Here’s my story of Buffalo Springfield’s “Bluebird,” the original extended acetate.
I entered Antioch College in late June 1969. Located in Yellow Springs, Ohio, some of what I knew of its location was that a few miles up the road was Springfield, the birthplace of Jonathan Winters, and that Yellow Springs itself was where Buffalo Springfield guitarist/singer/songwriter Richie Furay was born and had grown up. I was a huge fan of the Springfield before I left Baltimore for college, so this was a big deal for me. (For those unfamiliar with the band, in addition to Furay were Stephen Stills and Neil Young.)
In the middle of the main town drag in Yellow Springs was a small knickknack store owned by Richie’s mom called, surprisingly, “Furay’s.” I went in there that summer and chatted with her, and she ended up selling me a copy of the debut LP of her son’s then-new band, Poco. (The Springfield had broken up the year before.)
Fast-forward two years later, mid-May 1971. A nearby dormmate named Andy Plesser was a budding entrepreneur, and, through Richie’s mom, managed to persuade Poco to extend their Spring tour for one more day and come home to Yellow Springs. And so on May 23 they performed at an outdoor space on the college campus. I had been futzing around at the college’s radio station since I entered the place, and so I was able to borrow its portable tape recorder and ask the band’s sound mixer, whose equipment was located in the middle of the lawn, if I could plug his mixer’s outputs into the recorder’s inputs. He said sure, so I ended up with a soundboard recording of that day’s concert.
Here are photos taken by fellow student Dan Marshall:
After it was over, I walked over to behind the makeshift stage and chatted a bit with Richie, asked if he wanted a dub of the show, then mentioned a little-known and unreleased song he had written and recorded with the Springfield, then re-recorded it with Poco to very little chart success (“My Kind of Love”).
I then asked him about this legendary 20-minute studio version of Buffalo Springfield’s “Bluebird” I had heard about for a number of years but never heard. A 4-minute version had been released on the Springfield’s second LP in 1967, but legend had it that this take was originally far longer. The song was written by Stills, and it was one of the first records I remember hearing back in Baltimore that mixed the acoustic guitar playing (Stills) with the two electrics (Richie and Neil) so seamlessly. It was such a standout recording.
Richie said it was actually around 10 minutes long, not 20, and he suggested I contact a radio station in Boston, WBCN, and ask them for a copy, using his name as a reference. After spending the rest of the night and following day making dubs of the concert for Andy, the radio station, and whoever else wanted it, I wrote to WBCN on the 25th, using the station’s stationary, declared myself its “chief recording engineer,” made up some fiction about an upcoming Springfield retrospective the station was planning, and hoped for the best. The school term was close to ending, and it seemed realistically doubtful anything would come of this.
Just over a week later, on June 2, I was walking around on campus and this student I didn’t know came up to me, asked if I was who I was, and told me there was a package addressed to me at the station but that someone had taken it. He knew who it was and where he lived, so we went to this guy’s place where I retrieved whatever it was he had swiped. No questions asked, at least I had the package.
It was from WBCN; it included the letter I had written, though now with some annotations from the person to whom it was addressed and the person to whom he had referred it. There was also a reel-to-reel tape. Based on the annotations, it consisted of two unreleased Springfield tracks, Neil Young’s “Down to the Wire,” and the song I had been wanting to hear for years, “Bluebird.” It was recorded at the station’s top professional speed, 15 ips, so the first thing I did was to go to the college station and make a dub at a speed most home recorders could play, 7 1/2 ips. And it was that version I’d play for myself and friends. The original 15 ips version I stored away.
This version of “Bluebird” sounded like a dub of an acetate, with very minor acetate “noise.” Besides the extended length (9 1/2 minutes), this mix included an added Neil Young lead guitar that had been edited out of the released 1967 version.
The person who sent me the tape signed his name on that annotated letter, but all I could make out was his first, “Charles”; his last name was “Laqui…” something (“Laquiclara?”). I didn’t recognize the name.
Until late that year, when Poco released their live LP, “Deliverin’,” recorded in Boston and New York. The liner notes were written by a “Charles Laquidara.” Aha! That’s who that was. One mystery solved.
In 1973, the band’s record label, Atco, released a 2-LP anthology, and included was an extended version of “Bluebird.” But it was different from what I had been sent. First, it was in stereo (the acetate was in mono); second, its length was 30 seconds shorter than the version I had; and third, it didn’t include Young’s added guitar lead. (Also, Atco had edited out a vulgarity that Stills had slipped out.)
So what I had was still rare and unreleased. Over the next few decades there’d be the occasional Springfield bootleg that would include this rare version, but the sound quality was horrible: it’d start in the middle of the intro, it’d skip, it sounded like an acetate played way too many times so that it had deteriorated greatly. But it was a collectable since it was so rare. But I knew what I had was of far better quality.
Fast-forward again, now to late 2003. Now having the equipment to digitize music, I dug out the original 15 ips tape, played it back for the first time in over 32 years on a reel-to-reel that had 15 ips recording and playback capacity, and transferred it into the computer, saving it in both lossless AIFF format and .mp3.
I also set about looking for Charles Laquidara and to finally thank him for the tape. A few hours of Google searches, and there he was, retired after decades at WBCN, now living in Hawaii. So I emailed him, apologized for waiting so long to get back to him but wanting to close this circle.
He sends back an email 10 minutes later and says he was just at that moment searching online for this version, having lost his copy many, many years ago. So I immediately sent him my .mp3 version.
I asked him what he remembered about this version: he told me that when he was working at KPPC in Pasadena in 1968, Richie Furay and Jim Messina (the new bassist and producer on the Springfield’s final album released that year) came by and gave him a copy of the acetate. I had then also learned from the late Ted Alvy that the band made the acetate at their recording studio in L.A. so that they could then take it to a local radio station and have the deejay there (the famous R. Mitchell Reed) spin it. They’d then listen to the broadcast on their car radio to see how it sounded on tinny speakers and how many potential record buyers would be listening to it.
But they decided to scrap it and release the edited 4-minute version instead. They even refused to include it on their 2000 multi-CD anthology.
So, after all the decades, after all of the bootlegs, I believe that the version Charles had sent me in the Spring of 1971 remains the cleanest, clearest version that exists of this particular mix.
And so here it is: https://audioboo.fm/boos/2419848-bluebird-stills-1967-extended-acetate
(This initial contact with Charles paid further dividends a year later when John C. Winn and I were researching the history of the earliest Beatles bootlegs, but that’s a tale for another time.)