Tuesday, March 8, 2011
The nameplate pictured here is among the rock and roll detritus that I have inherited, collected, kept over the years. Too valuable to trash (it's cast iron) and not easy to sell (imagine the shipping cost), and hard to display (did I say it was heavy?) it has hung around like so many collectibles. It embodies Neil Young's age old question: old enough to repaint or young enough to sell?
The comet-like career of Buffalo Springfield came to mind last week when a deejay for for the Fordham radio station (WFUV.org) mentioned that the group had been founded on March 3, 1966 (surely there's a plaque somewhere) and several of the original members were working on a reunion album. This prompted some nostalgic thoughts about what great music they made and what might have been if Neil Young, Stephen Stills, Richie Furay, Jim Messina and Dewey Martin (along with co-founder Bruce Palmer and Doug Hasting) had been able to keep it together for even a handful of years.
At the start they had the makings (and talent) of a supergroup. Their (modest) hits with Buffalo like "For What's It Worth," "Sit Down I Think I Love You" and "Kind Woman" are still played today and often get used in films and documentaries about the1960's and '70's. The late Lillian Roxon in her Rock Encyclopedia said one song on the first LP was "a milestone." ""Go and Say Goodbye," written by Stills in 1965, was the first country-folk song and a prophetic look ahead to the later emergence of country rock."
I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall (or a roadie) when they toured with the Byrds and the Beach Boys; talk about the boys on the bus! Before a third album could be released, they disbanded with most of them carving out future Hall of Fame careers. Stills and Young joined Crosby and Nash before going on to solo careers (and several reunion gigs). Jim Messina and Richie Furay founded Poco which, among other things, blazed a trail the Eagles later rode in on.
Besides the persistent question about what might have been (Bruce Springsteen says: "The trick in keeping bands together is always the same: Hey asshole, the guy standing next you is more important that you think he is." RS 2/5/09), is how they got their name.
Legend has it that the Canadians (Young and Palmer) met the Americans (Stills and Furay) during a traffic jam in Los Angeles. Some accounts talk about an asphalt steam roller at the scene made by Buffalo Springfield. The company came about at the turn of the century when the Buffalo Pitts company merged with Kelley Springfield and the steam engines that once worked in the farm fields went to work building roads.
As someone who painted a steam engine one summer, I guess I'll keep my Buffalo Springfield nameplate awhile longer to remind me of simpler times and better music....because nowadays Clancy can't even sing.