On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.
My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.
I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.
So long as I post everyday (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be…
Buffalo Springfield – For What It’s Worth (1967)
We’re staying in the US today, dear reader, and heading west to California to enjoy the company of a rock band sometimes partial to psychedelia. Buffalo Springfield had a very brief time together from 1966 – 1968 and among their members were two notable names – Stephen Stills and Neil Young. Their biggest hit just happens to be the one that 1001 Songs has opted for.. Written by Stephen Stills, For What It’s Worth is considered one of the most famous protest songs from the 1960s.
Stills was inspired to write the song in response to clashes between the police and demonstrators on Sunset Strip, Hollywood, California. Music fans were attending clubs such as Whiskey a Go Go and locals began to complain that their large numbers were causing disturbances and traffic jams late at night. A curfew was put in place to quell the problem leading to demonstrations at the injustice of such actions and subsequently clashes with the police. For What It’s Worth was born of these events with the narrator observing the two opposing lines – police and protestors – coming together and fighting. Each repetition of the chorus beseeches those gathered to stop and observe the calamity that is unfolding around them.
I recall hearing For What It’s Worth in the past though I can’t specify where exactly. Buffalo Springfield would hit the US Top 10 with this song in 1967 and it’s not hard to see why. It taps into the counterculture of the late 1960s and how not all of society was willing to embrace such change. My only other familiarity with Buffalo Springfield is what I consider a superior song to this – Expecting to Fly – which is well worth a listen if you have never heard it. The group would disband in 1968. Neil Young went on to have a successful solo career. Stephen Stills formed Crosby, Stills and Nash with David Crosby from The Byrds and Graham Nash from The Hollies. It will be interesting to see if Stills or Young make another appearance on this list.
Favourite songs so far:
Ben E. King – Stand By Me (1961)
The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)
Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)
The Righteous Brothers – Unchained Melody (1965)
The Who – Substitute (1966)
The Rolling Stones – Paint It Black (1966)
The Beach Boys – God Only Knows (1966)
The Beatles – Eleanor Rigby (1966)
The Monkees – I’m a Believer (1966)
The Doors – The End (1967)