BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD is the name of Buffalo Springfield’s first album from 1966. This article addresses certain misconceptions on the first Buffalo Springfield album. And one of the problems has been Wikipedia: this site has grown immeasurably since its launching in 2001. And its growth is way beyond the expectations of its initial detractors—of which I was one.
Ten years ago, quoting from Wikipedia in an article intended for intelligent readers often brought derisive comments or outright guffaws. Such is not the case today—most of the time. Still, there are still a whole helluva lot of entries that have been apparently written by self-diagnosed experts who don’t know they are, in fact, quite ignorant of their chosen topic, or at least of specific details of those topics. (Or almost as bad, stylists who don’t know they can’t write very well.)
Note that this article, “on the first buffalo springfield album,” is an edited version of an article titled “for what it’s worth, Buffalo Springfield is a better album than you think.” The biggest difference is the inclusion of the images and captions and additional information in the price guide section (below).
You can’t tell by the front cover of the album whether the record within is a first pressing with Baby Don’t Scold Me or a second with For What It’s Worth. The back cover lists which track is on the record, but a few later records have been found in original jackets. For the mono covers, the front cover slick is pulled up, exposing the white border along with bottom with the black box that says “Mono 33-200.”
Wikipedia on “Buffalo Springfield”
Buffalo Springfield is one of my faverave groups of all time, and, whereas the majority of fans and critics would choose their second album, BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD AGAIN, as their best album—and that’s because it is their best—nonetheless, the one that reaches me the deepest is their eponymous first album.
And, alas, the entry in Wikipedia for this album is a glaring example of old-style Wikignorance. Whoever made the entry—and it’s far too brief for an album by such an important, influential group—is rather clueless about the record’s history. Here is the complete review as it appears in Wikipedia on this date (July 26, 2013) with a few type-setting changes to keep it in tune with the rest of my blog:
“BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD is the self-titled debut album by folk-rock band Buffalo Springfield, released in late 1966. It was originally released in both mono and stereo versions as Atco (SD) 33-200, but when the single For What It’s Worth became a hit, the album was re-released as Atco (SD) 33-200A adding it but dropping Baby Don’t Scold Me.
Baby Don’t Scold Me has never been reissued in stereo: all CD releases feature only the mono mix. The band was generally unhappy with the sound of the album and felt that it didn’t reflect the intensity of their live shows.”
And th-th-that’s all, folks! Note that the wording of the second sentence in the first paragraph is confusing: it can be read to mean that the reissue of the album with For What It’s Worth was in stereo only. 1
This terse tidbit is followed by a track listing of the two versions of the album, which is nice to have to be able to see the changes that the substitution of the excellent single for the mediocre LP track allowed the group or producer to make on the album. The entry on this album ends with two sentences on the compact-disc reissues (which are of no relevance here).
For the stereo covers, the front cover slick is pulled down, exposing more of the black field at the top and the white box that reads “Stereo SD-33-200.”
Nowadays everybody’s burned
For those of my readers that want something longer, more informative—and factually correct—please read my review below. It was originally intended as a submission to Wikipedia but, once I decided that getting me own blog up mattered most, this was set aside for inclusion in this site. (That does NOT mean that I won’t submit it to Wikipedia in the future.) Right on . . . I mean, read on:
Buffalo Springfield’s self-titled début album was released in December 1966. The album was issued in mono as Atco 33-200 and in stereo as SD-33-200. It featured both sides of their first two singles, Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing / Go And Say Goodbye and Burned / Everybody’s Wrong, neither of which had received much attention from AM radio and neither had entered the national Top 100 singles surveys.
The album’s twelve tracks combined rock and pop with a few folkie flourishes but the country influences were much more pronounced. This gave the group a distinct sound that is often—and rather inaccurately—referred to as “folk-rock.” Note that this original version of the album—its first pressing—included Baby Don’t Scold Me as the fourth track on the second side.
Despite the very obvious influence of country on the writing of the music, the content of the lyrics, and the singing of the songs (especially by Richie Furay), it is rarely referred to as “country-rock,” although that is the more accurate term to most listeners. And they were doing this at a time when few rockers looked at country & western with anything other than disdain.
And, musical and cultural historians take note: Buffalo Springfield was doing this more than a year before SWEETHEART OF THE RODEO and THE FANTASTIC EXPEDITION OF DILLARD & CLARK and almost two years before THE GILDED PALACE OF SIN!
Without a hit single and little national attention from the aforementioned Top 40 radio stations, the album fared as poorly on the national charts as the earlier singles, failing to crack the Top 100 LP surveys. It would have been deleted, cut out, and forgotten had it not been for Steven Stills’ outraged response to the police crackdown on teens hanging out on the Strip.
The second singe, Burned, had too much of a county feel for most Top 40 radio stations in 1966. The commercial pressing is much harder to find than the promo seen above nut none of the pressings of either of these two records carry a big-ticket price on the collectors market.
Something’s happening here
In early 1967, the group’s third single, For What It’s Worth, became a national Top 10 hit. Steve Stills’ lyrics related his response to the police riots on Sunset Strip when local businessmen and politicians requested that the Strip be made palatable for decent (sic) people.
The song and the recording—even the arrangement and production – captured the sense of paranoia that would dominate the second half of the decade: “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.”
For a fascinating account of the Strip and the times and the attitudes of the powers-that-be that led to the crackdown and eventual assault by the police on the scenesters, give a read to Dominic Priore’s book Riot On Sunset Strip: Rock ‘n’ Roll’s Last Stand In 60s Hollywood.
In a year that would see enormous changes in popular music and culture, For What Its Worth was an early, clarion call to awareness that The Establishment and The Man were not going to sit by idly as these changes took place.
While the group’s third single, For What It’s Worth, Atco did not bother with a picture sleeve for the US release. But Atlantic in Japan did issue a nice looking sleeve (above top). Given the topical nature of the record, presenting the group in a rustic setting seems odd (although it may have been a bit an attempt at irony).
Baby don’t scold me
To capitalize on the single’s success, Atco reformatted the BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD album, placing For What It’s Worth as the lead-off track on the first side. They shuffled the original track line-up around and made room for the new track by dropping the original album’s least impressive track, Baby Don’t Scold Me, from the line-up.
In March 1967, this new version of the album (a sort of second edition) was released in BOTH mono and stereo, as Atco 33-200A and SD-33-200A, respectively. This album sold better than the previous edition, peaking at #80 on the Billboard LP charts. While the mono version of the album was deleted from the company’s catalog in mid-1968, the stereo version remained in print for years.
For a long time, BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD was overlooked by critics and writers: the recordings’ flat and lifeless sound (blame falls on the producer and the engineers) played a large part in that. In the past few decades, this album has been re-evaluated: the strong songs and the strong performances are difficult to overlook.
The three exceptional lead singers—Furay, Stills, and Neil Young—who also harmonized nicely (and with a pronounced country feel, NOT folk) and were three fine songwriters. Stills and Young were both exceptional, if idiosyncratic, lead guitar players, each with a unique sound. The album now enjoys a much more favorable reputation.
Somewhere in the intervening years, the stereo master tape for Baby Don’t Scold Me was ‘misplaced’—which is record company jargon for stupidly-tossed-in-the-garbage or foolishly-reused-and-taped-over or idiotically-allowed-to-leave-the-studio (i.e., stolen). Consequently, Baby Don’t Scold Me has not been reissued in stereo since the original 1966 pressing of the album (SD-33-200) was deleted from the catalog! All compact-disc releases feature the mono mix.
This poster incorporates photographs from the riot and the protests on Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, California, in 1966. I found it on the Center for the Study of Political Graphics website, which notes two differing explanations for its origin: (1) it was made by an SDS member trying to organize the youth on Sunset Strip or (2) it was made by Buffalo Springfield’s management commemorating the Pandora’s Box riots on the Sunset Strip.
Avid Record Collector’s Price Guide
Both of the two early singles noted above are rather rare, although the prices paid for them do not reflect the difficulty that you would have finding a near mint (NM) copy in 2013. Researching these records, I came across both a listing and an image of a picture sleeve for the first single, Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing. I have never heard of this item before, let alone seen one. This, of course, makes me want to question the authenticity of this item . . .
Regarding the two pressings of the album: on the first pressing with Baby Don’t Scold Me, the stereo version (SD-33-200) is much more difficult to find than the mono (33-200). Consequently, it is a rarer and more valuable record.
The reason? In 1966, first pressings of many LPs—and especially of a début album from an unknown artist—were generally the mono version, because it cost less to manufacture and subsequently cost less to buy than the stereo version.
The opposite is the case for the second pressing of the album: by early 1967, it was obvious that stereo was the sound of the future—the immediate future. By the end of the year, every major record company in the US had decided to simply stop manufacturing albums in monaural and offer only stereo records to their customers.
It is absolutely true that this was a mercenary act, as the suggested retail price of a stereo album at the time was one dollar ($1) more than a mono album! It didn’t cost THAT much more to record and make a stereo record, hence the mark-up provided a larger profit.
To be fair to the companies, it is also absolutely true that we were all enamored of stereo, especially in the wake of SGT. PEPPER and the many wondrous psych-based albums that followed, (And this is where the legacy of the fabulous sounding Moody Blues’ albums are forgotten if not disparaged by petty critics. But that’s another story for another time, no?). That is, the majority of record buyers wanted stereo, not mono—and the companies gave us what we wanted!
So, there was only one pressing of the mono version of the BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD album with For That It’s Worth (33-200A) and it was out of print less than twelve months after release! The only stereo pressing of value is the first: it has a purple-plum colored top with an orange-brown bottom separated by a white band with “ATCO” in big bold letters.
• A first pressing mono (Atco 33-200) and stereo (Atco SD-33-200) record and jacket of BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD with Baby Don’t Scold Me in near mint (NM) condition is worth $100-150.
• A second pressing mono (Atco 33-200A) record and jacket of BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD with For What It’s Worth in near mint (NM) condition is worth $50-60.
• A second pressing stereo (Atco SD-33-200A) record with multi-colored labels and jacket of BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD with For What It’s Worth in near mint (NM) condition is worth $30-40.
The stereo version (SD-33-200A) remained in print through the vinyl era (into the ’80s); subsequent pressings had yellow labels are merely used records with a nominal value. Note that the actual rarity of this album has been overstated: more than 100 copies have sold on eBay in the past ten years, with prices paid fluctuating from $25 to $290!
“Buffalo Springfield’s first album was first listed as an October release in the October 22, 1966, issue of Billboard. Next, it shows up again as a new release in the November 19, 1966, issue. It then appears in a Spotlight review in the November 26 issue, so its release was likely delayed from October.
The Monarch number for the mono album indicates a record that came out in December 1966. Either this is a second Monarch number, or Monarch did not press copies in November. The set of Monarch numbers for the mono and stereo versions of the record containing For What It’s Worth correspond to a release in the first week of March 1967.” – Frank Daniels 2
By the time that GRT released the BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD album as 3¾ ips, 4-track reel tape in 1967, they were album to brag about the inclusion of the hit single For What It’s Worth with a blurb on the front cover slick on the front of the tape box.
As stated above, BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD is my faverave Springfield album, although I freely admit that the group’s second album BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD AGAIN is artistically a much more significant album. But the unpolished sound on these initial recordings has a charm that evidently escaped countless listeners for many years, but not me.
Thankfully, that time is over and younger listeners who have spent years listening to near ‘garage rock’ sounding albums by up-and-coming artists/groups (who rarely make it up) do not have the fascination or obsession with the elevated sounds of highly produced and polished albums that marked the second half of the ’60s.
This high-gloss sound/feel was carried to almost compulsive extremes in the ’70s and ’80s, when the technology practically wiped out the feel, the grit, the soul—which combined I have termed resonance—of the music and its actual recording. I often wonder what a magnificent album, both musically and technically, like Fleetwood Mac’s RUMOURS would sound like had it been recorded in 1969. Better, no doubt—more resonant!—but that, too, is another story for another time . . .
FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top pf this page was taken in Los Angeles in 1966. According to the article “Iconic Rock Star Photos by Henry Diltz” on the CBS News website. According to that site, Diltz was invited by Stephen Stills to the Springfield’s soundcheck at a club in Redondo Beach. As Diltz was shooting this big mural on the back of the club, the group walked out the back door. Diltz said, “Hey, you guys. Just stand there for a minute.” A few days later, Teen Set magazine called offered him $100 for the photo. Diltz’s career as a photographer was launched.
1 The review quoted above has been edited by the Wikipedia editors and this review can now be found in its place as of January 28, 2105. The second sentence in the first paragraph remains ambiguous (but I let the compact disc reference remain this time):
“BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD is the self-titled debut album by folk-rock band Buffalo Springfield, released in late 1966. It was originally released in both mono and stereo versions as Atco (SD) 33-200, but when the single For What It’s Worth became a hit, the album was re-released as Atco (SD) 33-200A adding [For What It’s Worth] but dropping Baby Don’t Scold Me [which] has never been reissued in stereo: all CD releases feature only the mono mix.
The album was produced by the group’s managers, Charles Greene and Brian Stone, each of whom had minimal experience as a record producer, and the band was generally unhappy with the sound of the album and felt that it didn’t reflect the intensity of their live shows.
The band asked Atco for time to re-record the album, but the label, not wanting to miss the Christmas holiday season, insisted that the record be released as it was. However, the label did give Stills and Young permission to personally mix the mono version of the LP themselves, and the Buffalo Springfield have long insisted that their mono version was superior to the stereo version.”
2 Monarch Record Manufacturing Company Plating & Pressing plant in Los Angeles was used by many independent record companies and even the majors when they were overloaded at their own plants. Records pressed by Monarch have a delta, or triangle, and an “MR” in a circle stamped or etched in the trail-off vinyl. In 1985, the company changed its name to Electrosound.