracks on the album. The song features fine bass work by Palmer and creative guitar work.
“Out of My Mind” – Written and sung by Neil Young, who was not yet coming into his own as a vocalist, sometimes sounding tentative or drenching his vocals in studio effects. Young often sang of loss or the confusion of life. Here he lays his soul bare and turns in a fine vocal work with effective harmony support by Stills and Furay.
“Pay the Price” – Stills again with an uptempo rocker with Stills pushing the pace with his driving vocals. Again the guitar work punctuates the verses, typical of mid-1960’s rock. Springfield was good at these type songs, Martin, Furay and Palmer powering the rhythm while Stills and Young decorate with their ringing, finger picked guitars.
“For What It’s Worth” – For many, this is the only song they know for sure from the group. The top ten single that was not on the initial pressing of their first album, but added later. Written by Stephen Stills, the song had a world-weary take on events going on at the time, the riots on Sunset Strip against the new curfew.
Buffalo Springfield Again. The band produced this album, mainly the person who wrote the song directed the recording sessions and mix. On this album, outside musicians helped to augment the sound and provide bass when Bruce Palmer was having deportation problems. Production-wise this is a far superior album, in total, the songs are stronger and the band is more in tune with each other. The vocals have more separation and the guitars have more range than the first album.
“Mr. Soul” – Neil Young at his finest, a powerful rocker with blistering guitars, and one that has stayed in his live performances for decades. Had the same drive as the Stones’ “Satisfaction.”
“A Child’s Claim to Fame” – Furay seems to have invented country/rock and this along with “Kind Woman” exemplify that. A fine song with tremendous vocals and punchy guitar.
“Everydays” – A jazzy song written by Stills with jangly piano, distorted guitar and a lead bass line. Stills would build a lot of songs like this in his career, mid-tempo tunes that speed up to build energy or slow it down to add an exclamation point.
“Expecting to Fly” – Young was hitting his stride as a serious composer with this beautiful and haunting song, complete with a sensitive, but not overpowering orchestral backing. Young, not the most accomplished or talented vocalist, actually is the right voice for this song. His plaintive vocal style helps with the longing of the song’s arrangement. Young was not afraid to use non-rock and roll instruments and arrangements to help deliver the emotional context of this songs.
“Bluebird” – Stills constructs a song in a similar vein to “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” a song with several distinct sections. There are several versions of the song including a very long and rare version, not commonly heard. In a way, a companion to The Beatles’ “Blackbird,” a favorite song performed live by Crosby, Stills & Nash.
“Hung Upside Down” – Stills writes a slow rocker that serves as an opportunity for the three guitar players to air it out. Although Furay is the group’s best vocalist, Stills is the most soulful and expressive when he wants to be. This is not a classic song by any means but it serves as an excuse for guitar licks abound.
“Sad Memory” – Maybe Richie Furay’s best song, ever. A low-key, almost solo performance, with Furay on acoustic guitar with an aching vocal performance. Young punctuates the song with electric guitar fills that accentuate the solitude and sense of loss.
“Good Time Boy” – Written by Furay but sung by drummer Dewey Martin. A rollicking song, punctuated by horns and Martin’s over the top vocals. A departure from the usual Springfield fare.
“Rock & Roll Woman” – Probably Stills’ best Springfield song, it rocks but has mellow, harmony vocals that add a smoothness to the energy. One of Stills’ all-time best songs. The Springfield rhythm section is rocking on this one.
“Broken Arrow” One of Young’s most complex and expansive songs, consisting of three parts with distinctive time signatures. This is the type of song The Beatles might have done if they grew up west of the Rocky Mountains. The song has Old West images and folk sensibility, but it is totally unique Neil Young production. It is a beautiful song and showed his maturity of talent as a songwriter.
Last Time Around. The album was released to satisfy their contract and after the band had split. Recorded mostly individually, with engineer/producer Jim Messina constructing the puzzle. This is mostly Furay and Stills, with Young contributing very little, as he was about to launch his solo career.
“On the Way Home” Young could write these songs in his sleep, they seemed to flow from his guitar with ease. Lyrically, one of his best songs, a rocking song with horns and great harmony vocals, with Furay again on lead. Easily the best song on the album and one Young would play in concert for years. A beautiful song and a great kick-off to their final album.
“It’s So Hard to Wait” – A Young/Furay tune, a slow, bluesy number. An okay song, doesn’t add anything to the party.
“Pretty Girl Why” – A Stills mid-tempo song with nice guitar work and heavy with reverb. Stills had a talent for mixing rhythms and creating some memorable variations on the standard rock time signatures. A very understated song, another in the Springfield tradition of disappointment over love
“Four Days Gone” – Stills again with another mid-tempo song with a blending of folk. Stills seemed to be practicing for songs he would introduce with CS&N. A blending of country guitar and tack piano.
“Carefree Country Day” – Jimmy Messina chips in with his one songwriting contribution in his limited time with the group. An interesting county-rock song, it would have fit comfortably on a Lovin’ Spoonful albums.
“Special Care” – Stills contributes a song heavy on organ and distorted guitar, reminiscent of Traffic, but not as good. It fills out the album.
“The Hour of Not Quite Rain” – Furay, contributing a heavily orchestrated, downbeat song, something Young would have written for their second album. Psychedelic orchestral music, above average, interesting and nicely arranged.
“Questions” – Stills returns with a guitar rocker, multi-tracking himself with various acoustic guitars. The song sounds similar with a CSN&Y song from Deja Vu. Stills is a fine guitar player and he goes full out on this song.
“I Am a Child” – One of Young’s finest and most direct songs, visually striking in his lyrics and simple but memorable in chord construction. Young was ascending quickly on his ability to dash-off autobiographical songs that were unique but had wide appeal.
“Merry-Go-Round” – A very fine Furay song, a more traditional folk rock song, nicely arranged, showing hi growth as a songwriter. Furay’s best song on the album with his best vocal performance.
“Uno Mundo” – Stills returns with a heavy percussion song, nice rhythms and horn arrangement. Stills was practicing for Manassas with the Latin beats.
“Kind Woman” – Furay with his signature song, one that’s still in his live song list. Country-rock had blossomed and this was a key piece of that new genre. Jim Messina produced the song and Rusty Young plays pedal steel guitar, and all three would form Poco in the coming months.
In 2011, the surviving members of Buffalo Springfield (Young, Stills and Furay) finally reunited, to perform at the Bridge School benefit concert, a cause that Young had been involved with for many years. This led in 2012 to the three playing seven concerts, with a longer tour planned, but aborted by Young who refocused on a Crazy Horse project. And that’s that.
Left: Stills, Furay and Young in 2010.