I Am A Child

“The Best of Buffalo Springfield: Retrospective”: https://spoti.fi/3baFhYG


It comes after “Rock & Roll Woman” on “Retrospective.”

Funny, “Rock & Roll Woman” was why I bought the Buffalo Springfield greatest hits compilation, it was the song that sounded most like the Stephen Stills material that generated such success, that was so satisfying on the first Crosby, Stills & Nash album, and now it’s been lost to the sands of time, “Bluebird” remains, never mind “For What It’s Worth,” but not “Rock & Roll Woman.”

It was all about “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.” Sure, you could hear “Marrakesh Express” on AM radio, but that’s not what converted listeners overnight, that was “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.”

“It’s getting to the point…”

That guitar intro, if you could play that you were a superstar. We all had guitars, we all sat in front of the turntable, dropping the needle over and over again to learn the songs. But it’s one thing to know how to play the chords, quite another to be able to replicate whatever Stephen Stills was doing in this track.

“I am yours, you are mine

You are what you are

You make it hard”

It was Judy Collins’s birthday. Stephen insisted she stop by so he could give her a gift. Which turned out to be a guitar. And then he proceeded to play “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” and Judy told him she liked the song, but they still weren’t getting back together.

Still… Those of us playing the home game saw “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” as upbeat, a source of elation. A stripping down of what came before so all that was left was the essence.

“Friday evening, Sunday in the afternoon”

Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles, it’s the light. Especially in the fall. It’s still warm, but the light is golden, it both warms you and sets your mind adrift, gets you reflecting. It’s this change that makes the song so great. And then the whole thing revs up again.

You could drop the needle on “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” over and over again and never get to “Marrakesh Express,” the second song on the LP.

As for my favorites on the album, after “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” came “Long Time Gone.” The oozy bass, the bottom covering the landscape like Mississippi mud… It was 1969, the country was in turmoil, it certainly seemed like a long time before the dawn.

After that… It was the Stills songs, “You Don’t Have to Cry” and “Helplessly Hoping” most especially. I came to “Helplessly Hoping” late. Oh, I’d heard it a zillion times, but it only resonated about a decade or two later, when I realized despite the harmonizing voices the song was really quite intimate, quite inside.

You have to understand, David Crosby was not known as a frontman at this point. In the Byrds it was Jim/Roger McGuinn. Oh, you knew him from the album covers, but not everybody bought the albums, we’d blown all our cash on the British Invasion bands.

As for Graham Nash… So, he was in the Hollies. Seen as a Top Forty band by me, I didn’t know a soul who owned an album. In an era of credibility they did not appear to have any, despite having infectious hits that you sang along with, that you could not get out of your head, and I guess Graham Nash realized this and he decamped to Southern California to create something more meaningful. But having said that, to this day I still don’t like “Marrakesh Express,” it’s just too lightweight. And “Lady of the Island” was intimate, but not in the league of other tracks on the album. Yet at the time I thought Nash put out the best initial solo album of the three, “Songs for Beginners.” The album hasn’t aged that well, but “I Used to Be a King” is a stone cold smash, as in something you can not forget, it’s a perfect melding of vocal, music, changes and lyrics.

“Someone is going to take my heart

But no one is going to break my heart again”

“I Used to Be a King” should be a standard, alas it’s not, although many still do remember “Simple Man.”

But Crosby, it wasn’t like today, he hadn’t been in jail, he hadn’t been pontificating everywhere, his songs on the CSN debut were infectious. “Guinnevere”…it’s the opposite if today’s in-your-face music. It’s like you’re invited to a song circle in someone’s house in Laurel Canyon.

And “Wooden Ships”… Incalculably great. And the Jefferson Airplane version from “Volunteers,” released in the fall of 1969, was different but just as good in its own way. And did you have the pressing of the CSN album where “Say, can I have some of your purple berries” was barely audible? I certainly did.

But I did like Nash’s first side closer “Pre-Road Downs,” it had a healthy energy that was undeniable. And then you flipped the album over and got “Wooden Ships,” bringing you back into the maelstrom once again, far from an easily seen exit.

The second side ended with Stills’s “49 Bye-Byes,” which started slowly, but then gained energy and finished out the second side just like “Pre-Road Downs” did the first, with energy, leaving you in the quietude, wondering what adventure you’d just been on. If you didn’t want to move to Southern California after listening to the Beach Boys, you certainly did after listening to the CSN debut. And they seemed to know how damn good they were. The only show-off track was the opener, “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” everything else was understated as opposed to overblown, the band didn’t need to convince you, if you were exposed to the music you were closed. And the CSN debut was not an instant hit, it took a long time to build, just like its contemporary, the first Led Zeppelin album, but by time their follow-ups were released word had spread and they were instant smashes, first “Led Zeppelin II” and then “Deja Vu.”


I’m listening to the album right now in Ultra HD via Amazon Music and I’m positively stunned, these harmonies seem to be a lost art, and this was long before auto-tune, and in truth the Woodstock movie informed us they were hard to replicate live. But you listen to these three voices together and harmony seems like a lost art. Then again, sitting around with acoustics singing songs together is a lost art. You can’t do this with beats, and although there’s plenty of wooden music out there, none is in the league of Crosby, Stills & Nash, nobody can write the songs and they don’t have such exquisite voices to boot.

Now I know some people a bit older than I am who bought Buffalo Springfield albums, but I did not. But “For What It’s Worth”???

“There’s something happening here

But what it is ain’t exactly clear”

Pandora’s Box is long gone, but now the Sunset Strip riots have faded in the rearview mirror too, almost completely disappeared. This was the American youthquake, this was when the west coast came back to grab the torch from the British. Sure, it started with the Byrds and “Mr. Tambourine Man,” hell, even the Turtles with “It Ain’t Me Babe,” but those were Dylan songs, however good, “For What It’s Worth” was an original.

“What a field day for the heat”

Do youngsters know what “heat” refers to here? Do they know that Joni Mitchell was singing about metaphorical swine when she said she was going to kiss a Sunset pig in “California”? The police were the enemy. They were the heat, that’s what they brought down on a situation. And they were the pigs. Today the police are heroes. Sure, they seem to randomly kill Black people, and white people will come out and protest when the behavior gets too egregious, but in truth they don’t see police brutality as their problem.

“We better stop

Hey what’s that sound

Everybody look what’s going down”

But today people have no interest in looking. I saw a tweet that said Ann Coulter had written a Substack piece condemning Donald Trump for January 6th and when I clicked through and read the piece I learned this was true, but mostly she hated Trump for not fulfilling campaign promises like the erection of the wall. And I never used to read the comments, but David Krebs told me he did so now I check them out. And what did they say? Coulter was dead wrong, there was fraud in the election, the presidency was stolen, they’re still solid in their belief, even if the 1/6 hearings are more of a hit movie than “Top Gun: Maverick” or the latest “Jurassic Park,” and with more staying power too, assuming you’re paying attention. I went on the Fox News site earlier today and I kept scrolling and I still did not find anything about yesterday’s 1/6 hearings.

So “For What It’s Worth” is out of time, but incredibly still accurate. They tell us not to draw battle lines but in truth you either stand up for the truth or you don’t. History isn’t kind to those who don’t, even short term history. If everybody else jumps off a bridge should you? Beware of the crowd, think for yourself, at least that’s what George Harrison said.


Now at this point Buffalo Springfield has more cred than the various incarnations of Crosby, Stills, Nash and sometimes Young. Maybe because except for a brief live reunion almost a decade ago there’s never been a Buffalo Springfield get-together, whereas CSNY have soldiered on, at least until David Crosby pissed everybody else off.

People say it’s all about the second LP, “Buffalo Springfield Again.” But like I said I started with “Retrospective.”

You only had to hear “Rock & Roll Woman” once. At least I only had to hear it once. Which occurred in the light of the afternoon at my friend Marc Goloff’s house, I needed to own this. “Rock & Roll Woman” had the Stills guitars and the harmonies of “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” it was an antecedent, and so satisfying, a Dead Sea Scroll.

“Retrospective” opened with “For What It’s Worth.” And then came Neil Young’s “Mr. Soul,” which was the only song of Mr. Young’s that had gotten any airplay on underground FM rock radio in New York, I knew it, it wasn’t new to me, and it’s so satisfying, it’s that chorus and stinging guitar.

Next came “Sit Down I Think I Love You,” which sounded dated, from the first album. Written by Stills, it was sung by Stephen and Richie. But, it was more 1966 than 1969.

Next came Richie Furay’s signature song, “Kind Woman.”

But the true killer came thereafter. I may not have bought any Buffalo Springfield albums, but it appeared all the musicians were intimately familiar with the band’s material. The James Gang did a great version of “Bluebird” on their debut “Yer’ Album,” check it out. And almost as obscure is the Bonnie Raitt version that opens her initial LP. The James Gang make the song heavier and Bonnie Raitt makes it acoustic from the mountains and both versions are far from rote renditions, these two acts put their own spin on this song, and end up owning it themselves.

“On the Way Home” is a Neil Young song sung by Richie Furay, theoretically making it more ear-pleasing, more commercial, but it didn’t have much of an impact. But if you listen to the lyrics and especially the changes in the pre-chorus and chorus you know quite definitely this is Neil’s work.

The side two opener, “Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing” is a Neil song, more dark than light, but the edge is removed by having Stephen, Richie and Neil all sing.

But next came the secret killer, “Broken Arrow,” this was the Neil Young of the first solo album, from here you get to “Last Trip to Tulsa.” It came before “Rock & Roll Woman” and these are the two cuts people talked about most back then, especially after Neil was added to CSN.

The 11th track on the album, the second to last on side two, was the band’s opener from the very first album, at least until “For What It’s Worth” became a hit and it was stripped in atop, it’s entitled “Go and Say Goodbye.” It’s a lighthearted romp that is once again a period piece. A compact ditty. Far beyond what is released today, but not up to hit standards in the mid-sixties.

The final song on the album is Neil Young’s “Expecting to Fly,” it’s got a majesty from back when, when we were only slightly disillusioned, as opposed to today when we’re about to give up, if we haven’t already. “Expecting to Fly” was a bit foreign to the sunniness of the work of Stephen Stills and Richie Furay, but that’s probably one of the reasons Neil left the band, he didn’t really fit in. And in my mind he never really fit in with Crosby, Stills & Nash.


So when you love a track you drop the needle and play it over and over again, like I said above. The CD was such a breakthrough, with programmability, and you’ve got no idea how good you’ve got it in the streaming era, hell you can just call out to Alexa and Siri and hear any track you want to, have the machine play it ad infinitum.

But you had to be right in front of the turntable to do this. Or even worse, you had to get up. I don’t understand why everyone wants a manual turntable, it’s such a pain in the ass to get up and lift the tonearm up at the end of the record.

So it got to the point where I just dropped the needle at the beginning of the second side, I’d hear “Rock & Roll Woman” only once, but I wouldn’t have to get up constantly.

So that’s why I know “Broken Arrow.” I never really loved “Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing,” the second side really began for me with “Broken Arrow.” And then came “Rock & Roll Woman.”

And then came “I Am a Child.”

“I am a child, I’ll last a while

You can’t conceive of the pleasure in my smile”

We were all children, we were delaying growing up. Going to work for the bank? We didn’t even want a career!

The verses of “I Am a Child” are reminiscent of “Long May You Run,” then again the latter came over half a decade later.

And there’s a country feel that was ultimately present in the Byrds and the Burritos, “I Am a Child” is a product of 1968, just like “Sweetheart of the Rodeo.”

“You are a man, you understand

You pick me up and you lay me down again

You  make the rules, you say what’s fair

It’s lots of fun to have you there”

NO IT’S NOT! Neil’s being sarcastic. The man is messing with his music, the man is manipulating him, using him as his toy, not respecting him, the cash cow, where all the money comes from.

“I Am a Child” is jaunty, and almost optimistic before you dig into the lyrics. Then again, so many Neil Young songs are like this. more glass half empty than half full. Today everybody’s a winner. You can’t show weakness. You’ve got to be upbeat all the time. But truly, that’s not the life of an artist.

Now the funny thing about getting older is you get younger. All the trappings of being an adult, making your way in the world, fade away. You desire the sensations of your youth. You long for the feelings of yore. You desire to be taken away from the everyday grind. Which is one of the reasons the dinosaurs do such good business on the road. Oldsters don’t want to shoot selfies, they want to revel in the sound.

And all these songs are inside our brains, they’re part of us, they helped get us through. And they pop up at strange times. They may not have even been your favorites, but you know them by heart. They’re in your brain when you wake up, you’re singing them to yourself, you never know when a song will grab you. Just now “I Am a Child” was playing in my brain.

I’m listening to it now.

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