Buffalo Springfield 1986by B.J.Haines
posted to Rust in February, 1999
I was out in San Francisco last weekend and we took a little side trip north to visit some friends and spend the night. I'll leave out names, but our friend was Rick Nielsen's guitar tech for 21 years and left last year to get started in the tour bus rental industry. He's doing quite well too, has one bus of his own and another being built here in Nashville. Currently he works for another guy who has a tour bus rental company.
The guy he works for and his wife were present at the Buffalo Springfield reunion which took place at Still's house 13 years ago. As you may know, that historic session was filmed and has never been released, and probably hasn't been seen by many people either. I've never seen it on any trade list or anywhere else, with the exception of some very poor audio taken from (I assume) the soundtrack of that footage.
Anyway, this couple do have a copy of it and brought it over to our friend's house for me to view. They said I could watch it as many times as I wanted while we were there, but could not allow me to make a copy of it, as there were legalities attached to it. They had to sign a document promising that they would not copy it or let it get out to anyone for fear of it being bootlegged, which of course is very surely would be!!
So, I watched it about 6 times and tried to burn as much of it into my rapidly diminishing memory banks as I could. I'd like to recount to you as best I can the goings on in the video and give you as good an overall picture of that session as I can...
The video opens with a close shot of Neil who was standing to Richie Furay's right. Neil is wearing a faded yellow t-shirt which has the sleeves cut off, or at least mostly cut off -- there are remants of sleeves there. The front of the t-shirt has a drawing of tropical trees and on top of that is the words St. Maarten. I'll bet he STILL has that t-shirt and if there's anything left of it, he STILL wears it!! He's wearing jeans also (natch). Ratty jeans, too. His hair is on the short side, but still over his ears, about the length it was during his Rust Never Sleeps days.
Richie is playing a blonde Gretsch. He's wearing a t-shirt as well, but there's nothing remarkable about it, except that it's in a lot better shape than Neil's.
To Richie's left is Dewey Martin seated at the drums, which themselves are a natural blonde or gold or yellow color. They might be Stephen's drums, because at the end of the video we get to see the car the Dewey drove to Stephen's house and which broke down as soon as he arrived there. I don't think it was a big enough car to get the drums into, but maybe I'm wrong. I'm not sure what kind of car it is either, but it seems like it might have been a Cadillac or Buick. Something like that. And there's the possibility that he was towing a trailer, but we don't get to see that far back. But I digress....
Dewey is shirtless and smoking a cigarette from which he inhales and exhales without removing it from his mouth, even when he's not playing. He's older now, that's for sure, but he's still thin and in fairly good shape.
Which brings me to Bruce Palmer. Bruce is seated with his bass and facing Neil and Richie. Dewey is to Bruce's right and slightly behind him. Bruce is playing a bass with a split headstock. I was told what type of bass it was while we were watching the video, but I can't recall the name. Anyway, Bruce is graying, and when you see him straight on, it appears that he has a short, conventional haircut which is parted on the side and combed to the right. When he turns his head to the side however, we see that he is sporting a ponytail, a rather long one, about mid-back. Bruce is not thin. He's put on some poundage over the years and it shows. A lot.
Bruce is wearing some baggy pants and a khaki short sleeve button down, two pocket shirt. At one point Stephen, during a group pose orchestrated by Neil, walks over to Bruce and rubs his belly and makes a comment meant to be humorous about Bruce's thick girth, and which I can't recall. I should note that Stephen has little room to talk. He's replaced the six pack with a kegger as well. Stepehen is wearing a large, black t-shirt which is not tucked in.
Back to the session. Stephen is seated facing the camera but slightly towards Neil. Stephen is wearing a red ball cap which has a Navy ship's logo and serial number on it. I think it was the U.S.S. Enterprise, but I'm not clear on that either. He's playing a black Steinberger guitar, the one with the rectangular body and headless neck. As the video opens, Neil is saying to Stephen, "Yes, that's great, I really like the way that you played that, that's great, we should do that", and tells Stephen many times that he likes what he's doing there.
Stephen plays a few chords and patterns, which Neil praises (and rightly so). It's a Neil Young song they're working on, something like Road Of Plenty, or something like that. Neil counts off, after getting Dewey and Richie's attention. They had been having a little conversation and a laugh in the meanwhile. They start up in the middle of that tune and play it well.
After about 2 minutes of jamming, they stop, and the video fades out. It then fades back in, and we see the boys standing and Neil looking at the camera and saying "we should all stand together for a group shot, this'll be good", and he kind of gathers them all together and they stand there in various poses, cracking jokes, Neil commenting on how 18 years have passed since they were all together and how special it all was and is. This is the point where Stephen goes over to Bruce and rubs his belly.
Bruce is standing to the extreme right in the group shot, Neil in the middle, Stephen behind and to Neil's right. Richie is on Stephen's left, and Dewey stands next to Richie. You get the feeling that Dewey and Richie are most friendly with each other, as if they've always been friends through the years. They like each other a lot. They all like each other, but Dewey and Richie have a little something extra there, and to tell you the truth, I find it heartwarming to see such old friends getting reaquainted and picking up where they left off. That goes for all of them.
We hear Neil comment about Dewey getting deported for drugs and a few other reminisceses. We get a better perspective of the room they're in. It looks to me like a finished basement. We see some gold and paltinum record awards hanging on the wall, although the video resolution won't allow for any details as to what records they are for. We see stereo equipment and knick knacks of varying kinds. I think I see a bar in there, not sure if that's right or not. From what I know of Stephen, I think that it probably was!! At any rate, and by any standard, it's gotta be one of the nicest basements I've ever seen. Fade to black.....
....Fading in, we are now outside in Stephen's driveway. Stephen does a hilarious mock TV reporter routine in which he is facing the camera and looking directly into it, reports to us the goings on in his driveway. And what IS going on? Well, remember earlier that Dewey's car had broken down in Stephen's driveway? Who do you think is repairing it? Dewey is!! He's on his back, under the car with his legs sticking out. The guy who has this video and was kind enough to show me is now in the picture and Stephen mock-interviews him to get the breaking news from the man on the street.
He makes a few funny comments about how the car waited to break down in Stephen's driveway. The video then does a cut and we see Dewey standing there with cigarette in mouth, and the greasiest hands and arms you ever saw. He's got grease all over his face as well. I'm thinking how strange this is to see a famous and (presumably) wealthy rock star on his back in somebody's driveway (albeit a famous and wealthy somebody) working on an old car. And why would a famous and wealthy rock star have such an old and broken down car, I wonder aloud?
I am told by my friend that in fact Dewey was not wealthy, at least not anymore, and that he was really counting on this reunion to get the cash flowing again. He really isn't too well off at all. Hasn't been working steady in years. The fact that this reunion didn't go any further than this one occasion was a big blow for Dewey. He really wanted it to happen.
I'm told also that it was soon after this all-too short reunion that Dewey formed a pseudo-Buffalo Springfield band, he and Bruce being the only original members and calling it Buffalo Springfield Revisited. They apparently did a tour or two and then broke up, leaving Dewey even deeper in the hole. I was told that Stephen even jammed with this pseudo-Springfield on a couple of occasions. That was news to me!!
But anyway, that's about it. It ends there in the driveway. My friend said that Neil had gone by that time, or maybe was in the house, but was certainly not in the driveway during the repairs or the "Stillscast" shennigans.
And that's about all I remember. I had a good buzz going during the few times I viewed this video, which lasted all of about 15 minutes. Even without the wine and other combustible medications I would have had a buzz going. This was a real treat. My friends told me that anytime I wanted to, I could watch it if I was in town, but no copies would be allowed.
I guess that's better than nothin'!!