♫ For What It’s Worth ♫ (Redux)

A few days ago, someone mentioned this song and it has stuck in my head ever since.  I didn’t think I had already played it, but it turns out I did … just over a year ago in March 2020.  I think this is especially relevant and timely since there is currently a bill before Parliament in the United Kingdom that would, among other things, give police the right to bar unauthorized encampments and detain protesters if gatherings are deemed a “public nuisance.” The new legislation, pending in Parliament, could also impose noise limits and set start and finish times on demonstrations.  There have been numerous protests against this bill, and last weekend at least 26 protestors were detained by police.  Seems this song never loses its relevance, eh?


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Written by Buffalo Springfield guitarist Stephen Stills, later of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, this song was not about anti-war gatherings, but rather youth gatherings protesting anti-loitering laws, and the closing of the West Hollywood nightclub Pandora’s Box. Stills was not there when they closed the club, but had heard about it from his bandmates.

In the book Neil Young: Long May You Run: The Illustrated History, Stephen Stills tells the story of this song’s origin:

“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.”

Buffalo Springfield was the band’s first album, and this song was not originally included on it. After For What It’s Worth became a hit single, it replaced Baby Don’t Scold Me on re-issues of the album.

For What It’s Worth
Buffalo Springfield

There’s something happening here
But 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’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 saying, “hooray for our side”

It’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
Step out of line, the men come and take you away

We better stop
Hey, what’s that sound?
Everybody look – what’s going down?

We better stop
Hey, what’s that sound?
Everybody look – what’s going down?

We better stop
Now, what’s that sound?
Everybody look – what’s going down?

We better stop
Children, what’s that sound?
Everybody look – what’s going down?

Writer/s: Stephen Stills
Publisher: Warner Chappell Music, Inc.
Lyrics licensed and provided by LyricFind

37 thoughts on “♫ For What It’s Worth ♫ (Redux)

    • Yes, it was your mention of it last week that stuck in my head and convinced me it should be played again. I read that many people think it was written as a result of Kent State, but that didn’t happen until 3 years after the song was released. Glad you enjoyed it!
      Cwtch

      Liked by 2 people

  1. This song took on anthem status as things got worse in the late 60s and early 70s. I never liked it much as I didn’t like the hate-filled treatment of our servicemen by those who decided they knew best who to blame for the war.

    Liked by 2 people

    • While I was not a fan of the Vietnam War and our involvement in it, I agree with you that it was unfair to blame the servicemen who were only doing their job. Not everybody could afford to escape to Canada or buy a doctor’s excuse for a 4F status. I still like the song, though … like the rhythm of it as much as anything.

      Liked by 1 person

          • You are too kind, Jill, but thank you. You are right about not always sharing the same political opinions, but I do respect your intentions. You have the right to express your beliefs without censorship which is why I don’t challenge your views even when I disagree. I believe at the end of the day a more understanding view of both sides of any question will be the key to a more settled world. I wish the dopes (both sides) in Washington could adopt a clearer understanding of what is good for the country rather than their personal agenda. Thank you again.

            Liked by 1 person

            • All I want, really, is for people to work together toward a common goal of saving the planet and learning to live together. Sigh. I’ve concluded that … not many share my views and I am largely wasting 10-12 hours a day learning, researching, writing. But, if there is hope for this planet, for the human species, it comes from men like you who care … that’s the key here … caring. Hugs, my dear friend.

              Liked by 1 person

    • Willing or not, the American soldiers went to Vietnam and murdered, and were murdered by, Vietnamese soldiers. Many of those heaping the hate-filled treatment of [y]our servicemen were ex-soldiers returned from the war and free to state their true feelings. There are two sides, at least, to everything, John, and we were protesting the senseless killing of non-combatant women and children. Remember My Lai!
      I once wrote a protest song about the Vietnam War for a novel I wrote, never published. (There was never any music written for it, because I would not know a musical note from a note left on a fridge door) but I will offer you the lyrics, sir. This is how us flower children/hippes felt about war in general, and the Vietnam War in particular. JILL, I apologize in advance for the language, but I needed to show the anger that was exposed by that language:
      Body-Bag Parade
      See them lying on the ground
      Dying bodies all around
      Hear the bullets in the air
      Whistling here whining there
      Ripping into human skulls
      Finding homes in human hulls
      Bringing death to those alive
      IS THIS THE END FOR WHICH WE STRIVE!
      Give us peace give us peace
      Make this fucking dumb war cease
      Bring our brothers home today
      Stop the body-bag parade
      See the boy from New York die
      A bullet blasting through his eye
      See the boy from Houston Tex
      A bayonet thrust through his neck
      See the boy from Washington
      Underneath the jungle sun
      His rotting carcass can’t be saved
      NO ONE TO DIG THE BOY A GRAVE
      (Spoken)
      In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
      Between the crosses row on row
      That mark our place and in the sky
      The larks still bravely singing fly
      Scarce heard amid the guns below
      We are the dead short days ago
      We lived felt dawn saw sunset glow
      Loved and were loved and now we lie
      In Flanders Fields our voices cry
      WE DIDN’T WANT TO FUCKING DIE!
      Give us peace give us peace
      Make this fucking dumb war cease
      Bring our brothers home today
      Stop the body-bag parade
      Down the street the casket comes
      The only child of aging mom
      She has no reason left to live
      Nothing else that she can give
      The army took it all away
      They offer her his unspent pay
      She’d sooner have her dead boy back
      PUT THE COLONEL IN THE SACK!
      Give us peace give us peace
      Make this fucking dumb war cease
      Bring our brothers home today
      Stop the body-bag parade
      Give us peace give us peace
      Make this fucking dumb war cease
      Bring our brothers home today
      Stop the body-bag parade
      Stop the body-bag parade
      Stop the body-bag parade
      Stop the body-bag parade
      Stop the body-bag parade
      I am not trying to take your feelings away, John, but seeing as you brought this up, I thought I should tell you ours–and mine.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I know your side all too well. My expression of dislike for the song is in the context of knowing your side. Your words are very powerful and express the anger of the time very well. I still don’t like the song. Thanks, Rawgod.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I will just say, no adversity intended, that anger still exists today with all the gun violence in the world, including Canada. America is the poster boy for gun violence, as tragic as that is. I still want to see peace before I die, as impossible as that is. (and just so you know, please, the name is rawgod, no R.)

          Liked by 1 person

          • I did not take your comment as adversarial. If I thought you were adversarial I would not have answered. I sincerely hope you see peace before you die and trust that you will most certainly after. You and I have the same desire but I don’t think we will ever get there while both sides spew hatred directed at each other. In fact, I am completely at a loss when people who espouse the desire for peace do it. Thanks for your comment rawgod.

            Like

  2. I got to admit, I have kind of ambivalent feelings about this song , but I’m not taking up space to be sour.
    What strikes me, and music does have this timeless quality is how you could have tuned this song in now and it has a stronger and more chilling relevance at Capitol Hill 6th January 2021. A stronger warning.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. A real gem that I’ve loved since it was first released. Not long after that saw all the student upheavals of 1968, especially in France, and then there was Kent State. It has never lost its relevance, sadly. As you say, although the former guy has gone his Mini-Me is still using his playbook, as we here move ever closer to a police state which doesn’t allow opposition or protest. It appears that depriving people of their vote isn’t the only way to remove democracy.

    Liked by 2 people

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