Friday, December 23, 2016

50 years ago: Buffalo Springfield released “For What It’s Worth”

For What It’s Worth

Buffalo Springfield

Writer(s): Stephen Stills (see lyrics here)

Released: December 23, 1966

First Charted: January 14, 1967

Peak: 7 US, 7 CB, 8 HR, 1 CL, 9 CN (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 3.0 radio, 52.6 video, -- streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

“It feels like an anti-war song, but ‘For What It’s Worth’ was far more domestic than that.” DT “It sprang out of the civil war in miniature that [songwriter Stephen] Stills was witnessing on Los Angeles’s Sunset Strip at the time.” TB It became “a defining sound of the time period, in which inter-generational discord was rampant and youth were attempting to assert themselves against authority figures.” KW It “established Stephen Stills as a spokesman for ‘60s youth.” SJ

Pandora’s Box, a nightclub on L.A.’s Sunset Strip, closed down and there were, as Stills said, “a bunch of kids having a funeral for a bar.” TC “The LAPD decided to run a line-up across the street, like there was some kind of revolution going on.” TC Stills had just visited Latin America “and was horrified at how similar the tensions in that region on the brink of revolution were to those in a developed democracy.” TB “The Summer of Love was unraveling before it even began.” RS500

Another account suggests the “crowds of longhairs” MA were “blocking sdewalks, smoking dope, spilling into the streets…Neighborhood businessmen complained of the disruptions,” MA concerned the “scruffy hippies were chasing away legitimate customers.” SJ When the Los Angeles police force was “called upon to rid the street of ‘undesirables,’ they busted heads.” MA

“When song lyrics stick in our minds…the reason is not to be found in the lyrics alone, but in the combination fo lyrics and tune and beat and performance and, most of all, sound.” PW “The song is a call to awareness and, at least implicitly, resistance, but there is also a plea for brotherhood, a rejection of ‘us and them’ thinking.” WK That message is accompanied by “Neil Young’s guitar [which] tolled like a funeral bell;” RS500 it “had a beautiful ringing...basically one note…that sounded like heaven opening. The entire apocalypse was in that one note.” TC


  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for Buffalo Springfield
  • TC Toby Creswell (2005). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time. Thunder’s Mouth Press: New York, NY. Pages 357-8.
  • SJ Bob Shannon and John Javna (1986). Behind the Hits: Inside Stories of Classic Pop and Rock and Roll. Page 183.
  • MA Dave Marsh (1989). The Heart of Rock and Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made. New York, NY; New American Library. Pages 838-9.
  • KW (12/25/2013). “30 Songs That Changed the Course of Musical History” by Kayli Woods
  • RS500 Rolling Stone (4/7/2011). “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time
  • DT Dave Thompson (2011). 1000 Songs That Rock Your World. Krause Publications: Iola, WI. Pag 69.
  • TB Thunder Bay Press (2006). Singles: Six Decades of Hot Hits & Classic Cuts. Outline Press Ltd.: San Diego, CA. Page 96.
  • PW Paul Williams (1993). Rock and Roll: The Best 100 Singles. New York, NY: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc. Pages 45-6.

First posted 4/19/2020; last updated 7/24/2022.

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