From the Stacks

From The Stacks: The Buffalo Springfield, “For What It’s Worth” (Single)

“For What It’s Worth” is one of those timeless songs that is actually pinned to a very specific date. On November 12, 1966 the “hippie riots” began on Los Angeles’s famous Sunset Strip, triggered by a curfew to curb the flow of kids crowding around clubs like Pandora’s Box and the Whiskey A Go Go. The latter club featured a house band named The Buffalo Springfield, which means that singer/songwriter Stephen Stills and the rest of the band were there on that night when police clashed with the young people protesting the new curfew law.

Stills turned the experience into what to this day is one of the best known protest songs of the era, but how many people realize that the “something happening here” and the “power lines being drawn” refer to cops and kids hanging out rather than war, Nixon, etc.? It doesn’t matter. Once a piece of art is let loose it takes on its own meanings, and besides: Stills clearly captured the greater ’60s zeitgeist.

I’ve always loved this song, but do I really need a 45 of it? No, not really. In fact, nowadays a single is the least practical way to get all of that Buffalo Springfield goodness. But here’s the thing: I’ve always loved that yellow “trumpet” ATCO label, too, and rarely do you find one in the original matching ATCO paper sleeve. Come on!

You can pick up your own copy of “For What It’s Worth” for around five dollars in good shape or under a buck if it’s thrashed, or you can hear it for free in any movie with a wistful ’60s flashback. Happy hunting.

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