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Rock & Roll Books

For What It's Worth: The Story of the Buffalo Springfield

by John Einarson and Richie Furay

Quarry Press, 130 pp., $15.95 (paper)

The Buffalo Springfield were a quintet of Canadians and Americans who migrated to L.A. in early 1966, intent on being America's answer to the Beatles. And they very nearly grasped that goal, before dissolving in a morass of ego and drug busts. Texan Stephen Stills and Ohio native Richie Furay moved to L.A. in the wake of the Beatles' and the Byrds' success, and a chance encounter with Neil Young's old hearse on Sunset Boulevard brought the quartet (including bassist and fellow Canadian Bruce Palmer) together on April 6, 1966. Within a week, they'd found a manager, recruited veteran Canadian drummer Dewey Martin, and taking their name from a steamroller sign in Stills' apartment, christened themselves the Buffalo Springfield.

The very next week, they opened five shows for the top band in America, the Byrds, and blew them away. Within two months, they'd played a six-week sold-out stand at the Whiskey, and scored a record deal. The next month they cut their first single, and in the process invented what would come to be known years later as country rock, or Americana. Then they opened for the Stones in front of 20,000 people at the Hollywood Bowl. It was all downhill from there, but the band would nevertheless go on to change American music forever, and become one of the most influential bands of the Sixties.

The Byrds and the Beach Boys may have made greater contributions, but the Springfield must certainly be included as one of the three most influential American rock groups of the Sixties. This book, co-written by Springfield/Byrds expert John Einarson with lead singer/rhythm guitarist Richie Furay, is the best account of the band's fascinating story and heartbreaking downfall we're likely to get. Mind you, it's short on the dirt and hair-raising tales of drugs and groupies, which is understandable; Furay, you see, is a born-again minister these days. However, his is probably the most coherent and honest "version" of the band's story. Furay pulls no punches, and is far less likely than Stills or Young to rewrite the past in his own favor.

Fans of the band will get a great amount of detail about the most important landmarks in the band's history. There's Monterey, incompetent and inexperienced managers/producers, the drug busts, the ego battles between Stills and Young as they fought over leadership (Stills always won) and lead guitar duties, and the sessions that produced three classic albums and over three-dozen outtakes (details provided) in just over two years time.

For What It's Worth is the story of five very young men, with a mutual dream of stardom and fame. They forever changed the face of American music, and split up amidst great heartbreak and poverty, only to become superstars through their subsequent careers: Crosby Stills & Nash, Neil Young's solo career, Poco, Loggins and Messina, The Eagles, all of it came from the Springfield. Long may they run.

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