Saturday, December 6, 2014

Buffalo Springfield - For What It's Worth


  1. “Our students are in the streets” —Fred Klonsky

  2. We need more people in the streets!

  3. “Contrary to popular belief, ‘For What It’s Worth’ wasn't written as a reflection on any of the historic Vietnam War protests or Civil Rights marches of the era. Stills actually wrote the song—in only fifteen minutes, he claims—about the ‘Sunset Strip Riots’ that were a reaction to the closing of a popular LA nightspot, Pandora's Box, and to the curfews imposed on the area to deter young people from loitering outside of clubs and bars. The LAPD had tried to enforce the curfew laws by shutting down a handful of hangouts frequented by teens and people in their early twenties, so a local radio station called for a rally to protest. About a thousand young people showed up and milled about at the corner of Sunset and Crescent Heights until fighting broke out. Some blamed a car of off-duty marines for inciting the violence after they became involved in a car accident, but whatever the spark, kids were soon smashing windows and rocking cars…

    “While the event was certainly politically, socially, and emotionally charge, it surprises a lot of people to learn that this was the inspiration for the Buffalo Springfield classic. ‘For What It’s Worth’ was almost immediately embraced as an anthem for much larger social and political protests…

    “The song was ripe for new interpretations because of its simplicity. It's so vague that it can almost mean anything. A piercing guitar pleads for our attention while a quiet voice tells us to wake up and look around. The somewhat cluttered politics of the song are simply overwhelmed by the repeated refrain: ‘I think it's time we stop, hey, what's that sound? / Everybody look what's going down.’

    “…This gentle call would have fallen flat had it not struck a chord with something building within the hearts of America's young people. This line might not have stirred such a response if the political climate was not as turbulent as it was… ‘For What It’s Worth’ was written during a time when baby boomers were fighting for their own cultural freedoms, African Americans were fighting for basic civil liberties, and US soldiers were fighting for their lives in Vietnam, and across the nation protesters of all kinds took up the song as their anthem.

    “The vague and somewhat innocent questions posed by the song gave way to more certain conclusions as the decade wore down. In 1966, Stills knew something was happening, but what it was wasn't exactly clear. There were ‘battle lines being drawn,’ but events had not yet forced the generational armies into all-out war. Over the next few years, however, all hell broke loose. Kids took to the streets in much larger numbers, not just so they could stay out late, but to force an end to the war and remove a president from office. Some occupied university buildings, some lay siege to the Pentagon, and a few even planted bombs and schemed crazily of global revolution. And as their actions escalated, so did their music…” (

  4. Sadly, as relevant today as it was 49 years ago.

    Regardless of the true reason behind the writing of the song it was embraced as an anthem for revolt and change that embodied the latter half of the 60's.
    A decade that was full of pain, ecstasy, sorrow, wonderment and hope.
    Full of good and bad memories alike. "For What it's Worth" an exciting time that I feel so lucky to have experienced.

  5. For What It’s Worth by Stephen Stills (Buffalo Springfield)

    There’s something happenin’ here
    What it is ain’t exactly clear
    There’s a man with a gun over there
    Tellin’ me I got to beware

    [Think] it’s time we stop, children
    Hey, what’s that sound
    Everybody look what’s goin’ down

    There’s battle lines being drawn
    Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
    Young people speakin’ their minds
    Getting’ so much resistance from behind


    What a field day for the heat
    A thousand people in the streets
    Singin’ songs and carrying signs
    Mostly sayin’: “Hooray for our side”


    Paranoia strikes deep
    Into your life it will creep
    It starts when you’re always afraid
    Step out of line, the man comes and takes you away