This is a great BBC documentary that makes a nice companion piece for our Southern California series from last year. Here is what the BBC website has to say about it….
Documentary looking at the music and mythology of a golden era in Californian culture, and telling the story of how Los Angeles changed from a kooky backwater in the early 1960s to become the artistic and industrial hub of the American music industry by the end of the 1970s.
Alongside extensive and never before seen archive footage, the programme features comprehensive first-hand accounts of the key figures including musicians (David Crosby, Graham Nash, J. D. Souther, Bernie Leadon and Bonnie Raitt, music industry bosses (David Geffen, Jac Holzman, Ron Stone and Peter Asher) and legendary LA scenesters including Henry Diltz, Pamela Des Barres and Ned Doheny.
The film explores how the socially-conscious folk rock of young hippies with acoustic guitars was transformed into the coked-out stadium excess of the late 1970s and the biggest selling album of all time.
I think you will like this one! Let me know what you think………
So, in the last couple of posts we have talked about what happened to Stephen Stills, Richie, Furary, and Jim Messina after the breakup of Buffalo Springfield and I bet some of you might be wondering what happened to Neil Young. Looking back on the second post in this series you might recall that Neil had already left Buffalo Springfiled a couple of times before the band officially broke up so he had more time to plan his future moves than the rest of the guys. Soon after the breakup he was quoted as saying “I never wanted to be in a group. I came out here to make as a single…” and that was the path that Neil resumed with the breakup of Buffalo Springfield. Neil selected Elliott Roberts as his manager after the breakup of the group and, amazingly, Elliott is still his manager today. With the help of Elliott, Neil was signed to a recording contract with Warner/Reprise records and work on his self titled solo was initiated in mid-1968. David Briggs produced the album kicking off a relationship with Neil that lasted through David’s death in 1995. The Rolling Stone review of the album stated: “One could very easily view this disc as an extension of Young’s work on the Buffalo Springfield Again album….” and I agree that the album was somewhat of a natural progression. Let’s listen to my favorite song from the album.
Much of the remainder of the album seemed to be over produced, in my opinion. Here We Are In The Years is one example that highlights the over production.
This excerpt from Shakey (a Neil Young biography written by Jimmy McDonough) serves to somewhat build a case for my opinion “Neil Young shows Briggs and Young in a conventional L.A. studio setting: building tracks piece by piece, playing around with string sections, echo chambers and limiters, making the smooth, seamless, professional record expected of them. Who knew it would be their last?”
At this point you might be saying, that quote doesn’t make sense! I though you said Neil and David worked together through 1995, how could Neil Young have been their last? Well that isn’t what Jimmy McDonough meant. What he meant was that this would be the last time that Neil and David did anything that was expected of them. Neil Young was, and continues to be, a chameleon and after the release of Neil Young he was getting ready to change everything.
Neil had stumbled onto a group called The Rockets during his Springfield days and over time their relationship grew closer (read Shakey if you are interested in the details). He eventually played with them during one of their gigs at the Troubadour and something in Neil clicked. While the sound on his first album was over produced, the sound when he played with the Rockets was raw, improvisational, and exactly where Neil wanted to head next. After a follow-on jam session with three members of the Rockets (Danny Whitten on guitar, Billy Talbot on bass, and Ralph Molina on drums) Neil named the trio Crazy Horse and they went into the studio in 1969 to record Neil’s next album Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (credited to Neil Young with Crazy Horse). Let’s listen to a couple of songs from the album. First up is Cinnamon Girl, my favorite song from the album.
Next up is the title track from the album, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere.
Quite a difference between the sound of these two songs and Here We Are In The Years from the first album isn’t there? Neil had found his niche.
With the release of his first two albums, Neil’s solo career was off and running and it was hard to imagine him ever going back to being a member of another group that he did not exercise complete control over. But we shall see…..don’t forget what I said about Neil being a chameleon! We will check back in on Neil’s career in a future post in the Southern California Sound series.
Since I have featured Dan Fogelberg on a number of my posts you have probably figured out that he was one of my favorite performers. I was thinking about him as I finished up my most recent posts in The California Sound series. Dan, like myself, was a huge fan of Buffalo Springfield. He wrote a beautiful song, The Innocent Age, which he described as, “My tribute to my favorite American band, Buffalo Springfield. Really went after the guitar and drums sounds from their records. It was a great touch to have Ritchie Furay (original Springfield member) sing harmony on it. Thanks, Rich!” I added a short introduction to Dan’s tribute song and a few pictures. I hope you enjoy this collaboration.
Dan passed away a couple of years ago but he had a tremendous influence on me and millions of other people. He once stated, “You’re successful if you can get one person to pick it up and put it on the turntable and go, Wow, thanks for writing that!” which was my inspiration for this blog. If just one person reads this blog and in so doing finds some joy or learns something new about music I will consider myself, and the blog, to be a success.
The group that became Buffalo Springfield formed in Los Angeles in 1966; however, the real origin of the group can be traced back to 1965 in Canada. Stephen Stills and Neil Young first met at a club in Ontario. They established an immediate bond and the way that this bond was finally cemented is one the most legendary stories of rock music.
Stephen moved to LA to do session work after meeting Neil. He eventually invited Richie Furay, a former bandmate, to join him with the hope of forming a new group. Neil Young and Bruce Palmer (a Canadian bass player) also headed to LA in early 1966 when the group that they were in disbanded due to the legal issues of their singer (this in itself is an interesting story, you might want to research it on Internet). Neil’s goal in coming to LA was to find Stephen and form a new group. In 1966 this was a daunting, if not impossible, task since Neil and Bruce did not have any way of finding Stephen other than driving around (for those of you who don’t remember life before cell phones, this is probably hard to understand). Unfortunately, LA is big place so the odds were against them. The day before Neil and Bruce were scheduled to head back north they were driving down Sunset and drove past Stephen and Richie who were headed in the opposite direction. Stephen immediately recognized the car they were driving (did I mention that Neil had a black Pontiac Hearse?) and he and Richie turned around and chased Neil and Bruce down. The four of them would form the nucleus of a new and yet to be named group. With the addition of drummer Dewey Martin, the group was complete and all they needed was a name. Fate once again intervened. One morning Stephen and Richie found a Buffalo Springfield brand steamroller parked in front of their house and they had their name.
Whereas the Byrds took a while until they were ready to fly on their own (i.e. write most of the music on their albums), Buffalo Springfield sprang to life fully formed and ready roll over anything that got in their way like…well like a real Buffalo Springfield. Unfortunately, the musical Buffalo Springfield was anything but reliable and broke down after two years but I am getting ahead of myself.
By the end of 1966 the Buffalo Springfield released their first album titled Buffalo Springfield. Stephen and Neil wrote all of the songs on the album (Stephen contributed 7 and Neil contributed 5). Two versions of the album were released. The original release included a Stills song titled Baby Don’t Scold Me. A subsequent release dropped Baby Don’t Scold Me in favor of another Stills song titled For What It’s Worth when it became a surprise top ten hit. The tragedy of this album, in my opinion, is that Neil was not allowed to sing most of his own compositions because the producers for the album did not like his voice. Here is one of Neil’s contributions; Flying On The Ground is Wrong, as sung by Richie Furay on the album.
By early 1967 the band was already starting to come apart at the seams. Bruce Palmer was arrested on a drug possession charge and deported to Canada. A rotating cast of substitute bassists replaced Bruce until his return later in the year. In some cases, the substitutes were not even really bassist. Check out the video of Buffalo Springfield’s appearance on the Hollywood Palace TV show below and notice that the bassist is shown with his back to the camera the whole time. That is because he was the road manager for Buffalo Springfield and did not know how to play the bass (ahh….the beauty of lip syncing to a prerecorded track).
In addition to the problems with Bruce, Stephen and Neil had started their infamous series of spats. They were both accomplished musicians, accomplished songwriters, and had their own ideas about the band so this conflict was probably inevitable. The end result was that Neil left the band (for the first time) during a portion of 1967. (Note: the spats between Stephen and Neil have continued throughout the years…checkout an earlier post titled Long May You Run Away for another of their famous spats). Neil ended up missing the Buffalo Springfield appearance at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival and was replaced by David Crosby of the Byrds. We touched on this event in an earlier post titled Falling Apart To Come Together.
Even with this turmoil, the band managed to complete its second album, Buffalo Springfield Again, in 1967. This album is viewed as the high water mark for Buffalo Springfield although, not surprisingly given the circumstances, it really didn’t reflect a true group effort. Maybe the best song on the album, and certainly one of my favorites, was Stephen’s song Bluebird. Let’s give it a listen.
Another notable aspect of the album was Richie Furay’s contribution of three songs. Sad Memory, was one of Richie’s contributions to the album…see what you think.
This song and Richie’s other contributions were not at a level such that they competed head to head with Stephen and Neil but they were an indication of Richie’s future potential. More about that is coming in a later post.
Mr. Soul, as featured in the band’s Hollywood Palace appearance, was one of Neil’s three contributions to the album. His other contributions, Expecting to Fly and Broken Arrow, provided indications that his songwriting skills were growing faster than either Stephen or Richie. These two songs reflected no involvement by other members of the group other than some vocal overdubs by Richie.
At the end of 1967 the group had a new album and all of its original members back on board. On the surface, things could have been viewed as looking up but this would have been misguided. 1968 starting with a second drug bust for Bruce, ending his tenure as the group’s bassist. Jim Messina, who had served as a recording engineer on the Buffalo Springfield Again album, was quickly selected to replace Bruce on bass. In hindsight, this move ended up being somewhat akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. We will return to Buffalo Springfield to see how the remainder of 1968 played out in future posts. In the meantime, I leave you with an updated picture of the group with onboard as bassist. Look for the next post in the Southern California Sound series later this week.