Monday 1 July 2013

"Buffalo Springfield" (1966) (Album Review)

You can now buy the AAA E-book dedicated to Buffalo Springfield titled 'Flying On The Ground Is Wrong' by clicking here!

“Buffalo Springfield” (1966)

Baby Don’t Scold Me or For What It’s Worth/Go And Say Goodbye/Sit Down, I Think I Love You/Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing/Hot Dusty Roads/Everybody’s Wrong//Flying On The Ground Is Wrong/Burned/Do I Have To Come Right Out And Say It?/Leave/Out Of My Mind/Pay The Price

‘Buffalo Springfield’ should be a huge, colossal, monumental, epic album. It features the first ever songs from two names that are going to shape the face of music forever in just a few years, together and separately, in the form of Stephen Stills and Neil Young – not to mention the lead singer and creator of Poco, one of the best-loved 1970s bands(however much they’re unfairly dismissed today). With three of the world’s better guitarists, three of the world’s greatest composers and three thrilling singers plus a pretty nifty rhythm section you can quite understand why in 1966 Buffalo Springfield were being talked about as ‘the next big thing’, why members of the Byrds in their peak year of hipness were convinced they’d discovered their successors and why record collectors over have a soft spot for this album and the two offerings that come after it. ‘Buffalo Springfield’ is a record that should, on paper, be talked about in the hushed tones reserved for such debut albums as Pink Floyd’s ‘Piper At Thed Gates Of Dawn’ and ‘Crosby, Stills and Nash’.

Yet when you actually hear it ‘Buffalo Springfield’ couldn’t be a ‘smaller’ album if it tried, focussed for the most part on the themes of love, romance and betrayal most other bands of 1966 covered and with only flashes of the genius to come. Stills hasn’t quite found his ‘voice’ yet and too often comes over as a composer obsessed by The Beatles, while colleague Young seems overly obsessed by Dylan. Lead singer Richie Furay can’t get a single one of his excellent songs onto an album yet (despite having several future classics ready and waiting to go) making for an album that sounds like two different records stuck together and Stills and Young already pulling in very different directions, however well Richie’s voice (singing on tracks by both guitarists) covers up the gap. What’s worse is that this album was put together by a creative team who really didn’t know what they were doing: band managers Charlie Greene and Brian Stone were actually among the top half of AAA managers in terms of believing in their stars and not exploiting them as much as many unscrupulous people in the 1960s did. However they over-reached themselves terribly when they decided to produce and mix the album themselves, despite having no previous experience and turning down offers of help from several big names at Atlantic who did know what they were doing. Those who were there at the sessions have often talked about being disappointed because the music sounded so good in the studio and so bad on the record; many remixes since (including one a few months after the first release when ‘For What It’s Worth’ accelerated sales, one when the album was released on CD and another made especially for the ‘Buffalo Springfield’ box set in 2000) have improved the problem but can’t invent what wasn’t on tape to begin with. You can certainly understand why both Stills and Young have all but disowned this record (only ‘For What It’s Worth’ survives in either’s set lists over the years and even that wasn’t on the ‘original’ record as we’ll see) and why the band’s early fans – who’d fallen in love with the Springfield for their wild, eccentric, unique stage act – were deeply disappointed by this record.

For all it’s faults, though, there’s much to love about this record. Stills is at his simplest here, a long way from the epics like ‘Suite: Judy Blue Eyes’ he’ll be writing in just three years’ time and yet he’s already mastered the knack of writing memorable pop songs with hooks to die for which sound deeply contemporary (it’s more or less the only time you’ll hear Stills ‘copying’ instead of inventing a style all of his own until 1978) and even if none of his six other contributions to the record quite match ‘For What It’s Worth’ in terms of drama or sophistication then that’s forgivable for a new writer no one is yet taking that seriously. An even bigger surprise is Young, who comes up with five songs of varying degrees of obliqueness – a style the future guitar god will abandon for good in just a few years, preferring to make his songs simpler and more esoteric. Few songs around in 1966 sounded like the ones Neil comes up with here (even Dylan was never this weird) and ‘Clancy’ especially is one of Neil’s long lost classics, a track that says a great deal without actually saying anything concrete at all (after perfecting this style on ‘Expecting To Fly’ from the next album – perhaps the greatest ever Buffalo Springfield song – Neil barely writes like this again on his 60-odd LPs). We also get one of the world’s first anti-stardom songs, written by Neil at a time when no one outside a handful of local Buffalo Springfield gigs had a clue who he was! It’s fascinating in retrospect to see just how much the two writers on this record, locked in a lifelong competition with each other, begin to sound like each other, Stills stretching himself to sound like the more ‘mysterious’ Young and Neil simplifying his work to sound more like the top-tapping Stephen.

No, this album has much to recommend it – it’s just unfortunate for this poor understated, almost humble record that a good 90% of the people who’ve heard this comparatively low seller have come to it because of their love for at least one of the three superstars this album bred – and 9% of the remaining 10% must have bought this LP on its re-pressing, rushed into the shops when single ‘For What It’s Worth’ finally broke the band into the charts. We’re all expecting a bit too much from this record, looking for the talents of band members that we know go onto greater things and expecting them to be there from the start. Treat this record as a first attempt by a newbie group in their early 20s no one’s heard of yet though (even ‘For What It’s Worth’ , the one Buffalo Springfield song the general public know even if most of them seem to assume it was a CSN song, was released after this album and only added to the running order in retrospect) and a record that’s of a period with other mid-60s releases before the ‘summer of love’ changed the charts forever and it makes a lot more sense, an impressive debut and period piece from a band that show just enough glimmers of their future talent to be interesting. Just check out the awful packaging, proof that record label Atlantic clearly don’t know how to market this new band with the strange name yet, however much faith boss Ahmet Ertegun will be placing in Stills in years to come (just check out the horribly dated teen magazine cover of close-ups of the band and the surprisingly spot-on ‘synopses’ of each member on the back cover; Stills is ‘youthful – sometimes childlike’ and Neil is ‘deep and dark’ by the way). To be honest, this record still sounds more like a ‘1965’ record – mainly acoustic, with the folk roots showing and a little bit of Merseybeat for good measure – but there are pieces of the puzzle being put into place here already that are clearly born out of talent. Neil’s songs from this record often get attention, mixing images and metaphors in a way that the guitarist will soon drop entirely in favour of more direct and instinctive writing that’s way ahead of his years (Neil was not quite 21 when this album was recorded). Stills, though, isn’t far behind, putting together strands from all of the groups he’s ever been in during his 24 years (rock, folk, blues, country) and coming out with a sound that switches between pleasingly familiar and daringly progressive with every turn.
Add in Richie’s pop-chart-hugging vocals, Dewey Martin’s simple drumming and Bruce Palmer’s wildly eccentric bass riffs and you clearly have a band going places, even if some of them appear to be cul-de-sacs for now.

It’s amazing, too, in retrospect how much the addition of ‘For What It’s Worth’ changes this album. For a few months at least anyone purchasing the Springfield’s debut album would have had Stills’ ‘Baby Don’t Scold Me’ in it’s place (note the original running order was tweaked for second pressings, something all the CD re-issues have followed and which we follow here; the original running order was: Go and Say Goodbye/Sit Down, I Think I Love You/Leave/Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing/Hot Dusty Roads/Everybody’s Wrong//Flying On The Ground Is Wrong/Burned/Do I Have To Come Right Out And Say It?/Baby Don’t Scold Me/Out Of My Mind/Pay The Price), a muscly rocker with the Beatlesy overtones even higher than the rest of the record and further evidence that, had he been recording back in 1964, Stills really could have provided America’s answer to Merseybeat. Since re-released on the ‘Buffalo Springfield’ box set of 2000, it was the rockiest song on the whole original LP and was arguably the least subtle track of a pretty subtle record. By contrast ‘For What It’s Worth’ is a folk protest song of the highest order, inspired by the teenage riots on Sunset Strips against a draconian curfew which inspired quite a few AAA songs (The Monkees’ ‘Daily Nightly’ is a more psychedelic and obscure take on the same theme) but none as good as this one. What this excellent song – the real blossoming of Stills’ career and deservedly the biggest hit the band ever had – achieves most, though, is the art of subtlety. Opening the album with quiet, concentrated, sombre octave guitar ‘pings’ and Stills’ understated but clearly angry vocals couldn’t be in a bigger contrast to ‘Scold Me’s rather OTT hysterics. Stills the political troubadour is born here – in exactly the same way his future partners Crosby and Nash are ‘born’ after writing The Byrds’ ‘What’s Happening?!?!?’ and The Hollies’ ‘King Midas In Reverse’ respectively, more challenging songs written to reflect more3 challenging times and with a really important message to put across. Thankfully the Springfield will go further in this direction in the future, widening their palate for the impressively eclectic ‘Again’ released mere months later – here, though, it seems to exist ‘outside’ the record (especially as the replacement opening track), somehow at odds with the tales of doomed romance and disappointing love affairs Stills and Young are writing (however obliquely in the latter’s case). The trouble is that almost everyone whose bought this album has purchased it because of this one song – and it’s actually quite an anomaly for the period (my advice: go and buy ‘Last Time Around’ instead, the neglected third and final album that features much more politically savvy Stills songs than ‘Hot Dusty Roads’ or ‘Go and Say Goodbye’).

The question, like many debut records, is where this band came from, with such a fully formed sound and style. I’ll assume that anyone interested enough to read a Buffalo Springfield review already knows that the band met in a traffic jam (Furay and Stills noticing their old joint pal Young’s unusual transportation – a hearse he nicknamed Mort and drove because it was the cheapest care he could afford – while trying to put a band together) and that they got their unusual name from the sideplates of a steamroller company that was parked in a road near to where the band used to meet and rehearse (The company gave their blessing to the name and said they’d ‘look out for them with affection’ – in stark contrast to what happened when the Moody Blues started out as the M&B Bands in the hope of recognition from a Birmingham brewery). I’ll assume, too, that you already know the end of the story – Bruce’s deportation back to Canada for drugs (back in the days when even the Beatles hadn’t publicly admitted using them yet); Neil’s yo-yo career plan, quitting and rejoining the band at least half a dozen times before their last concert at the end of 1968 and a capacity for self-destruction that even Michael Jackson would look on with envy, the band disintegrating every time their career seems to be finally getting somewhere (prestigious TV shows; the Monterey Pop Festival, etc). This is a band who were destined for greatness, had all the ingredients they needed to be the greatest band the world had ever seen and yet due to both bad luck and poor decisions ended up the band that ‘could’ have been in the eyes of many. This mixture of tragedy and comedy even extended to the reunion gigs a couple of years ago, when the band were booked to play several shows, Neil quit at the last minute and Stills and Furay limped on to a rather sorry full stop without him, in an almost exact replica of what had happened in 1968. ‘Buffalo Springfield’ isn’t just the start of the band’s recordings, it’s the start of the band’s decline, the group simply pulling in so many directions you can already hear it splitting wide open on this first record which alternates between poetic puzzling and muscly might.

Frankly the Buffalo Springfield’s problem – and yes I do mean problem – is that they had too much talent for one band. At the band’s beginnings the lines were clear: Richie was the talented lead singer girls screamed for and no one else did any singing, Stephen was the natural songwriter who reflected what the audience were thinking and Neil was the brooding guitarist who already had a sound all of his own that few could copy. Somewhere along the line, though, the roles in the band became blurred and the three musicians turned into Renaissance men stepping on each other’ toes. Neil began writing thick and fast and started singing on stage despite having possibly the polar opposite voice to Furay’s (it’s not a bad voice – far from it given how well Neil will sing during his early solo years especially – but being high-pitched and deeply unusual it couldn’t have been less like Furay’s radio friendly vocal features and was quite unlike anything around in 1966). Stills got really into the guitar, sparking a competitive musical debate with Neil that continues to this day, off and on and became more interested in singing on his own songs. Laidback Richie lets things slide for this album but he, too, is already writing his own excellent songs (many of the highlights of ‘Again’ were actually demoed for this album) and is a deeply under-rated rhythm guitarist to boot. It’s like the Beatles’ story in miniature, complete with ‘George Harrison’s rise dominating the band by the end (Furay) and two songwriting partners forever linked in the public eye and who started off as ‘best buddies’ but had such different styles and ideas they quickly ended up competitors not partners. Indeed, poor Richie gets a very rough deal on this album – his own songs of the period are superior to a good half of what’s on offer here (‘My Kind Of Love’, re-recorded by Poco, was intended for this album before Neil wrote ‘Do I Have To Come Right Out And Say It?’), he sings lead vocals on only four songs on the album and shares lead vocals on a further three, in stark contrast to the early sessions where it was intended he would be singing everything. He doesn’t get to play much guitar either, although thankfully Furay has more space to work with on albums two and three when Neil’s commitment to the band wavers.

The Springfield characters were all very different people (at least the Beatles had some similarities – the only group that came close to The Springfield for such wild differences in the same band are The Byrds and their original line-up didn’t last any longer) and to boot they had a regional divide that split the band down the middle (Stills and Furay the two Americans; Young and Palmer the two Americans; Dewey – another Canadian – came along quite late in the story) and who, far from hiding their differences behind closed doors like, say, The Mamas and Papas or even The Byrds did at the time re-enacted these splits on-stage (where Stills was often found looking like a cowboy and Young dressed like an Indian!) The most famous quote from this album’s packaging is the line listed under Stills’ biography: ‘Steve’s the leader – but we all are!’ Stills’ naturally dominant tendencies and love of hard work naturally made him the leader but, as he himself admitted later ‘you can’t try to get the likes of Neil or Bruce to follow orders; they’d just naturally rebel!’ With five very strong personalities, all of them different and all as determined as the others in getting their own way, you suddenly begin to understand just why this band named themselves after both a steamroller and nature’s ‘stubbornest’ animal and why this was a band destined to burn brightly before turning supernova instead of hanging around and fading away...

You can’t listen to any of the trinity of Springfield LPs without thinking about what might have been had these differences not occurred and – as the only album made entirely with the original line-up – you end up thinking about that during this debut album the most. While only ‘For What It’s Worth’ is a true 24 carat classic, it’s fair to say that almost all of these songs nearly come up to that level but something – a poor choice of rhyme, a lack of a chorus, the poor production – gets in the way. The later, older Stills would have insisted on repairing some of the vocals on the album; the older Young would have got the band to rehearse more and re-record tracks less; the older Furay – now a leading member of the Christian church – would probably have insisted on some lyric changes. That’s all it would have taken for this ‘nearly’ album to have been the debut album of all time, right up there with the other two records, the acknowledged classics ‘Again’ and the under-rated lost ,masterpiece ‘Last Time Around’. ‘Buffalo Springfield’ is the weaker of the three, but even if it’s not a great LP it is an LP full of great moments. The catchy guitar riff of the (very early) country rock rough and tumble of ‘Go and Say Goodbye’, the lyrics to the sombre waltz dance of depression and guilt on ‘Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing’, the four bar stomp of ‘Leave’ and the harmonies on ‘Everybody’s Wrong’ – all of these are passages right up there with the very best AAA records. If only the band had tweaked a couple of the songs, had an extra days’ rehearsal and had a proper producer working on the record then, well, the sky was the limit for the Buffalo Springfield, a band who might never have matched their early promise but who arguably promised more than almost any other band. In the end what impresses most about this albums isn’t the songs (impressive as they are), or the singers (ditto) or guitar playing (which is as good as it gets for 1966): it’s the fact that this debut album manages to sound quite unlike any other record ever made – including the two follow-ups to come. Part folk, part rock, part country, part blues, part protest, only Pentangle ever matched this band for the sheer amount of genres it covers. Hey, children, what’s that sound? It’s a sound quite unlike anything anybody else did anytime ever – and that alone makes it a ‘classic album’ in my book, despite its many faults.

We’re starting this review with ‘Baby Don’t Scold Me’ because it’s the ‘missing’ song only included on original pressings of the album– if your copy of the album starts with ‘For What It’s Worth’ (and most of them do!) then please see the next track and if it’s ‘Go and Say Goodbye’ then please the track after! An angry rocker fairly blistering with contempt, ‘Scold Me’ is the musical equivalent of someone trying to shake off a nagging girlfriend by sweeping this way and that, switching keys at the drop of a hat and with less construction than any other Stills song of the period, seemingly one long outpouring a la John Lennon (like many a Stills song on this album it’s very Beatlesy and not unlike Lennon’s similarly emotional ‘Not A Second Time’ from ‘With The Beatles’. Both the original hard-rocking version and a superior, sweet acoustic demo featuring just Stephen and Richie turned up on the ‘Buffalo Springfield’ box set. The combination of simple words and a complex, convoluted tune is an interesting experiment for this record you wish Stills had used more, although the sound of the ‘finished’ version is so wildly different to anything else on the record it does rather stick out like a sore thumb. The band sound uncomfortable with the song too, speeding up during the take and ending with a rather weak and desperate series of ‘alright!’s that sound like a rather desperate attempt at soul (if you haven’t read my review of the ‘Again’ album then it might surprise you to learn that Otis Redding came very close to recording the Buffalo Springfield song ‘Mr Soul’...) In all, on the one hand it’s a shame that ‘Baby Don’t Scold Me’ is a song known only to the faithful few who either looked out rare original copies of the album or the almost-as-rare box set because it is another important stepping stone in Stillks’ development as a writer; in terms of performance, though, this probably is the weakest on the original record and so was a good choice to be given the push. The band should have stuck to their acoustic arrangement in my eyes...

‘For What It’s Worth’ is where it all begins in so many ways. If most Springfield songs are ‘fun’ then this one is the moral centre, Stills’ sense of outrage at a specific event (the curfew laws on Sunset Strip that led to riots by around 100,00 teenagers one night, an angry line of policemen in retaliation the second night and a club known as ‘Pandora’s Box’ being set on fire) universal and timeless enough to work for any age with a generational divide in their midst and under the threat of a terrible, stupid law. Like so many CSN songs to come, Stills wrote the song at high speed and had it released within weeks of the events (rumour is his managers half-jokingly told him the riots were on the news so much they’d make a great inspiration for a song), reflecting the times so perfectly that this song couldn’t help but be a hit, however much sabotage was going on (such as Neil quitting the group days before an important TV spot promoting the song). Stills has said since, too, that the ongoing war in Vietnam was on his mind when he wrote the song, although there’s nothing specific in the lyrics (still a perennial in Stills’ setlists, it’s amazing how many ‘atrocities’ this song fits, younger fans identifying with this song afresh during the Kent State shootings, Watergate, the Gulf War and the backlash after 9/11). The song is so new, in fact, that his voice is still genuinely quivering with the outrage of it all, Stills singing in his ‘natural’ voice for the first time, unlike the Beatle poses he affects on a lot of the rest of the album. It’s easy to see why too – this is still among Stills’ top ten lyrics nearly 50 years on, contrasting the open, happy hippie protest ‘singing songs and carrying signs’ and the rigid, uncompromising voice of authority hovering with their ‘guns’, refusing to see life from another point of view. Rather than divide, though, ‘For What It’s Worth’ asks for both sides to put away their differences in the name of peace a full year before the summer of love, directly appealing to the audience at home with the line ‘children, what’s that sound?’ in a sort of mini-precursor to my favourite Stills song ‘Word Game’ the last verse takes things further and braver, warning us that ‘if we step out of line the man come to take you away’ which was pretty radical stuff for 1966 (even if Stills always went further concert, claiming the man come ‘to shoot you down’). The title, by the way, is not mentioned in the lyrics (another radical step for 1966) and came about because Stills played it to boss Ahmet Ertegun with the words ‘here’s my new song, for what it’s worth – but it doesn’t have a title yet’ – after singing the song an excited Ertegun told him that, actually, he’d just given them the perfect title (the very throwaway nature of the title suggesting that, as one of the ‘youngsters’, no one’s listening to what Stills has to say either). Perhaps surprisingly, he gives the musical hook of the song (the opening octave leap guitar ‘pings’) to Neil to play even though he could have performed them just as well – in fact this song might well be unique in Stills’ canon from being a song that he wrote but doesn’t play on (that’s Furay on the acoustic guitar). Memorable, courageous and note-perfect throughout, ‘For What It’s Worth’ is the best-selling Springfield song for a reason – it’s just a shame that the band never quite delivered the similarly inspired follow-up they needed to stay high in the charts (although ‘Bluebird’ and ‘Mr Soul’ come very close).

‘Go and Say Goodbye’ is more typical of this first album, a rough and ready country-rock song that’s probably the simplest Stills ever wrote. Sounding not unlike the Beatles’ cover versions of country songs (usually Ringo’s), a sprightly backing is crossed with a speedy patter-song type lyric that’s rattled off at top speed. Stills and Furay’s voices combine well together here, sometimes singing the same notes and sometimes in harmony and the band clearly know this song well, having been in their set for longer than most of their originals. Lyrically this is simple stuff and even contains the archetypal Beatles half-rhyme of ‘hide’ and ‘why’ (see ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’); in fact dare I say it it’s rather too simple, sounding more like a song from 1964 than 1966. At least we get to hear Stills and Young’s guitars bouncing off each other but it’s a very odd battle indeed. Stills is fully immersed in the style and ever the impressionist does a great Chet Atkins pastiche, while Young absolutely refuses to mould his style round the song in anyway; his flowery playing in the right speaker is recognisable to anyone whose ever heard his playing from the following 47 years. Not the deepest or greatest of songs, perhaps, but it’s got a great hook this song and shows that Stills has a real knack for writing catchy pop songs.

‘Sit Down I Think I Love You’ was the first song Stills ever had released, an early version by the Mojo Men being released as a single shortly before this album (you can hear it on the Nuggets various artists collection), although it’s sung more tongue-in-cheek than the Springfield’s version and isn’t quite as good. Again, this is a simple song with a country vibe but taken at a slower rate this time and the highlight is Stills and Furay’s impressive radio-friendly harmony once more. Another repeat is the Beatlesy reference ‘I can’t hide being around you’ which is sung here as the risking-censorship drug reference ‘I get high’ (‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ is a similar trick and opinion differs as to whether the fab four intended the sneaky reference or whether it was just there by accident). What’s new is the rather angry tone of the song, Stills actively ordering his girlfriend to ‘sit down’, even though the rest of the chorus makes clear that he’s actually being rather sweet (he simply wanted her to keep quiet so he could admit his real feelings for her without her interrupting). Deeply unusual by Stills’ standards, this song only features three verses and no real chorus, while the lyrics seem to have as much difficulty making themselves understood as the narrator, drifting out to empty clichés like ‘you know what they say about the bird in the hand’ (its worth ‘two in the bush’ if you’re not up on archaic English expressions, although quite what that has to do with the song is never made clear). Young reveals more of his Shadows influences here than usual (the band that inspired him to pick up the guitar in the first place), while Stills’ guitar sound is eccentric to say the least, croaking like a frog at one point and cutting through Young’s sweeter frills with some direct reverb-filled stings during the solo, perhaps reflecting the insensitive narrator struggling to make himself heard. Given Stills’; own difficulties making his emotions clear (something he manages to do well in song but not, according to most accounts, in person) it’s tempting to see this song as an admission of guilt, unsure quite how to let his real feelings out. Then again, it could simply have made a good hook for a pop song.

‘Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing’ is a key song for all parties involved. One of Neil’s earliest songs, he taught it to Stills during their days playing in folks clubs in 1963/64 who was most impressed with it. After the pair drifted apart he met up with Richie, who’d known Stills for years and asked after this great song he’d heard so much about. When Neil drifted back to Canada Richie and Stephen worked up a new harmony-laden arrangement of the song and added it to their setlist, finally playing their ‘new’ interpretation for their creator upon meeting him in that infamous traffic jam in 1966. A natural for the album, then, ‘Clancy’ was also released as the band’s first single despite receiving a radio airplay band for the slight swear word ‘damn’ in the last verse – had it been a hit it might have changed the band’s fortunes completely, making Neil the focus point and dictating their new style. Instead it sounds like another cul-de-sac the band never attempted again, but a highly pleasing one. Neil was clearly Dylan-influenced when he wrote this song of missed opportunities and fading fortunes but Dylan never had quite the emotional commitment Neil did and ‘Clancy’ is one of its author’s greatest works, the title character a lost and fading wannabe whose seen it all. There are some classic couplets here: ‘Having it, sharing it, ain’t quite the same’ ‘Whose putten sponge in the bells I once rung?’ ‘Whose that silhouette I’m trying to trace?’ ‘Whose seeing eyes through the crack in the floor?’; all three are perfect metaphors for the slightly faded, invisible characters in the song and the song reads more like a poem than a typical song lyric circa 1966 (just look at how many words there are per line, in contrast to any of Stills’ songs on the record). The best line, though, might well be at the end when Neil breaks down the ‘4th wall’ and admits that he, too, is waiting for something better out of life (‘Who should be sleeping but whose writing this song, wishing and a hoping he weren’t so damned wrong?’) Neil’s best song on the album by some margin, its one heck of a song for a 21-year-old to have written (with a pathos and empathy most 60-year-olds can’t manage) and I so wish it had stayed in his setlists for longer (there’s a particularly nice version from his first solo concert in1968 that came out on the ‘Sugar Mountain’ Archives CD release a few years back). For all their enthusiasm, Stills and Furay’s vocals don’t quite get at the real heart of this song, which is about loss and heartbreak – fans rather than interpreters, although Neil’s own strained harmony vocals suggests he couldn’t have suing it much better himself at the time (Neil struggles with his vocals across this album but finds his niche by Springfield record no 2). A masterpiece in miniature, no wonder so many people who only knew the Springfield from this one song were hailing them as the next big thing...

‘Hot Dusty Roads’ is next, a bluesy slice of semi-autobiography that’s probably the closest Stills song here to the sort of songs he’ll be singing in years to come. The only problem is that Stills hasn’t done much living by this time and what could have been an interesting nostalgic ramble runs out of things to say long before the song’s 2:52 minutes are up. Stills offers up some interesting ideas here though: the title, for a start, is a clever red herring; the narrator doesn’t want to sing about ‘no hot dusty roads’ because he’s a ‘city boy’ whose rarely travelled. Few songwriters would have been open enough to admit, too, that the narrator isn’t really in love – he’s just after a girl’s company because ‘I don’t like being alone!’ (a rather brave admission by 1966 standards). There’s a characteristic middle eight which seems to crop up on all the Stills songs that did and didn’t make this first album, one that’s clearly dictated by the rhyming scheme where the music comes to a rather awkward full-stop and an unnecessary repeat of the first verse at the end of the song that a later, mature Stills would have nixed, but by and large Stills has found his voice on this song. That’s especially true when you consider that the lyrics and music are telling us two different things, a very useful Stills trick from the future (the lyrics are edgy and paranoid, but the music is laidback country-blues). Somehow, though, there’s something that stops this song being first-rate: the melody is so obvious that the listener knows where it’s going to arrive long before it does, Young turns in a rather pedestrian guitar solo (similar to his one-0note affair on ‘Cinnamon Girl’ but much, much worse) and an unwise switch to falsetto harmonies from Richie in the last verse. Considering that ‘Hot Dusty Roads’ covers as much ground as it does its a shame that its all rather unmemorable to listen to.

Side one ends with a minor classic, though, the urgent ‘Everybody’s Wrong’. A very
Byrdsy backing track of ringing guitars and some energetic percussion makes this the most arresting song after ‘For What It’s Worth’ and while the words aren’t quite up to that song’s protest and values they are still remarkably ahead of their time for 1966. The performance of this song is arguably the closest we have to hearing what the live Springfield must have sounded like (there are two live tapes doing the rounds, but both the 1967 Monterey and 1968 Huntingdon Tapes are of a tired band struggling to replace their lead guitarist rather than the band’s premier line-up at its finest) and it’s easy to see why so many people raved about them. The three guitars are all meshed together, ‘weaving’ an entirely new sound in the way that the Rolling Stones always try to but never quite manage, while all three vocalists make the most of their very different voices, Richie’s casual lead, Neil’ nagging harmony and Stills’ cautious bass never sounding better together. It sounds, though, as if Stills started the song as a joke (‘Listen to my song, it isn’t very long...’), writing himself an AAAA rhyming scheme generally reserved for comedy songs and sounding like a cross between a limerick and a nursery rhyme, only later realising the importance of what he was saying. Another distinctly Beatlesy Stills song, it explodes into anger on a chorus that’s the precursor to Stills’ best couplet on 1982’s ‘Daylight Again’ (‘When everyone is talking and no one is listening, how can we decide?’) claiming here that ‘there are too many words going down, ringing in the air against a hollow sound’. The depiction is slightly clumsier but the message is the same: if those in charge won’t embrace new ways of thinking then every generation is doomed. There’s even a rare mention of pre-decimal currency in an AAA song, the Springfield claiming that ‘they ain’t paying you and me – not a crown!’ (which seems a strangely English reference for a group that was 2/5ths American and 3/5ths Canadian). Listen out for the last note, a real squeal of feedback and bitterness from Neil that’s only a smidgeon away from the ‘Crazy Horse’ sound to come, although this is very much Stills’ baby, complete with his quick rhymes and a knack for covering deep subjects within pop songs. Stills hasn’t quite got the formula he’ll make his fortune with just yet, but it’s obviously on the way.

Side two begins with ‘Flying On The Ground Is Wrong’, one of Young’s most impenetrable songs of all time. The subject is one of doomed romance like so many other songs of 1966, but is told in such poetic language that it sounds like a much bigger and more revelatory song. The curious title comes from the narrator’s plea that all he did wrong was to ‘fly’ in the belief the relationship was special whilst still a feeble earthbound home but this and the opening verse (with the narrator simply on his knees begging her to return) sound very different when told in such lines as ‘I’m standing on my knees’. To be honest, this song is a little bit too clever for it’s own good, wearing the listener’s patience as they try to decipher it. Much better is the moving middle eight, when Neil makes the first of many career references to feeling like a ‘helpless child’, that helplessness also giving him a feeling of control as it’s his choice whether to stay or go that causes ripples for everyone else (hints of his time with the band and with CSNY to come, then). Best line: ‘City lights at a county fair, never shine but always glare’, the scene of the lover’s date not quite as illuminating as the narrator was hoping, leaving him more estranged from his loved one than ever. Richie tries hard singing a song that’s quite alien to what he was probably expecting to sing when he dreamed of being in a rock band and his school-teacherly tones are sincere, if not always convincing. Perhaps this is the one Neil Young song on the album they should have let it’s author sing, if Neil’s keening and vulnerable harmony vocal is anything to go by. Perhaps surprisingly, Neil never tried to reclaim this song later as he did on so many of his Springfield songs on going solo in 1968, despite being desperate for material.

‘Burned’ is one song that Neil got to sing however – at the last minute if Richie’s excellent Springfield book ‘For What It’s Worth’ is anything to go by (Furay having rehearsed it and everything). Neil recounts in his sleevenotes for compilation ‘Decade’ how nervous he was, how many ‘uppers’ he took to give him confidence and how much you can hear that in his voice – while sounding a little eccentric in the context of Stills and Furay’s more polished work he actually does a better job than either of his colleague’s often painful harmony parts. ‘Burned’ isn’t your typical song anyway, even for this album: it’s barrelhouse piano and harmony vocals suggest it’s a mock-tragedy country song, but there’s more than a touch of rock and roll (especially Buddy Holly) about the song construction. A kind of sequel to the last song, Neil talks about being ‘burned, with both feet on the ground’ on a song where his expectations are low but that doesn’t stop the hurt of rejection any more. A series of descriptive words reflecting his state of mind follow (‘painful’ ‘flashed’ ‘crashed’) on a chorus whose very demeanour suggests someone toppling forward, ending each line with a growl. You wonder how Richie would have coped with such a left-field song, one so eccentric that only someone with an unconventional voice like Neil’s could ever have made it work. I wonder, too, if this is a song not just about one of Neil’s short-lived relationships of the period but one of his epilepsy attacks (which were at their peak in the mid-1960s). The sheer unstability of the music and the often-onomatopoeic words suggest it has some root in reality and the music certainly does catch you pout by surprise, like the rug being swept away from under our feet – if so, that would explain why Neil was so adamant about singing on this song in particular. In retrospect this first Young vocal is a key landmark in Neil’s career, but like so many other songs on this album it’s wildly different to the sort of song Young will be writing in just a few months’ time.

‘Do I Have To Come Right Out And Say It?’ is a much more commercial Young song and Furay sounds much more at home here. That said, not many rock songs in 1966 contained words like ‘indecision’ or lines made up of some dozen words each instead of the more usual half-dozen or spoke at such length about the narrator’s inability to talk about what’s on their mind. I’d love to know whether this song was Neil’s response to his partner’s ‘Sit Down, I Think I Love You’ as both songs cover much the same ground, albeit Young’s song is much more ambiguous and hesitant. The idea in the song is that both of them know she looks wonderful – it’s the fact that the narrator has to repeat the fact to make her feel better when he thinks it’s obvious that’s the problem (as is his reluctance to formerly ask her out when its ‘obvious’ the pair are an item already). Given the stories of Young’s early romances (especially in the McDonnaugh ‘Shakey’ biography) this song can’t be anything but autobiographical. There’s the first reference too to the female as a ‘dream’ – a Young favourite allegory that will liven up many a song about cinammon sellers and hurricanes down the years. For the most part, though, this song is surprisingly - well – commercial and the band sound considerably tighter and more polished than the one who played on ‘Burned’. A lovely harmony part from all three singers is the icing on the cake.

‘Leave’ shows off yet another side to the group, an angry bluesy song that’s actually pretty close in DNA to Stills’ future partner Graham Nash’s Hollies song ‘Leave Me’ (from ‘Evolution’, 1967). There’s an awful last note (with Stephen and Richie singing in supposed falsetto harmony) that’s too high and painful even for AAA mascot Max The Singing Dog, but that aside a wonderful performance rescues a so-so song. A rollicking rock and roll-blues song, it features another marvellous backing track that I wish we could hear better, with Bruce Palmer’s fret bass runs and Neil’s Hendrix-like howl of anguish in the solo particularly good. Stills might be covering the same ground of ‘love gone wrong’ as his partner’s, but his reaction couldn’t be more different, angrily turning on his girlfriend and alternating between pleas and orders that she should go. Lyrically there’s not much happening at all here and the song’s bare four words per line sit in direct contrast to Young’s songs (which feature up to 15 per line – the average is closer to seven or eight for a pop song), but they do at least offer the singers something to shout and holler with all their might before having to pause and take a breath-in. The tune is a good one, similar to the ‘Twist and Shout’ /’Money’ Beatles covers and making the most of the three or four notes it uses throughout before switching gears and spanning more than an octave on the middle eight. All in all, one of the better songs on the album.

‘Out Of My Mind’, though, is one of the weakest songs despite featuring a bigger window than normal into Neil’s soul. An anti-fame song from someone whose not yet a star, it speaks of the detachment of the rich and famous from the everyday life that inspired their work in the first place and sounds almost like a warning-to-self in case it happens that a heartfelt admission. Neil admits that ‘all I hear are screams from outside my limousines’ but despite his future fame this, surely, is a song about someone else? (perhaps close friends The Byrds who were still being screamed at in 1966? Or Brian Wilsons breakdown? Fittingly this song sounds like The Byrds re-recording ‘Pet Sounds’, with jangly Rickenbacker guitars fighting against curious brass sounds that appear to be played on a guitar...) Shorter than his other songs on the album, Neil stills packs a lot into his words and images and the idea of the blacked-out car the ‘star’ narrator travels in, driving him further and further ‘out of my mind’ and all he used to be is a good one. I just wish the band had put a bit more life into the backing track, which is pedestrian at best and so slow it almost comes to a full-stop during the solo. Like many a Buffalo Springfield song, I actually prefer the demo, which is much more intimate and laidback, the more scatterbrained backing vocals easing the song’s air of discomfort and anguish. Fascinating for fans, but not an easy listen by any means.

The album concludes with ‘Pay The Price, a final exciting slab of rock and roll that’s another of the album highlights. Stills makes up for his lyrical simplicity and directness with a tricky finger-twanging part that he rattles off effortlessly on rhythm but which Neil, unusually, struggles with on lead (perhaps the competition was reaching the point where Stills was making things hard for his colleague? Or perhaps the band just had less rehearsal?) Stills ends this album filled with unhappy love affairs with another song of betrayal, the narrator claiming to ‘see another man in your eyes’ and telling her that she’d better come clean and ‘pay the price’ before it gets worse for everyone. The song is cleverly structured to fall right back into this chorus at a moment’s notice, the narrator getting more and more carried away with every verse, ending in a delightfully garbled last verse of ‘Without your love I can’t go on, ‘cause three’s a crowd, and it’s wrong!’, cramming twice as many words into the final verse. Buffalo Springfield again turn in a terrific performance, especially Bruce and Dewey once again who would be better valued had the producers/managers actually bothered to put them anywhere near the front of the mix. Stills’ vocal is great, his husky tones perfect for these ‘angry’ songs, while Richie’s soothing harmony is equally strong. If only someone had thought of taping the Buffalos in their natural habitat – a live album from a band playing this strong would have been so so special...

What we end up with, then, is an album that should have been better and yet surprises in ways that we perhaps weren’t expecting. Considering the band were new to writing, playing and recording the worst of their songs, arrangements and performances are understandable – and the best of them revolutionary, as good as anything the band will ever do. Perhaps one day someone will find a Buffalo Springfield live tape sitting in their loft and we can hear what they must have sounded like on a good day all the way through; alas this a record made up of only some good days. The band will go on to make adventurous eclecticism the name of the game, turning in a second album that couldn’t be more varied if it featured a bagpipe solo in the middle. For now, though, the differences at the heart of this record are in danger of tearing it apart – without using Richie fully this is two separate bands made of Stills rockers and Young ballads and the pair don’t always sit that comfortably together. Stills wants to make a commercial LP, Young wants to make art and there’s no person in control making the best of both worlds. That said, its this very friction and I-can’t-wait-to-see-where-they-go-next feel that makes ‘Buffalo Springfield’ such an exciting record and if the band trip over themselves a few times that’s only natural for a band who are trying to take strides that are quite this big. My advice is if you love Stills or Young’s or even Poco’s work in general to buy it and see both where these famous sounds started and the many different directions their talents could have gone in. Look at this album at an album made by newbies and producers who didn’t quite know what they were doing and it might well surprise you how good it is. If, however, you come to this record expecting an album’s worth of ‘For What It’s Worth’ or for fully finished songs on a level of most CSNY albums then you might be slightly disappointed. Good, sometimes great, sometimes ghastly, this is nevertheless a fascinating record and one that deserves more plaudits than it often gets.

A Now Complete List Of Buffalo Springfield Articles Available To Read At Alan’s Album Archives:

Dewey Martin Obituary and Tribute:

Non-Album Songs
Surviving TV Appearances 1967-2010
Solo/Live/Compilation albums (Including Poco!)

Five Landmark Concerts and Three Key Cover Songs

Comparatively obscure debut compositions from 10 future AAA stars (News, Views and Music 200)

This week’s album reviews has focussed on the first ever published songs by two leading AAA brethren: Stephen Stills and Neil Young, so for this week’s top ten we thought we’d look at ten other debut compositions by what we reckon to be ten of the most successful AAA writers. Now, some of these we’ve covered before (the ‘first’ songs by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, among others) and other ‘first’ recordings are quite well known in their own right, often as their band’s debut releases (The Beach Boys’ ‘Surfin’ Safari’, Cat Stevens’ ‘I Love My Dog’, George Harrison’s ‘Don’t Bother Me’, Grace Slick’s ‘White Rabbit’, The Small Faces “Whatcha Gonna Do About It?”, The Who’s ‘I Can’t Explain’ and Syd Baratt’s ‘Arnold Layne’ among them). With some writers, who had to wait longer to find fame and fortune, we’re not actually sure what their very first song was (Noel Gallagher, Alan Hull, Graham Gouldmann and Mark Knopfler included). This list, though, is likely to contain the first fruits of ten songwriters/songwriting partnerships that will be about to go into hyperdrive but haven’t quite caught fire yet, with tips on where to hear this music and whether it’s any good! Here they are, then, in as close to chronological order as we can manage:

1) Paul Simon “Hey, Schoolgirl!” (written and released in 1956; since released on several compilations and box sets and by both Simon and Garfunkel and ‘Tom and Jerry’)

Garfunkel and Simon (as Tom and Jerry respectively) had their first hit, not in 1966 as fresh-faced 24-year-olds with ‘The Sound Of Silence’ but as even fresher-faced 14-year-olds with their debut single. While a local hit rather than a statistic-breaking chart topper, it was nevertheless a huge achievement for two kids still at school who’d never written a song before (Arty gets a co-credit for the first and almost last time). While you’d never rate it as one of Paul’s deepest or greatest songs, there is already a real sense of understanding about how songs work and the chorus-verse structure is already a lot neater and more flowing than almost all of Paul’s contemporaries. Only the lyrics don’t really fit well with later Paul Simon songs although even these (‘woop-bop-a-loo-chi-ba’) make a lot of sense in the context of Paul’s most recent work, which has gone right back to this doo-wop period in both ‘The Capeman’ and most recent album ‘So Beautiful Or So What?’ where, when Paul fades away in the afterlife, this snatch of nonsense lyric is all that’s left of him. Tom and Jerry released several more records, only some of them up to this standard (and sadly, as ‘experiments’, they were often relegated to B-sides) while Paul’s work gets more interesting still when he hits 16 and forms Tico and the Triumphs and starts singing about teenage angst...

2) Graham Nash/Allan Clarke “Little Lover” (written circa 1963 and released on ‘Stay With The Hollies’ 1963)

Few bands around as early as 1963 got their own songs onto their first records and while The Hollies only managed one compared to the seven Lennon-McCartney got on ‘Please Please Me’ this is still an impressive achievement. ‘Little Lover’ was written while Tony Hicks was still very new to the band and not yet part of the Clarke-Hicks-Nash songwriting team, with school-friends Allan and Graham writing this one on a day off from school (much like the first Beatles originals). It’s not one of their best either, a little bit too much like the 1950s records both loved to sound ‘contemporary’ even by 1963 standards (it’s exactly what you’d expect The Everly Brothers tackling a Chuck Berry song to sound like) and the rhyming of ‘lover’ and ‘discover’ is not the best rhyme this partnership will ever make. For all that, though, the pair of budding songwriters already know how to harness the rhythmic power they have in the band, giving drummer Bobby Elliott a better chance to show his stuff than most Hollies covers of the period, and Eric Haydock shines on the song’s walking riff. Not a bad starting point, ‘Little Lover’ holding its own with a good half of the cover songs from the first Hollies LP.

3) Mick Jagger/Keith Richards “Tell Me” (written circa 1963 and released on “Rolling Stones’ 1964)

Listening to this few people would be able to tell that this is the first fruits from a writing partnership that, within 18 months, will be writing songs like ‘Satisfaction’. Perhaps considering writing blues and rock songs sacrosanct and impossible for two middle class white boys instead the Stones try to sound like a cross between The Beatles and The Supremes. ‘Tell Me’ doesn’t even have a proper rhyme in the chorus (‘Tell me you’re coming back to me!’) and an uncomfortable ragged riff that’s light years away from Keef’s exhilarating ideas to come. For all that, though, ‘Tell Me’ brought a lot of kudos at the time when bands didn’t often writer their own material and Brian Jones felt sufficiently upset by his colleagues writing together that he effectively begins a four year huff. An odd but fascinating song, quite unlike even the next batch of Jagger-Richards songs (most of which are ballads written with other people in mind) never mind the rock and roll epics to come.

4) Ray Davies “You Still Want Me” (written circa 1963, released in 1964 as The Kinks’ second single)

Most people assume that ‘You Really Got Me’ was the first Kinks single, but actually it was the third – even if Ray Davies had written it long before ‘The Ravens’ (as they were back then) ever had a record contract. Timing is a little bit hazy, but most sources state that his first song properly finished was the A side of Kinks single number two, a bouncy hand-clapper in the ‘Beatles-do-Motown’ mould. Whilst more successful than their debut single (a rather limp version of the Little Richard classic, released because the Beatles were getting such attention from their cover of it), ‘You Still Want Me’ is a little bit tentative and raw, not possessing the flaw or the individuality of almost all Ray Davies songs to come. In actual fact its closer to the driving, relentless sound of the band’s 1980s work than the cat-and-mouse game perfected on ‘You Really Got Me’ and quite a few other Kinks A-sides to come. I prefer the B-side, a harmony-laden R and B foot-tapper ‘You Do Something To Me’ in which Ray and Dave mesh their harmonies to great effect and already sound recognisably like The Kinks. ‘You Still Want Me’, though, is the sound of a band in flux, not yet certain that their destiny lies in being not like everybody else.

5) Eric Stewart “Long Time Comin’” (written circa 1964 and released as the B-side of Mindbenders single “It’s Just A Little Bit Too Late” 1964)

Graham Gouldmann wrote so many songs covered by other artists that its hard to tell what his first song is; similarly Godley and Creme only really properly started writing songs for the ‘Hotlegs’ album of 1970 that’s the 10cc debut in all but name. Eric Stewart, though, first got his name on a songwriting credit on the back of the Mindbenders’ third hit, a song that features several Stewart trademarks to come (long held notes, a sweeping melody that goes from high to low and back again over a short sequence of notes; a general sense of optimism) along with a Merseybeat-ish rattling rhythm that 10cc never really used. Stewart shares lead vocals with the band’s lead singer Wayne Fontana for the first time, too, and the song clearly suits him much more than his ‘leader’ who treats this song as another R and B rocker instead of a more graceful Merseybeatish ballad. Not that distinguished yet perhaps (Eric will come into his own as a writer in 1966 when Fontana leaves the group and becomes the new de facto leader) but a good likeness for what’s to come.

6) David Crosby “The Airport Song” (written circa 1964 and released on The Byrds’ rarities compilation “Never Before” in 1988)

The biggest surprise of the various ‘early tapes’ of the Byrds around (collected first as ‘Preflyte’ in 1986, although this song only appeared on the second volume ‘Never Before’ a couple of years later) is not the band doing an acoustic ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ or Gene Clark revealing a rock and roll side that he’ll only ever use again on rare occasions. No, it’s David Crosby’s first composition which for some reason he and the other Byrds never returned to again, despite the fact that his next batch of songs (‘What’s Happening?!?!?’ and ‘Wait and See’) aren’t anything like this individual and ‘finished’. In fact it’s more like an early CSN song, cryptic in lyric but with a tension in the backing that seems to tug away at Crosby’s relaxed ‘smiling’ vocal’ in a way that Cros won’t re-learn for some years yet. The title, too, has nothing to do with the song (another harbringer for things to come) and the guitar tuning is best described as ‘eccentric’, whilst following an internal logic all of it’s own. If the middle eight sounds squarely borrowed from early Beatles that shouldn’t get in the way of what a surprisingly adventurous and pioneering song this is, one far too good than to have sat in the vaults for nearly 25 years.

7) Mike Nesmith “Different Drum” (written circa 1965, although Nez’s version won’t be released till the 1972)

Papa Nez might have been called a ‘young unknown’ in early publicity for The Monkees TV show, but he’d actually achieved a great deal already in his 24 years. As a performer he was an unknown: a series of single releases under the name ‘Michael Blessing’ and ‘John, Bill and Mike’ had gained good reviews but hadn’t really sold. As a songwriter though Nesmith had already scored a couple of top ten hits, with the Paul Butterfield Blue Bands’ heavy reading of his song ‘Mary, Mary’ (which The Monkees recorded on their second album with Micky Dolenz singing) and the first, ‘Different Drum’ (a song Nesmith won’t release himself until 1972, although it is heard briefly in the Monkees TV episode ‘Too Many Girls’ where Nesmith, playing a deliberately bad country performer, rushes through it at top speed). The song was covered by the Stone Ponys, a bit of a one-hit wonder act although lead singer Linda Ronstadt would go on to have a glittering career of her own (working with Neil Young on some of his best-selling albums as well as having hits herself). Unusual in being a) a ballad b) about love and c) featuring the title sung several times over (most Nesmith songs have titles that have nothing to do with the song), ‘Different Drum’ reveals a sweet and sensitive side that doesn’t appear in many other Nesmith songs. Notably Mike never released this song under his own name until much later on in his career, despite releasing almost a dozen ‘Michael Blessing’ singles, suggesting he deliberately wrote this song for someone else to sing.

8) Justin Hayward “London Is Behind Me” (released as debut solo single in 1965)

Justin’s first Moody Blues song ‘Fly Me High’ might have flopped but it changed the band’s sound forever: psychedelic, guitar-based, with its roots in folk rather than R and B, a sound the band build on for their next two singles, the more successful ‘Tuesday Afternoon’ and ‘Nights In White Satin’. Really, though, its just a poppier version of Justin’s three flop solo singles recorded for the ‘London’ label in 1965 and 1966. ‘London Is Behind Me’ is the first song (truer than he knew, given how the Surrey-born Hayward is soon to end up in a Birmingham band) but in truth they all sound much the same, Hayward the folkie singing quiet protest songs with just his acoustic guitar to accompany him. While not that successful in and of themselves, you can already hear Hayward’s ‘innocence-gone-wrong’ persona and although more Earth-bound than most Moodies songs to come the hapless romantic sounds much the same, looking back on his life with guilt and regret. Sadly all of these Hayward solo songs are unavailable on CD as of the time of writing – though Justin is understandably reluctant to let the world hear his ‘baby pictures’ they’re really pretty darn good for the period and considering his lack of experience at the time.

9) Jerry Garcia “Cream Puff War” (written and recorded circa 1967 on ‘Grateful Dead’)

When the Dead released their debut record in the summer of love they were still largely thinking of themselves as an r and b covers band, albeit a bit more psychedelic than usual. There are 11 songs on this first album and only two of them are originals: ‘The Golden Road’ credited to the whole band (via the ridiculous pseudonym ‘McGallahan Skjellyfetti’) and Garcia’s ‘Cream Puff War’. Noisier and rockier than most Garcia songs to come, this is one of the few lyrics Jerry ever wrote himself before teaming up with his old college buddy Robert Hunter and its’, well, a little over done. (‘No, no you can’t take my mind and leave! It’s just another trick you’ve got up your sleeve!’) Even though ‘Cream Puff War’ sounds different, though, its heart is still very much in the same place, standing up to the Vietnam War when few other bands dared to try and setting out an argument as to why ‘straight’ society are more mad than a band like the Dead would ever be. In a sense this song is folk-based protest poetry a la one of Garcia’s big influences Dylan, but Bob would never have used such ‘hip’ terminology or turned in such a rocky arrangement.

10) Roger Waters “Take Up Thy Stethoscope And Walk” (written and recorded circa 1967 on ‘Piper At The Gates Of Dawn’ 1967)

Syd Barratt dominated the first Floyd LP – the only one he was an active participant in making (although a few leftover songs from the first record make it to the second). In 1967 the rest of Pink Floyd were still ‘the tail of Syd’s comet’, with keyboardist Rick Wright the star-in-waiting after his keyboard and harmony vocals did the next most to shape the record. Already, though, future band ‘leader’ Roger Waters has slipped his first song onto a record and proved he will be much more than just the ‘bass player’. ‘Stethoscope’, though, is a clumsy song, without the love of words or big themes that Waters will come to be known for, although this long list of grievances and seemingly random words whose only link with each other is that they rhyme (‘Moon, June, Greasy Spoon!’) do sound a little like the ‘list’ lyrics Roger so loves to write (just think of the ending of ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ for the most famous example!) The song is also quite nasty, something that won’t really turn up again in Roger’s songs until as late as ‘Animals’ in 1977 and quite at odds with Syd’s more childish and innocent songs, even if it gives the rest of the band more of a chance to show off their power and range (Nick Mason never bangs his drums quite so hard again in his near-30 year career!) In truth, the leap from this to the next album’s ‘Saucerful Of Secrets’ songs are huge (almost all of which are written by Roger and almost all of which are other-worldly and epic) and Roger never ever sounds like this ever again.

Well, that’s it for another week, news and views lovers. See you next issue!

A NOW COMPLETE List Of Top Five/Top Ten/TOP TWENTY  Entries 2008-2019
1) Chronic Fatigue songs

2) Songs For The Face Of Bo

3) Credit Crunch Songs

4) Songs For The Autumn

5) National Wombat Week

6) AAA Box Sets

7) Virus Songs

8) Worst AAA-Related DVDs

9) Self-Punctuating Superstar Classics

10) Ways To Know You Have Turned Into A Collector

11) Political Songs

12) Totally Bonkers Concept Albums

13) Celebrating 40 Years Of The Beatles' White Album

14) Still Celebrating 40 Years Of The Beatles' White Album

15) AAA Existential Questions

16) Releases Of The Year 2008

17) Top AAA Xmas Songs

18) Notable AAA Gigs

19) All things '20' related for our 20th issue

20) Romantic odes for Valentine's Day

21) Hollies B sides

22) 'Other' BBC Session Albums

23) Beach Boys Rarities Still Not Available On CD

24) Songs John, Paul and George wrote for Ringo's solo albums

25) 5 of the Best Rock 'n' Roll Tracks From The Pre-Beatles Era

26) AAA Autobiographies

27) Rolling Stones B-sides

28) Beatles B-Sides

29) The lllloooonnngggeesssttt AAA songs of all time

30) Kinks B-Sides

31) Abandoned CSNY projects 'wasted on the way'

32) Best AAA Rarities and Outtakes Sets

33) News We've Missed While We've Been Away

34) Birthday Songs for our 1st Anniversary

35) Brightest Album Covers

36) Biggest Recorded Arguments

37) Songs About Superheroes

38) AAA TV Networks That Should Exist

39) AAA Woodtsock Moments

40) Top Moments Of The Past Year As Voted For By Readers

41) Music Segues

42) AAA Foreign Language Songs

43) 'Other' Groups In Need Of Re-Mastering

44) The Kinks Preservation Rock Opera - Was It Really About The Forthcoming UK General Election?

45) Mono and Stereo Mixes - Biggest Differences

46) Weirdest Things To Do When A Band Member Leaves

47) Video Clips Exclusive To Youtube (#1)

48) Top AAA Releases Of 2009

49) Songs About Trains

50) Songs about Winter

51) Songs about astrology plus horoscopes for selected AAA members

52) The Worst Five Groups Ever!

53) The Most Over-Rated AAA Albums

54) Top AAA Rarities Exclusive To EPs

55) Random Recent Purchases (#1)

56) AAA Party Political Slogans

57) Songs To Celebrate 'Rock Sunday'

58) Strange But True (?) AAA Ghost Stories

59) AAA Artists In Song

60) Songs About Dogs

61) Sunshiney Songs

62) The AAA Staff Play Their Own Version Of Monoploy/Mornington Crescent!

63) What 'Other' British Invasion DVDs We'd Like To See

64) What We Want To Place In Our AAA Time Capsule

65) AAA Conspiracy Theroies

66) Weirdest Things To Do Before - And After - Becoming A Star

67) Songs To Tweet To

68) Greatest Ever AAA Solos

69) John Lennon Musical Tributes

70) Songs For Halloween

71) Earliest Examples Of Psychedelia

72) Purely Instrumental Albums

73) AAA Utopias

74) AAA Imaginary Bands

75) Unexpected AAA Cover Versions

76) Top Releases of 2010

77) Songs About Snow

78) Predictions For 2011

79) AAA Fugitives

80) AAA Home Towns

81) The Biggest Non-Musical Influences On The 1960s

82) AAA Groups Covering Other AAA Groups

83) Strange Censorship Decisions

84) AAA Albums Still Unreleased on CD

85) Random Recent Purchases (#2)

86) Top AAA Music Videos

87) 30 Day Facebook Music Challenge

88) AAA Documentaries

89) Unfinished and 'Lost' AAA Albums

90) Strangest AAA Album Covers

91) AAA Performers Live From Mars (!)

92) Songs Including The Number '100' for our 100th Issue

93) Most Songs Recorded In A Single Day

94) Most Revealing AAA Interviews

95) Top 10 Pre-Fame Recordings

96) The Shortest And Longest AAA Albums

97) The AAA Allstars Ultimate Band Line-Up

98) Top Songs About Sports

99) AAA Conversations With God

100) AAA Managers: The Good, The Bad and the Financially Ugly

101) Unexpected AAA Cameos

102) AAA Words You can Type Into A Caluclator

103) AAA Court Cases

104) Postmodern Songs About Songwriting

105) Biggest Stylistic Leaps Between Albums

106) 20 Reasons Why Cameron Should Go!

107) The AAA Pun-Filled Cookbook

108) Classic Debut Releases

109) Five Uses Of Bird Sound Effects

110) AAA Classic Youtube Clips Part #1

111) Part #2

112) Part #3

113) AAA Facts You Might Not Know

114) The 20 Rarest AAA Records

115) AAA Instrumental Songs

116) Musical Tarot

117) Christmas Carols

118) Top AAA Releases Of 2011

119) AAA Bands In The Beano/The Dandy

120) Top 20 Guitarists #1

121) #2

122) 'Shorty' Nomination Award Questionairre

123) Top Best-Selling AAA Albums

124) AAA Songs Featuring Bagpipes

125) A (Hopefully) Complete List Of AAA Musicians On Twitter

126) Beatles Albums That Might Have Been 1970-74 and 1980

127) DVD/Computer Games We've Just Invented

128) The AAA Albums With The Most Weeks At #1 in the UK

129) The AAA Singles With The Most Weeks At #1 in the UK

130) Lyric Competition (Questions)

131) Top Crooning Classics

132) Funeral Songs

133) AAA Songs For When Your Phone Is On Hold

134) Random Recent Purchases (#3)

135) Lyric Competition (Answers)

136) Bee Gees Songs/AAA Goes Disco!

137) The Best AAA Sleevenotes (And Worst)

138) A Short Precise Of The Years 1962-70

139) More Wacky AAA-Related Films And Their Soundtracks

140) AAA Appearances On Desert Island Discs

141) Songs Exclusive To Live Albums

142) More AAA Songs About Armageddon

What difference does a name make? Arguably not much if you’re already a collector of a certain group, for whom the names on the album sleeves just...

This week’s top ten honours the humble motor car. The death trap on wheels, the metaphor for freedom, the put-down of capitalism, a source of...

This week we’re going to have a look at the 10 AAA singles that spent the most weeks at number on the American chart ‘Billboard’ – and it makes for...

Following on from last issue’s study of the American Billboard charts, here’s a look at which AAA albums spent the most weeks on the chart. The...

There are many dying arts in our modern world: incorruptible politicians, faith that things are going to get better and the ability to make decent...

This week we’ve decided to dedicate our top ten to those unsung heroes of music, the session musicians, whose playing often brings AAA artists (and...

Naturally we hold our AAA bands in high esteem in these articles: after all, without their good taste, intelligence and humanity we’d have nothing to...

What do you do when you’ve left a multi-million selling band and yet you still feel the pull of the road and the tours and the playing to audiences...

‘The ATOS Song’ (You’re Not Fit To Live)’ (Mini-Review) Dear readers, we don’t often feature reviews of singles over albums or musicians who aren’t...

In honour of this week’s review of an album released to cash in on a movie soundtrack (only one of these songs actually appears in ‘Easy Rider’...and...

Hic! Everyone raise a glass to the rock stars of the past and to this week’s feature...songs about alcolholic beverages! Yes that’s right, everything...

154) The human singing voice carries with it a vast array of emotions, thoughts that cannot be expressed in any other way except opening the lungs and...

Everyone has a spiritual home, even if they don’t actually live there. Mine is in a windy, rainy city where the weather is always awful but the...

Having a family does funny things to some musicians, as we’ve already seen in this week’s review (surely the only AAA album actually written around...

Some artists just have no idea what their best work really is. One thing that amazes me as a collector is how consistently excellent many of the...

159) A (Not That) Short Guide To The 15 Best Non-AAA Bands

160) The Greatest AAA Drum Solos (Or Near Solos!)

161) AAA Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame Acceptance Speeches

162) AAA Re-Recordings Of Past Songs

163) A Coalition Christmas (A Fairy Tale)

164) AAA Songs About Islands

165) The AAA Review Of The Year 2012

166) The Best AAA Concerts I Attended

167) Tributes To The 10 AAA Stars Who Died The Youngest

168) The First 10 AAA Songs Listed Alphabetically

171) The 10 Best Songs From The Psychedelia Box-Sets ‘Nuggets’ and ‘Nuggets Two’

172) The 20 Most Common Girl’s Names In AAA Song Titles (With Definitions) 

180) First Recordings By Future AAA Stars

185) A Tribute To Storm Thorgerson Via The Five AAA Bands He Worked With

188) Surprise! Celebrating 300 Album Reviews With The Biggest 'Surprises' Of The Past Five Years Of Alan's Album Archives!

190) Comparatively Obscure First Compositions By AAA Stars

193) Evolution Of A Band: Comparing First Lyric With Last Lyric:

200) The Monkees In Relation To Postmodernism (University Dissertation)

202) Carly Simon's 'You're So Vain': Was It About One Of The AAA Crew?

217) AAA 'Christmas Presents' we'd most like to have next year

221) Dr Who and the AAA (Five Musical Links)

222) Five Random Recent Purchases

223) AAA Grammy Nominees

224) Ten AAA songs that are better heard unedited and in full

225) The shortest gaps between AAA albums

226) The longest gaps between AAA albums

227) Top ten AAA drummers

228) Top Ten AAA Singles (In Terms of 'A' and 'B' Sides)

229) The Stories Behind Six AAA Logos

230) AAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!! The Best Ten AAA Screams

231) An AAA Pack Of Horses

232) AAA Granamas - Sorry, Anagrams!

233) AAA Surnames and Their Meanings

234) 20 Erroneous AAA Album Titles

235) The Best AAA Orchestral Arrangements

236) Top 30 Hilariously Misheard Album Titles/Lyrics

237) Ten controversial AAA sackings - and whether they were right

238) A Critique On Critiquing - In Response To Brian Wilson

239) The Ten MusicianS Who've Played On The Most AAA Albums

240) Thoughts on #CameronMustGo

241) Random Recent Purchases (Kinks/Grateful Dead/Nils Lofgren/Rolling Stones/Hollies) 

242) AAA Christmas Number Ones 

243) AAA Review Of The Year 2014 (Top Releases/Re-issues/Documentaries/DVDs/Books/Songs/ Articles  plus worst releases of the year)

244) Me/CFS Awareness Week 2015

245) Why The Tory 2015 Victory Seems A Little...Suspicious

246) A Plea For Peace and Tolerance After The Attacks on Paris - and Syria

247) AAA Review Of The Year 2015

248) The Fifty Most Read AAA Articles (as of December 31st 2015)

249) The Revised AAA Crossword!

251) Half-A-Dozen Berries Plus One (An AAA Tribute To Chuck Berry)

252) Guest Post: ‘The Skids – Joy’ (1981) by Kenny Brown

254) Guest Post: ‘Supertramp – Some Things Never Change’ by Kenny Brown

255) AAA Review Of The Year 2018

256) AAA Review Of The Year 2019 plus Review Of The Decade 2010-2019

257) Tiermaker

258) #Coronastock

259) #Coronadocstock