For What It’s Worth

New MM Music Badge

Folk rock band guitarist Stephen Stills of Buffalo Springfield was inspired to write ‘For What It’s Worth’ because of the Sunset Strip curfew riots that culminated in November 1966.  This song charted #7 in the US and it eventually became part of their 1966 eponymous debut album.  It was not originally included, but after ‘For What It’s Worth’ became a hit single, it replaced ‘Baby Don’t Scold Me’ on re-issues of the album.  In the 60’s, Los Angeles was the home for many rock & roll groups including Buffalo Springfield, The Byrds, Canned Heat, The Chambers Brothers, The Doors, Electric Prunes, Love, The May Wines, Mothers of Invention. The Seeds, The Sloths, The Standells and Yellow Payges.  On November 12, 1966, outside teen hangout Pandora’s Box, the infamous riot took place between police and young people on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood, California.  The riot itself was a long-simmering eruption triggered by weeks of harassment of teenage freaks by the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, which had begun to aggressively enforce the 10 p.m. curfew after a ceaseless tide of complaints from Sunset Boulevard business owners who were annoyed by the sidewalk-clogging congregation of youths.

The Establishment got pissed off at the long-haired hippies, not because they were walking down the street, sitting on bus benches, or just hanging out, these freaks were smoking dope in public, flashing their bare boobies at people who were driving down Sunset, and balling each other right on the sidewalk, so the cops were forced to crack down and bust them.  Fliers were distributed on the Sunset Strip inviting people to join demonstrations and Jack Nicholson, Peter Fonda, Sonny and Cher, Bob Denver the actor who portrayed Gilligan showed up to participate in this.  People could see that battle lines had been drawn.  In the end, the Man won as Pandora’s Box got bulldozed, to make sure it’d never come back.  Tiny Tim the singer, mot the crippled boy in Dickens A Christmas Carol said, “Fuck ‘em, I hope the cops beat the shit out of those hippie teenyboppers.”

These counterculture-era clashes began the same year Buffalo Springfield had become the house band at the Whisky a Go Go on the Sunset Strip.  Stills presented this song to the record company executive Ahmet Ertegun saying, “I have this song here, for what it’s worth, if you want it.”  This song helped launch the band to stardom and it has remained as one of the era’s most enduring protest songs.

Stephen Stills and his roommate, Peter Tork, both auditioned for the pop music TV show The Monkees.  Lucky for the world of rock, the twenty-year-old Stills was already losing his hair, his teeth were bad and he was deemed not to be camera-ready, thus Tork joined the Monkees, and Stills went on to become a rock legend.  In 1965, Young and Stills crossed paths at the Fourth Dimension, a coffee house and folk music club in Fort William, Ontario.  Stephen Stills made his way to Los Angeles looking to form a band after his failed audition for the Monkees.  He convinced his guitarist friend Richie Furay to join him with promises of fame and fortune.

During this same time frame, Neil Young was also in Los Angeles looking for Stills and hoping for rock and roll gold.  Young and his bassist Bruce Palmer made the trek from Canada after their band the Mynah Birds fell apart.  Stills was ready to call it quits on LA and head up to San Francisco, when the American record producer Barry Friedman was driving a white van, Stills was riding shotgun, and Richie was between them, leaning over from the backseat.  They were stuck in traffic waiting at a light on Sunset Boulevard when Furay spotted Young’s unmistakable car, which was a 1953 hearse stopped on the opposite side of the intersection, going the other way.  Stills flagged Young down, and within weeks, Buffalo Springfield was formed.  Stills knew another displaced Canadian Dewey Martin and Stills, Young, Bruce Palmer, Richie Furay, and drummer Dewey Martin started playing together on March 3rd of 1966.

Buffalo Springfield didn’t stay together for very long and this was their only hit.  In 1968, Stephen Stills went on to form Crosby, Stills & Nash with David Crosby of the Byrds and Graham Nash of the Hollies, while Richie Furay and Jim Messina formed Poco.  An all-star version of ‘For What It’s Worth’ with Tom Petty and others, was played at Buffalo Springfield’s induction by Petty to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997, which Young did not attend.  Stills is a double inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame both times in 1997, for being in Buffalo Springfield and being in Crosby, Stills and Nash.  Bruce Palmer died of a heart attack on October 1, 2004 in Belleville, Ontario, at the age of 58.  Dewey Martin died on January 31, 2009 in Van Nuys believed to be from natural causes.

There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware
I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
There are battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind
Its time we stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
What a field-day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side
Its 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
Stop, now, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
Stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down

The challenge today is to focus on this song and use it for inspiration in any form of creative expression (including but not limited to short stories, a piece of flash fiction, poems, lyrics, artwork, photography, (etc.) that you can share with the writing community.  If you are a musician, and you have played this song solo or in a group, then post a video to showcase your own work.  You could write about how you learned to play the chords or how you learned the lyrics.  There is no need to stick with this song, as if you like to write about another Buffalo Springfield, or a Poco song, or a song by Crosby, Stills & Nash, that would work.  You might also go with a protest song, or one that is about hippies.

The whole point of this MM Music challenge is to get you to think, to trigger something so that you can show how creative you are and everyone is welcome to participate.  This challenge is very loose, so pretty much whatever you come up with will be acceptable.  I try to throw some ideas out there for you and if they seem right, then go with it.  You could write about the good fortune that Stills had after failing his audition.  If you want to write about some good luck that you had, that would make an interesting story.

Dylan Hughes will be here on next Friday, January 3 with her First Line Friday and I suggest that everybody check out this fun prompt challenge. I will be back on Friday, January 10 with another MM Music Challenge where we will discuss the song ‘You Belong to The City’. When you are finished writing your post, create a ping back to this post, but you can also place your link in the comments section below if you desire. This Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie MM Music challenge has a special feature called Mr. Linky, which will allow you to instantly link your post after you click the Mr. Linky Button, and then follow the directions that are given.


  1. This is a great line: “Lucky for the world of rock, the twenty-year-old Stills was already losing his hair, his teeth were bad and he was deemed not to be camera-ready, thus Tork joined the Monkees, and Stills went on to become a rock legend.” Buffalo Springfield only had one hit song, this one?? Amazing. This is an excellent essay, Jim, and is a keeper for your next book, on Rock N Roll.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on A Unique Title For Me and commented:

    Some times you win and sometimes you lose, but everyone who participates in the Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie MM Music challenge is a winner. Stop by and check out an old Buffalo Springfield song ‘For What It’s Worth’.


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