Posted on March 3, 2015 by Trace

 T U E S D A Y  T U N E S  
‘For What It’s Worth’ by
was inspired by an event that took place during the early stages of the psychedelic era in 1966,  the year in which the band started playing as the house band at the Whisky a Go Go on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles.

julian_wasser_sunset_strip_riots_mta_bus_19662012_jwap_41_1280x1024_q80 According to the L.A Times,  annoyed residents and business owners in the district had encouraged the passage of a strict 10:00 p.m curfew and loitering laws to reduce the traffic congestion resulting from crowds of young club patrons. This was subsequently perceived by local rock and roll music fans as an infringement on their civil rights, fliers were distributed along the Strip inviting people to demonstrate.

Hours before the protest one of L.A.’s rock ‘n’ roll radio stations announced there would be a rally at Pandora’s Box, a club on Sunset Boulevard and cautioned people to tread carefully. The Times reported that as many as 1,000 youthful demonstrators,  including such celebrities as Jack Nicholson and Peter Fonda (who was afterward handcuffed by police), erupted in protest against the perceived repressive enforcement of these recently invoked curfew laws.


Though often mistaken for an anti-war song, it was this first of the “Sunset Strip riots” which inspired then Buffalo Springfield band member Stephen Stills to write “For What It’s Worth”, recorded about three weeks after on December 5, 1966.

BuffaloSpringfield.ForWhatItsWorthStephen Stills recalls: “I had this idea 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 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 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 ‘For What It’s Worth,’  took as long to write as it took me to get the lyrics down. It took about fifteen minutes.”


“For What It’s Worth”

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….



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