Buffalo Springfield, “Mr. Soul” from Buffalo Springfield Again (1967): One Track Mind

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Recorded in 1967 for the second of what would be a brief three-album tenure for Buffalo Springfield, Neil Young’s “Mr. Soul” builds off the career-defining riff from “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” But it’s no Rolling Stones rip off. No, this is too wild for that.

At times, “Mr. Soul” – which found a home inside Buffalo Springfield Again, released on October 30, 1967 – is almost out of control, and every bit the predictor of the compellingly complex, sometimes confusing solo career ahead for Neil Young. (He’s continued tinkering with it, too, as “Mr. Soul” has appeared a handful of times elsewhere, notably on Young’s techno-rock curio Trans and on the terrific concert memento Unplugged.)

The track bursts out in a tangled web of ass-whipping guitars, then Neil Young starts an acidic attack on the music business, and what it does to those who get pushed through its grinding gears. As Buffalo Springfield’s “Mr. Soul” rattles along, Richie Furay adds a yowling background vocal, ominous skronks whiz by and then, over a stomping bass and angry, smeared guitar, Young growls out a timeless line from an obsessed fan’s letter: “She said ‘You’re strange, but don’t change’ … and I let her.”

Next comes a delightfully disturbing flurry of guitar sounds, like having several people talk to you all at once, before a deft switch on the above line: “Is it strange I should change?” Young repeats, as the song fades. “Why don’t you ask her.”

If Buffalo Springfield remains a band that never quite reached its true potential — outside of the Stephen Stills’ songs “For What It’s Worth” and “Bluebird,” anyway — Young’s mercurial nature was surely to blame. He was in and out of the studio for much of the recording of Buffalo Springfield Again, just as he came and went in Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Stephen’s subsequent band.

But that same flinty creativity sparks engrossing, obdurate experiments like this, too. You can’t have one without the other.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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