Friday, December 23, 2016

Today in Music (1966): 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, 3 GR, 8 HR, 1 CL, 9 CN, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

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

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 3.0 radio, 83.33 video, 590.23 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

While this has mistakenly been interpreted as “an anti-war protest song…[and] pretty much adopted as such” RC the origin of “For What It’s Worth “is “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

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 Another account, however, suggests it was a protest against the 10 p.m. curfew imposed after residents complained about traffic RC and fear that the “scruffy hippies were chasing away legitimate customers.” SJ Reports suggested the “crowds of longhairs” DM were “blocking sdewalks, smoking dope, spilling into the streets.” DM

In any event, “the LAPD decided to run a line-up across the street, like there was some kind of revolution going on.” TC They had been “called upon to rid the street of ‘undesirables,’ [and] they busted heads.” DM 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

“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

The song served as a “microcosm of what was happening on the streets, and in the hearts and minds, of America during one of the most tumultuous times in our history.” SS 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


First posted 4/19/2020; last updated 4/21/2024.

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