‘Broken Arrow’: The unusual song Neil Young wrote after quitting Buffalo Springfield

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Although Buffalo Springfield barely lasted two years and only put out three albums, their impact on rock music cannot be overstated. They contributed to the development of the folk-rock trend, which dominated the late 1960s and early 1970s. Its members afterward enjoyed prosperous solo careers and developed into self-made icons.

Buffalo Springfield was an early proponent of the folk-rock subgenre, fusing folk, psychedelic, and popular rock elements to produce a unique sound. The band enjoyed a lot of critical success during its two-year existence.

Buffalo Springfield broke up owing to a number of reasons, including internal conflicts, lineup changes, drug busts involving band members, and the members’ desire to pursue other interests. After being deported along with Bruce Palmer, Neil Young eventually quit the band. The troubles of the band were also exacerbated by Palmer’s drug use and the conventional rock and roll lifestyle.

Young provided more information about the band’s breakup while he was talking with Rolling Stone. He revealed, “I just couldn’t handle it toward the end. My nerves couldn’t handle the trip. It wasn’t me scheming on a solo career, it wasn’t anything but my nerves. Everything started to go too fucking fast, I can tell that now. 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.”

He added, “That was a big problem in my head. So I’d quit, then I’d come back ’cause it sounded so good. It was a constant problem. I just wasn’t mature enough to deal with it. I was very young. We were getting the shaft from every angle and it seemed like we were trying to make it so bad and were getting nowhere. The following we had in the beginning, and those people know who they are, was a real special thing. It gave all of us, I think, the strength to do what we’ve done. With the intensity that we’ve been able to do it. Those few people who were there in the very beginning.”

Buffalo Springfield’s final album, Buffalo Springfield Again, contains the confessional-style song “Broken Arrow,” which was written by Young after one of the band’s breakups. According to Songfacts, Neil Young wrote this after breaking up with the group because of what he called “An identity crisis.” Engineer Jim Messina recalled to Uncut magazine in 2021, “When Neil brought the song in, he wanted to use all these separate pieces. That was a first for me, but I knew what we had to do to make it work. I got a chance to see how his mind worked in terms of piecing all those images together.”

“The last part has that jazz part in it, which I never understood why he wanted it there. But when it all came together, it was quite wonderful. I would never have pictured it in that way, but Neil did.

Sitting back and watching him think it through, then bringing the band in and getting them to play it, then putting that little piece in the end; it was fascinating. I remember him standing up when it was done, with a huge smile on his face, and saying, ‘That’s it. That’s great.'”

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