New Song: Stevie Nicks’ Covers Stephen Stills’ “For What It’s Worth” – A Protest Song For The Ages


*Image above taken from Stevie Nicks’ Instagram page

For those of you who are handwriting-reading impaired like me, here is the text of Stevie Nicks’ handwritten note regarding her new cover of the Stephen Stills’ penned song, originally recorded by the Buffalo Springfield:

I am so excited to release my new song this Friday (9/30). It’s called “For What It’s Worth” and it was written by Stephen Stills in 1966. It meant something to me then, and it means something to me now. I always wanted to interpret it thru (sic) the eyes of a woman – and it seems like today, in the times that we live in – that it has a lot to say…

I can’t wait for you to hear it. Stevie Nicks

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” – “For What It’s Worth,” Stephen Stills

We’re not a political blog here at B&V. As I’m fond of saying, “I’m a lover, not a fighter.” But there are occasions in this life where art and politics intersect. The best of art – whether it’s painting, poetry or music – reflects the times in which it’s created. And to quote the movie Aliens, Hey, maybe you haven’t been keeping up on current events, but we just got our asses kicked, pal!” These are deeply troubled times. I keep waiting for someone to step forward with a protest song that captures the moment. From Iran – where the “Morality Police” killed a woman for not wearing her hijab “correctly,” – all the way to Ohio, women and their basic human rights are under siege from conservative, uptight, old men. Who will step forward and lead us musically out of the darkness… Will it be some new artist? Sadly, no. It’s icon, legend Stevie Nicks, who has recorded a song originally written in 1966 by Stephen Stills, who has captured the current moment’s protest in song. Words written almost 60 years ago seem so relevant today… “there’s a man with a gun over there, telling me I got to beware…” Sad that this song still feels so urgent today.

I’ve been a fan of Stevie Nicks almost from the beginning of my life long obsession with rock music. Like so many great bands, it was my brother who turned me on to Fleetwood Mac. He had purchased Rumours and one day I had wandered into his room and ended up staying for the entire album. I’m not sure how it happened but a few days later my brother entered my room which was rare (“Get out of here Curtis, I don’t hear you unless you knock.”) and he was carrying Rumours. He made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. He’d trade me that legendary album for my copy of Supertramp’s Breakfast In America. I had worn that album out with repeated plays. My brother and I never bartered albums. And, to this day, this is the only instance of us trading an LP in our long and storied history. Believe me, I’ve known this guy my whole life. Anyway, I remember sitting in my room listening to “Dreams” while I stared at Stevie’s image on the cover art. We all had a crush on Stevie. She was the cool chick you could drink a beer (or a wine cooler) with, maybe get high and if you’re lucky possibly make out with and it’d be no big deal.

Her first solo LP, produced by Jimmy Iovine Bella Donna, came out when I was a junior in high school. I think it made my list of best solo debut LPs… I remember driving up and down the main drag of my neighborhood and cranking “Edge of Seventeen.” Her duet with Tom Petty, “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” is one of the greatest duets ever. I just found out the Rock Chick is a huge fan of the duet “Leather and Lace” by Stevie and Don Henley. It says a lot that she digs the song since, like “The Dude” she hates the Eagles. I was in college when The Wild Heart came out. Oh my, we loved that album. It was on that tour – her first as a solo artist – that I got see Stevie live in concert in Wichita, Kansas. Joe Walsh opened up that show and kept saying how great it was to be “home.” We thought he was joking. Turns out he was from Wichita. I ended up in the front row by the stage during the encore when Stevie sang “Beauty And The Beast” which I thought was for me… I was a bit of a beast in those days. What a band she had that night – Liberty Devito on drums (from Billy Joel’s band), Benmont Tench on organ (Heartbreaker), Roy Bittan on piano (E Street Band), and on guitar, legendary session guy Waddy Wachtel (Everly Brothers, Zevon, Keef). Instead of a t-shirt I bought an 8×10 glossy, black and white photo of Stevie which remained on my wall until I graduated.

It wasn’t hard to be a Stevie fan in the 70s/80s. At the time Lindsey Buckingham had sort of lost his mind and Stevie’s songs were the typically the best ones on the Fleetwood Mac LPs. I like Christine McVie but she was a bit saccharine for me back then. Nicks was on a roll. But after The Wild Heart, Stevie kind of got consumed by her drug habit. From there my relationship to Stevie’s music, like so many of my relationships before the Rock Chick, was “on again, off again.” The Rock Chick owned and still loves Trouble In Shangri-La. I had taken a long break from Stevie’s LPs until I bought In Your Dreams. I thought it was a strong comeback album. I also jumped in on 24 Karat Gold, although admittedly it was her recording a bunch of songs she’d written in her heyday. Her latter day music is the kind of stuff I started this blog for.

Which all leads me to her cover of “For What It’s Worth.” You know we do love our cover songs/cover albums around here. Stephen Stills wrote the song in 1966 for his then band the Buffalo Springfield after witnessing the riots in L.A. protesting a 10 pm curfew. Once again old, uptight men trying to force the hipster boomers into going home early. While that is such a boomer reason to write a protest song, Stills’ words were prescient. “Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.” Here is the original version of the song:

I know Stevie has been performing this song on her current tour. Because folks, if you don’t think the “Morality Police” can come to your hometown, you haven’t been paying attention. In the last few months the U.S. Supreme Court has rolled America back to the Dark Ages. I’m surprised they haven’t legalized burning woman accused of being witches at the stake… which I do think Stevie is a Wiccan but that’s another post… Stevie just owns this song. I can’t say enough about her version. And yes, Waddy Wachtel is on the lead, buzz-saw guitar which hovers over the song like a police helicopter over the poor part of town. Stevie’s voice is hypnotic. At the end she keeps quietly, almost whispering the lyrics. It’s a simply amazing version of the song. Even the Rock Chick exclaimed, after I played the track, turned up to 11, in her car, “That’s an awesome song.” She did have to ask me who originally sang the song but not everybody is a musical obsessive. Here is Nicks’ version of the song:

Everybody really does need to “look what’s going down.” We’ve got to stand up for women now more than ever. All women everywhere deserve freedom. It may be time to start “takin’ it to the streets” people. Turn this amazing protest song up as loud as it’ll go, burn your bra and more importantly, register to vote. Whatever your political persuasion. Sorry if this PSA rocked your world.



Artist Lookback: Crosby, Stills, Or Nash – The Essential Solo and Duo Albums


Crosby, Stills & Nash coming together in 1968 were arguably one of the first “super groups” ever formed. David Crosby had recently been fired from the Byrds by Roger McGuinn for submitting the song “Triad” about a threesome…scandalous! The song was later recorded and released by the Jefferson Airplane…scandalous! These days every other song is about a threesome, and why not, it’s like “discovering plutonium.” Stephen Stills had just recently emerged from the second and this time final break up of the Buffalo Springfield. They were at a party at the house of Mama Cass (aka Cass Elliott) of the Mamas and the Papas, of all people, when they started singing together. Graham Nash, late of the English band, the Hollies, happened to be at the party and when he joined in, they realized they were onto something. Their debut eponymously titled album was a smash hit. The harmonies and topical lyrics made them one of the world’s top and most important bands. These guys’ second concert was Woodstock. Pretty amazing start.

By the time that Woodstock concert came around, mercurial genius Neil Young had joined the band at the suggestion of Atlantic Records’ head Ahmet Ertegun. He liked the chemistry that Stills and Young had together. As an aside, one of my wife’s friends moved in with us, a lovely young lady who used to babysit our daughter. She was like another daughter to my wife and I and she’d had a bad roommate experience. I was having a bad roommate experience myself at the time… my stepdaughter despised me. I was considered the Evil Stepdad (Humor: Bob Marley’s “Legend” and the Confessions of the Evil Stepdad). I remember saying to Penny, the young lady in question, “This is going to be good, it’ll change the chemistry of the household like when Neil Young joined Crosby, Stills, Nash… they were just a different band.” She stared at me questioningly and I could tell she was wondering…who are you talking about… it’s hard to be confined to rock and roll metaphors in real life… but I digress. Anyway, Ertegun thought Neil Young’s joining, after CSN had had their smash hit debut album, would supercharge the results of the band. He thought the guitar pyrotechnics of Young and Stills would bring a harder rocking result… Neil Young showed up with the mellowest song of all time, “Helpless.” Oh well, Ahmet, you tried.

After that the CSNY combination of the band tended to overshadow the CSN era of the band. The chemistry was indeed changed. Unfortunately the magic that had made the combination one of the biggest acts of the late 60s and early 70s began to fray pretty quickly. By ’71 each member had a solo record out. Neil was already a solo act when he joined and he made no secret he was going to continue that career. It was really after CSNY’s album Deja Vu that Young’s career really took off. He recorded two smash solo albums, After The Gold Rush and of course, Harvest both of which featured cameos from Crosby and Nash to sing harmonies. Suddenly Neil was a superstar, which is great, but it sort of overshadowed the other guys.

I thought it important to look back at Crosby, Stills and Nash as solo artists and the work they did without Neil Young. I’ve written enough about Neil, it occurred to me to look at his erstwhile band mates. Crosby, Stills and Nash carried that same mix of topical songs and personal songs into their solo work and they made some pretty great music that may  be overlooked. Not only did they record as solo artists, there were “subsets” of the quartet that got together as duo acts and the results in those cases were also pretty amazing. Together or separately these guys sort of dominated the years 1971 to 1975. And while this post isn’t about Neil Young, he’ll certainly make a few cameos. Here are my thoughts on the essential solo and duo albums.

Stephen Stills

Stills is an interesting case. I think he’s a super talented singer and guitarist but he’s never seemed to have the respect of his once and future friend Neil Young. Critics have always seemed to despise him. I once read Keith Richards kicked him out of his hotel suite in Denver because Stills wouldn’t share his coke. Lesson learned, don’t bogart your drugs when Keef is around. I can’t help but think that Stills, despite being very talented, might be an asshole. I don’t know why I have that impression but I do. He was pals with Jimi Hendrix and for whatever reason he feels compelled to put in his liner notes every now and then, “Guitar solo inspired by James Marshall Hendrix.” Yeah, we know, you were friends with Jimi, just call him Jimi. All that said, Stills has done some amazing work…

  1. Super Sessions, (Al Kooper, Michael Bloomfield, Stephen Stills) – It’s easy to forget about Stills’ contribution to this classic record. Contrary to the title, Bloomfield and Stills never played together. Each one appears on a different side with Kooper being the consistent player on both sides. Michael Bloomfield and Al Kooper had played together on some of Dylan’s early electric works (Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited) and in 1968, Kooper booked some studio time for he and Bloomfield to jam. They spend the first day jamming on what would become side one of the album. Bloomfield’s blues played with a jazz approach was so monumental it was years before I turned the record over. I had always read that on the second day, Kooper found a note from Bloomfield that read, “I could’t sleep, I’m going home,” and with that Mike was gone. With a day of studio time remaining, Kooper called Stills, fresh from the Buffalo Springfield’s split who came in and helped record side 2 of the record. Stills’ guitar on side 2 is so different from Bloomfield’s side as to be somewhat jarring. But that doesn’t mean it was bad – Stills guitar on “Season of the Witch” and Dylan’s “It Takes A Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train To Cry” are pretty epic as well. This is just one of the great blues/rock albums of all time.
  2. Stephen Stills – Stills’ first proper solo album is probably his greatest solo achievement. Stills played so many instruments on the Crosby, Stills, Nash debut album Nash nicknamed him “Captain Many Hands.” He certainly lives up to that here. He plays almost every instrument. Well, except lead electric guitar – he farmed that out to no less than Eric Clapton on the bluesy jam “Go Back Home” and James Marshall, er I mean Jimi Hendrix on “Old Times Good Times.” It was the last music Jimi recorded before his death. Those two tracks are worth the price of admission but you’ll also find Stills’ biggest solo track, “Love The One Your With” here. The album is jammy and in some cases I almost get a gospel vibe, like “Church (Part of Someone)” or “Do Unto Others.” On the acoustic blues song “Black Queen” about a car, Stills plucks the strings so hard the notes feel like they could cut you.
  3. Manassas (Manassas) – Manassas was actually Stills’ second “supergroup.” Formed with former Byrd Chris Hillman (vocals/guitar), Al Perkins (pedal steel), Paul Harris (keyboards), Dallas Taylor (drums), Fuzzy Samuels (bass), and Joe Lala (percussion) it was a short lived but productive affair. The debut eponymous LP is a sprawling masterpiece. It’s really Stills’ White Album. Stills wrote a majority of the songs. These guys do everything – folk, country, rock and roll, latin, blues. The four sides of the original vinyl double album were said to be organized stylistically. “Song of Love” is just a great rock song that starts the set off. By the time you’ve gotten to “Blues Man” you’ve just traversed a travelogue of American music with a dash of Latin music to boot. The hit song “Johnny’s Garden” is here as well. This is a must have.

Graham Nash

Graham Nash, to me has always been better as part of an ensemble. His beautiful voice was made for harmony and backing vocals. I always considered his songs in CSN or CSNY to be a bit saccharine. “Our House” and “Teach Your Children” are probably his best known song within the group. That said, I love his 1971 debut album…

  1. Songs For Beginners – Nash had just ended his longterm relationship with Joni Mitchell, who had inspired “Our House.” I don’t know if it’s the break up but Nash just sounds tougher on this album. While this is his break up record, it’s not sad, the tone is defiant and hopeful. He’s also topical, on songs like “Military Madness,” (still sadly relevant today) and “Chicago/We Can Change The World” (his reflections on the ’68 Democratic Convention in Chicago). While Nash could be characterized as my least favorite of the CSN family, this may be my favorite album on this list.

David Crosby

Crosby is, for me, the original hippy. This guy’s music is spacey and philosophical all at the same time. He’s always concerned with big questions. He also seems like that friend we all have – always the most fucked up guy at the party. Actually he might by the guy who was so fucked up he missed the party. Although you have to admit his subsequent recovery and career come back are nothing short of inspiring. And you simply can’t argue with that voice, he’s a beautiful singer. He also plays a nice guitar and he’s fabulous on Twitter.

  1. If I Could Only Remember My Name – Uh, it’s David or Dave or Mr. Crosby if you’re into that formal thing… Don’t let the weird title scare you away here. This is a great, albeit ramshackle record. There are a number of songs with wordless singing, merely Crosby’s voice as an additional instrument. Even songs that seem like sketches like, “Music Is Love” work here. The emotional center of this record is the epic “Cowboy Movie” that features Jerry Garcia and Neil Young on guitar.
  2. Sky Trails – This is the only record you’ll find here from this millennium. Actually it was recorded last year and it’s the type of record B&V was founded for. I reviewed this record, LP Review: David Crosby, The Beautiful ‘Sky Trails’ so I won’t go into too much detail here. Crosby has been on a late career renaissance and this record and the prior Lighthouse are both worth checking out. His old hippy, protest spirit is alive and well.

Crosby, Nash

In the early 70s, unable to convene the entire foursome of CSNY, Crosby and Nash who were arguably the closest friends in the band decided to unite and record a duo album. These guy’s chemistry is amazing. Crosby makes Nash tougher and Nash makes Crosby more focused. They work together as well as Lennon and McCartney. They went on to record a couple of albums that everyone should own.

  1. David Crosby Graham Nash – This album probably competes with Nash’s Songs For Beginners as my favorite on the list. “Southbound Train” is a rocking song that opens the set and I can’t figure out why it wasn’t a hit. I actually lean toward the Nash songs here but Crosby’s “Whole Cloth” is a stand out track.
  2. Wind On The Water – Recorded after the financially disastrous CSNY 1974 tour, these guys proved the winning formula was still in place. There is so much to like here. “Carry Me” the opening track penned by Crosby was the first single and it’s a great track, one of Crosby’s best. “Mama Lion” was Nash writing about Joni Mitchell who it appears remains his muse. “Take the Money And Run” is a swipe at all the promoters, drug dealers and manager types who profited greatly from the ’74 tour while the band took home a minor share.

The Stills-Young Band

As I mentioned when I started this post, I want to focus on the Crosby-Stills-Nash part of CSNY but Young was going to make a few cameos. Since Crosby and Nash had been so successful, the other half of the band, with the two former Buffalo Springfield members decided to give it a go…

  1. Long May You Run – Like Ahmet Ertegun once thought, I always assumed with Young and Stills in a band together it’d really rock. There’d be guitar duals and endless solos. That is not the case here. Critics didn’t really love this record, but I do. However, I’ll be the first to admit, these guys mellow each other out. Although in their defense, this laid back, Buffet-esque album was recorded in Miami. How could drinking rum, smoking pot and sitting in the sun not mellow you out. I’d be willing to bet they recorded the slightly more upbeat side 2 songs first, and then slid into a Miami mellow vibe that is side 1. I should have included this on my Summer Albums list (Memorial Day Kicks Off Summer: Go-To Summer LPs (Beach Boys Need Not Apply)). The title track is the only classic here but there’s a lot like, Young’s “Midnight On The Bay” and “Let It Shine” are nice mellow songs. Stills’ “12/8 Blues (All The Same)” and “Guardian Angel” about scuba diving are good if not great tracks. Put this on by the pool and tell me it’s not a strong record… you might pour some rum too, that always helps.

Sample as many of these as you can. I think you’ll find a lot of treasure buried in these hills, as the saying goes. Enjoy and as always, Cheers!