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Boomer Anthems: Buffalo Springfield – For What It’s Worth 1967

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

“I had had something kicking around in my head. I wanted to write something about the kids that were on the line over in Southeast Asia that didn’t have anything to do with the device of this mission, which was unraveling before our eyes. Then we came down to Sunset from my place on Topanga with a guy – I can’t remember his name – and there’s a funeral for a bar, one of the favorite spots for high school and UCLA kids to go and dance and listen to music.

[Officials] decided to call out the official riot police because there’s three thousand kids sort of standing out in the street; there’s no looting, there’s no nothing. It’s everybody having a hang to close this bar. A whole company of black and white LAPD in full Macedonian battle array in shields and helmets and all that, and they’re lined up across the street, and I just went ‘Whoa! Why are they doing this?’ There was no reason for it. I went back to Topanga, and that other song turned into ‘For What It’s Worth,’ and it took as long to write as it took me to settle on the changes and write the lyrics down. It all came as a piece, and it took about fifteen minutes.”

Although “For What It’s Worth” is often seen as an anti-war song, Stephen Stills was inspired to write the track because of the Sunset Strip curfew riots in November 1966—a series of early counterculture-era clashes that took place between police and young people on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood, California, beginning in mid-1966, the same year Buffalo Springfield had become the house band at the Whisky a Go Go on the Sunset Strip. Local residents and businesses had become annoyed by how crowds of young people going to clubs and music venues along the Strip had caused late-night traffic congestion. In response, they lobbied the city to pass local ordinances stopping loitering and enforced a strict curfew on the Strip after 10 pm. The young music fans, however, felt the new laws infringed upon their civil rights.

On Saturday, November 12, 1966, fliers were distributed on the Sunset Strip inviting people to join demonstrations later that day. Several of Los Angeles’ rock radio stations also announced a rally outside the Pandora’s Box club on the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Crescent Heights. That evening, as many as 1,000 young demonstrators, including future celebrities such as Jack Nicholson and Peter Fonda (who was handcuffed by police) gathered to protest against the curfew’s enforcement. Although the rallies began peacefully, trouble eventually broke out. The unrest continued the next night, and periodically throughout the rest of November and December, forcing some clubs to shut down within weeks. It was against the background of these civil disturbances that Stills recorded “For What It’s Worth” on December 5, 1966.

There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind

It’s 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

It’s 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

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  • jwm October 31, 2018, 4:10 PM

    A clerk at the local Fed Mart sly dogged the Buffalo Springfield album into the dumpster along with Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and Surrealistic Pillow. He probably figured on going to retrieve them after work. He didn’t count on us kids doing some dumpster diving. THAT was the score of the summer.


  • bfwebster October 31, 2018, 4:37 PM

    This song (“For What It’s Worth”) has long been on my ‘Mornings’ playlist (Amazon Music), which I have Alexa play each morning when I get up to fix both the dog and me some breakfast. I am amazed at how on-point it (“Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong”) is 50 years later.

    Here’s the song most recently added to that playlist. I think it sums up perfectly, in a very sweet way, the current madness that reigns on social media.


  • Gray October 31, 2018, 5:07 PM

    Yawn. Just another polezniye duraki with a musical instrument.

  • Skorpion October 31, 2018, 5:23 PM

    Another song about the incident: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lC8CSM2r-ws

  • JoeDaddy October 31, 2018, 5:30 PM

    Just got a ticket last week to see him and Judy Collins next week. Stills is superb. Have seen him solo and with CS & N. You’re welcome.

  • Jack November 1, 2018, 8:51 AM

    I love Haley Reinhart but clowns are only fit for target practice with large caliber rifles. He reminded me of Damon Wayans but Wayans was funny.


  • Callmelennie November 1, 2018, 11:54 AM

    Some of your “Boomer Anthem” selections cause no end of head scratching for me, GV .. not this time

    This is a boomer anthem!!

  • Vanderleun November 1, 2018, 1:24 PM

    So is “We Gotta Get Out of This Place.”

    Same vintage too.

  • H November 1, 2018, 6:46 PM

    Let me play for you the song of my people: