Protest 100: Buffalo Springfield – ‘For What It’s Worth’

Artist:          Buffalo Springfield

Song:           For What It’s Worth

Album:        Buffalo Springfield (1967)

Producer:    Charles Greene, Brian Stone

Label:          Atco

Year:           1966

Notes:
It’s time for some classics. Though adopted as an anti-Vietnam War anthem and general protest song, ‘For What It’s Worth’ was inspired by police reaction to demonstrations against a curfew imposed on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip in November 1966. Residents didn’t like young people gathering outside the strip’s clubs and venues. Young people liked doing so. Jack Nicholson and Peter Fonda were among the demonstrators.

Stephen Still wrote this song that November. The band recorded it Dec. 5. Atco released it as a single (b/w ‘Do I Have to Come Right Out and Say It?’) on Dec. 23. It was subsequently added to the second pressing of Buffalo Springfield’s self-titled debut, issued Mar. 6, 1967. Despite the narrow context of its creation, ‘For What It’s Worth’s lyrics sound like they could have been written for the current day.

Check the bottom of the post for a couple of high-quality live versions: one from back in the day, one a cover by some devoted fans.

Excerpt from ‘Unreality’  —
It seemed like impossibly hard work, and for what?

Lyrics:
There’s somethin’ happenin’ here
But what it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
A-tellin’ me I got to beware

I think it’s time we stop
Children, what’s that sound?
Everybody look what’s going down

There’s battle lines being drawn
And nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
Young people speakin’ their minds
A-gettin’ so much resistance from behind

I think it’s time we stop
Hey, what’s that sound?
Everybody look what’s going down

What a field day for the heat (ooh-ooh-ooh)
A thousand people in the street (ooh-ooh-ooh)
Singin’ songs and a-carryin’ signs (ooh-ooh-ooh)
Mostly say “Hooray for our side” (ooh-ooh-ooh)

It’s time we stop
Hey, what’s that sound?
Everybody look what’s going down

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid
You step out of line
The man come and take you away

We better stop, hey, what’s that sound?
Everybody look what’s going down

Stop, hey, what’s that sound?
Everybody look what’s going down (we better)

Stop, now, what’s that sound?
Everybody look what’s going down (we better)

Stop, children, what’s that sound?
Everybody look what’s going down

 —

‘Protest 100’s mission is two-fold: dispelling the myth that heavy metal is a brainless, socially unaware music genre, and raising awareness of the issues facing our country in the Nov. 3, 2020 election. The path won’t be exclusively metal—some punk and rap and other stuff will be in here too, including the classics—and is not a ranking. All songs are songs I’ve heard while putting this list together, ordered in a manner designed to entertain and educate.

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