Buffalo Springfield – Mr Soul

Buffalo Springfield is a band that never quite reached its true potential but still made a big impression in the late sixties. This song comes in with a bang. “Mr. Soul”  It was written by Young after experiencing an epilepsy attack after an early show with Buffalo Springfield in San Francisco. Many people in the audience were questioning if it was part of the act.

The lyrics had reflected Young’s experience, feeling as though he was about to die. Thereupon, he was advised by his doctor to never take LSD or any other hallucinogenic drugs.

The song was the first track of their second album Buffalo Springfield Again. The song did not chart.

From Songfacts

One hardly knows where to begin with this song’s lyrics. In just three short verses with no chorus, Young practically flaunts his lyrical prowess at this early stage in his career. He invokes both Beatles and early proto-punk, in verses that manage to be both angry and whimsical at the same time. Like the team of Lennon-McCartney, Young and Stills experienced friendly rivalry with their equally matched talents that also inspired each of them to top the other, bringing their work to an edginess that drove them to brilliance.

At the time of “Mr. Soul,” Young was wavering on leaving the band. His first departure was on the eve of Buffalo Springfield’s booking to appear on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, which he was vehemently opposed to. Young later told British music magazine Mojo, “I thought it was belittling what the Buffalo Springfield was doing. That audience wouldn’t have understood us. We’d have been just a f–kin’ curiosity to them.”

Along with missing The Tonight Show, Young’s sudden departure also cast a cold shadow over Buffalo Springfield’s appearance at the now-legendary 1967 Monterey International Pop Festival. Buffalo Springfield brought in Doug Hastings to substitute on guitar and had Stephen Stills’ friend David Crosby drop by to assist with the Festival appearance, but even so, the group’s performance suffered so much that they were dropped from the Pennebaker documentary.

The book Neil Young: Long May You Run: The Illustrated History says that this song “was likely more indicative of where his [Young’s] head truly was. Much like the songs from the Springfield’s debut, ‘Mr. Soul’ suggests that Young’s work was still razor-sharp, even when it was coming from a very unhappy place.”

While we’re book-hopping, there are some ties between Buffalo Springfield members and Al Kooper (of Blues Project / Blood Sweat & Tears fame). In Kooper’s memoir Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards, Kooper consulted with David Crosby when the idea of Blood Sweat & Tears was forming in his mind, and also recruited Jim Fielder (Frank Zappa and the Mothers alumni), who also part of Buffalo Springfield when they were seeking a replacement for Bruce Palmer’s continuous absences. And then Stephen Stills himself popped by to fill in for Mike Bloomfield when Kooper, in a panic, called him to help complete the album Super Session. There, is that enough threads weaving everything together?

Robin Lane ran in Young’s circle in the late ’60s. She also lived with him for some time and sang on “Round and Round (It Won’t Be Long).” Lane told Songfacts that the song “Mr. Soul” was inspired in some way by the death of Lenny Bruce, who died less a year before the song was recorded. In Shakey, Jimmy McDonough writes that Young himself had no recollection of the Bruce connection.

Mr. Soul

Oh, hello Mr. Soul, I dropped by to pick up a reason
For the thought that I caught that my head is the event of the season
Why in crowds just a trace of my face could seem so pleasin’
I’ll cop out to the change, but a stranger is putting the tease on.

I was down on a frown when the messenger brought me a letter
I was raised by the praise of a fan who said I upset her
Any girl in the world could have easily known me better
She said, You’re strange, but don’t change, and I let her.

In a while will the smile on my face turn to plaster?
Stick around while the clown who is sick does the trick of disaster
For the race of my head and my face is moving much faster
Is it strange I should change? I don’t know, why don’t you ask her?

Buffalo Springfield – Broken Arrow

I first heard this song in the eighties and have been intrigued by it ever since. It’s a song that is in sections and it’s hard to explain it with words… There is something haunting and beautiful about it. One of the most interesting Neil Young songs I have ever heard. Any song with the lyric “He hung up his eyelids and ran down the hall” grabs my attention.

Every time I hear it it’s like going on a voyage to the unknown. This song did not chart when it was released in 1967 and it’s not hard to understand why…

From Songfacts

Neil Young wrote this after breaking up with the group because of what he called “An identity crisis.” He quickly returned to the band and recorded this song. In a Rolling Stone interview about what broke up Buffalo Springfield; Young said, “I was going crazy, you know, joining and quitting and joining again. I began to feel like I didn’t have to answer or obey anyone. I needed more space.” Meanwhile, his Buffalo Springfield bandmate Stephen Stills concurs, saying in part: “We were of the age where you can very easily get the diva syndrome before you’ve sold any records or anything and all that stuff, and there was a little of that. And it was so laden with talent, this bunch, that we just hit the track going too fast that we went into the wall with no skid marks. It was just… we spun out. But we spun out because we didn’t realize how hot the car was.”

This track took over 100 hours to record, which was an eternity by 1967 standards. “Broken Arrow” sometimes draws raised eyebrows for being so oddly arranged – rather like the Beatles’ psychedelic period such as “Revolution 9.” Perhaps it is this song which longtime Young collaborator David Briggs had in mind when he said, “When you make rock and roll, the more you think, the more you stink.”

Dewey Martin, who was Buffalo Springfield’s drummer, sang the first verse of Mr. Soul in this tune. The track was produced by Jack Nitzsche, and the jazzy piano solo at the end is by Don Randi. 

Of “Broken Arrow,” Peter Frampton had this to say: “Ever since the Buffalo Springfield, ‘Broken Arrow’ – I think that’s the one that did it for me, that just put him at the top of my list as one of my favorites. And to have him and Stephen Stills in the same band, ’cause I love both of them, was incredible. But Neil is just an amazing performer as well as, obviously, the amazing songs he’s written. I’m a big fan.”

Broken Arrow

The lights turned on and the curtain fell down
And when it was over it felt like a dream 
They stood at the stage door and begged for a scream 
The agents had paid for the black limousine 
That waited outside in the rain 
Did you see them, did you see them? 
Did you see them in the river? 
They were there to wave to you 
Could you tell that the empty quivered 
Brown skinned Indian on the banks 
That were crowded and narrow 
Held a broken arrow? 

Eighteen years of American dream, 
He saw that his brother had sworn on the wall 
He hung up his eyelids and ran down the hall 
His mother had told him a trip was a fall 
And don’t mention babies at all 
Did you see him, did you see him? 
Did you see him in the river? 
He was there to wave to you 
Could you tell that the empty quivered
Brown skinned Indian on the banks 
That were crowded and narrow
Held a broken arrow? 

The streets were lined for the wedding parade 
The Queen wore the white gloves, the county of song 
The black covered caisson her horses had drawn 
Protected her king from the sun rays of dawn 
They married for peace and were gone 
Did you see them, did you see them? 
Did you see them in the river? 
They were there to wave to you 
Could you tell that the empty quivered 
Brown skinned Indian on the banks 
That were crowded and narrow
Held a broken arrow?

Remembering Buffalo Springfield

Buffalo Springfield is a band that gets lost in the shuffle at times. People know their big hit “For What It’s Worth” but little about the band. They were only active between 1966-68 but had a huge impact on other artists. The band was very talented……with Neil Young, Stephen Stills, Richie Furay, Bruce Palmer, Dewey Martin and Jim Messina who replaced Bruce Palmer. They had some great songs like Mr Soul, Now days Clancy Can’t Even Sing, Burned, Expecting to Fly, Bluebird, Rock and Roll Woman, Broken Arrow and their big hit For What It’s Worth…

I just read Neil Young’s book “Waging Heavy Peace” and he said that the end of Buffalo Springfield started because the bass player Bruce Palmer kept getting busted for drugs and taken away…more than once… By 1968 it was over and what a waste with the potential they had…The remaining members reunited in 2011 and played 6 concerts… in 2012 they were going to tour and do 30 concerts. Neil quit and did an album with Crazy Horse. He has a history of leaving projects when they don’t interest him anymore.

If this band would have stayed together originally… it’s little doubt they would have gotten much bigger than they did with the talented members they had in place.

The song Broken Arrow deserves its own blog. It’s a song that is in sections and it’s hard to explain it with words… There is something haunting and beautiful about it. I listen to it now and it’s like Buffalo Springfield’s own A Day In The Life. It was produced in 1967 during the psychedelic era. My friend and I played guitars together in the 80s and we would sit and try to figure out what the song meant… It doesn’t really matter…it’s a great song. One of my favorite songs of all time…any song with the lyric “He hung up his eyelids and ran down the hall” grabs my attention.

Right after the breakup, Stephen Stills helped formed Crosby, Stills, and Nash….short time later Young came aboard and would join them occasionally. Furay and Messina help form Poco and Messina teamed up with Kenny Loggins latter on.

They made three albums while together. Buffalo Springfield (1966), Buffalo Springfield Again (1967) and Last Time Around (1968). A greatest hits came out in 1969 called Retrospective The Best of Buffalo Springfield. A box set was released in 2001.