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Friday, December 8, 2023

Stephen Stills picks his favourite Buffalo Springfield songs

Although Buffalo Springfield were only active for two short years, the music they created will never be forgotten. While it was a tumultuous period with many ups and downs, the partnership between Stephen Stills and Neil Young established itself as a musical dynamic for the ages.

The year before the formation of Buffalo Springfield, Young had fortuitously crossed paths with Stills while the latter was on tour in Ontario. At the time, they were both busy with other bands, but a lot could change within 12 months, as the duo discovered. Stills relocated to the West Coast shortly afterwards and began work as a session musician.

Young joined The Mynah Birds thanks to meeting bassist Bruce Palmer. Despite scoring a deal with Motown Records, their frontman Rick James was arrested after going AWOL from his duties in the US Army, which brought their tenure to a premature end. However, it did allow Young and Palmer to move to Los Angeles to track down Stills.

While the pair successfully found their man and started the band with him, it wasn’t all flowers. 1967 proved to be a difficult period for Buffalo Springfield as the cracks started to show. The situation wasn’t helped by Palmer being deported briefly for cannabis possession, and Young was also absent from their line-up for two months.

During a televised interview with Bob Costas in 1991, Stills reflected on his days with Buffalo Springfield and refused to speak particularly glowingly about the music they produced. When asked about his favourite songs in their catalogue, he took an age to consider his answer before stating: “I think ‘Mr. Soul’ was one of the better Buffalo Springfield songs, ‘Sit Down, I Think I Love You’ is a real good Buffalo Springfield song.”

Stills then caveated his answers by claiming Buffalo Springfield failed to translate the magnificence of their live performances to the record, noting: “You know, like I said, the (live) performances of Springfield didn’t quite get to record. Everything was just a little up, you know, ‘Oh, we’re in the studio’.”

Further illustrating his point, Stills said their albums “never got close” to their concerts, perhaps explaining why he hesitated to be positive about their work. Additionally, when he made these comments, Buffalo Springfield was so long ago in his memory that it likely felt like a different lifetime.

Intriguingly, when Costas pointed out to Stills that most fans would pick out ‘For What It’s Worth’ as Buffalo Springfield’s best song because it “captured the time”, the musician revealed his problem with the recorded version of the classic. He replied: “That was a real good performance too, it was pretty good. Although I sang it very weirdly, and I’ve seldom done it that way since, so I was very tenuous about it because I’d written it the night before.”

Stills didn’t talk in particularly superlative terms to describe ‘Mr. Soul’ and ‘Sit Down, I Think I Love You’. However, he did refrain from revealing any issues with the recordings, which is an expression of his love for the songs in relative terms.

Listen to the two tracks below.

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