P. F. Sloan

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For the Jimmy Webb song covered by Rumer, Jackson Browne and Jennifer Warnes among others, see P.F. Sloan (song).

P. F. Sloan (born Philip Gary Schlein, September 18, 1945, in New York City) is an American pop-rock singer and songwriter. He was very successful during the mid-1960s, writing, performing, and producing Billboard top 20 hits for artists such as Barry McGuire, The Searchers, Jan and Dean, Herman's Hermits, Johnny Rivers, The Grass Roots, and The Mamas & the Papas.[1]

History[edit]

Beginnings[edit]

Sloan was born to an American father and a Romanian-born mother.[2] His family moved to West Hollywood, California in 1957, where his father, a pharmacist, changed the family surname from "Schlein" to "Sloan" after repeatedly being denied a liquor license for his store.[2] At 13, Sloan's father bought him a guitar; at the music store in Hollywood, Sloan met Elvis Presley, who gave him an impromptu music lesson.[2] In 1959, at 14, "Flip" Sloan recorded a single, "All I Want Is Loving" / "Little Girl in the Cabin" for the L.A. R&B record label Aladdin Records, which folded soon after its release.

At 16, he became part of the burgeoning Los Angeles music scene, landing a job on the songwriting staff at music publisher Screen Gems, which was then the largest publisher on the West Coast.[2] There, he formed a partnership with Steve Barri, and the duo made several attempts at recording a hit single under names such as "Philip and Stephan", the "Rally-Packs", the "Wildcats", the "Street Cleaners", "Themes Inc.", and the "Lifeguards". In 1963, they to came to the attention of Screen Gems executive Lou Adler, who decided to use them as backing singers and musicians (Sloan on lead guitar and Barri on percussion) for Jan and Dean, whom he managed. Sloan and Barri wrote the theme song for the T.A.M.I. Show (Teen Age Music International Show) and were credited on all Jan and Dean albums from Dead Man's Curve / The New Girl in School in early 1964 through Command Performance in 1965. Jan Berry used Sloan as the lead falsetto voice instead of Dean Torrence on the band's top 10 hit "The Little Old Lady from Pasadena". Around that time, Sloan and Barri also wrote their first U.S. Billboard Top 100 hit, "Kick That Little Foot Sally Ann", arranged by Jack Nitzsche and performed by a Watts, California-born artist named Round Robin. Soon they also appeared on surf records by Bruce & Terry and the Rip Chords, and they recorded their own surf singles and album as The Fantastic Baggys.

Dunhill Records[edit]

Adler then doubled their salaries to hire them for his startup publisher Trousdale Music and startup label Dunhill Records. Using the name Phil F. Sloan or P.F. Sloan (the "F" stood for "Flip," his nickname), Sloan wrote hits for many performers, including "Eve of Destruction" (Barry McGuire); "You Baby" and "Let Me Be" (The Turtles); "A Must to Avoid" and "Hold On!" (Herman's Hermits); "Take Me For What I'm Worth" (The Searchers); and "Secret Agent Man" (Johnny Rivers). This last song was the theme tune for Danger Man, a British TV series that had been given a new title (Secret Agent) and theme for the US market.

Sloan also became a session guitarist as part of the group of L.A. session musicians known as The Wrecking Crew, working with such well-known backing musicians as drummer Hal Blaine, guitarist Tommy Tedesco, bassist Joe Osborn, and bassist/keyboardist Larry Knechtel, among others. While working with Barry McGuire, Sloan created and played a guitar introduction as a hook to a new song by John Phillips entitled "California Dreamin'", and the same backing track was used for the hit version by Phillips' group The Mamas & the Papas, which led to Sloan being a regular in their recording sessions.[3] Sloan generally played the lead guitar tracks on most of the songs he wrote, including the famous riff in "Secret Agent Man."

Sloan and Barri also were performers while on Dunhill. They released Dunhill's first album, a collection of surf instrumentals, as the "Rincon Surfside Band," and the album was later issued by RCA under the name "Willie and the Wheels." Sloan's successful folk-influenced songwriting caused Dunhill to record two solo albums by him. His single "Sins of a Family" reached the Billboard top 100 in fall 1965, in the wake of the huge success of "Eve of Destruction."

During this time, Sloan & Barri continued to do session work with Jan Berry of Jan & Dean, until Jan's near-fatal car wreck in April 1966, which basically ended Jan & Dean's career. They also produced a number of other acts, from Ann-Margret to The Robbs to Canadians Terry Black and Patricia-Anne (both of whom had #1 hits in Canada with Sloan-Barri songs) to Dunhill acts such as Shelley Fabares, the Ginger Snaps featuring Dandee Duncan, the Thomas Group (headed by Danny Thomas's son Tony), and the Iguanas (a Mexican band that did not speak English).

The main Sloan-Barri recording effort for Dunhill was done under the name The Grass Roots. However, after the Grass Roots enjoyed a Billboard Top 30 single with "Where Were You When I Needed You", the band's first album failed to chart, and Dunhill forced Sloan and Barri to recruit a real band to perform as the Grass Roots. Ultimately, a second band had to be recruited after the first one quit. Sloan and Barri continued as producers for the band, and they quickly generated a U.S. top 10 hit with a cover of the European hit, "Let's Live for Today" (by the British band The Rokes). After that, though, the new Grass Roots wanted to write their own songs, and Sloan, who still wanted to be a recording artist, became alienated from both Barri and Dunhill management.

During the Summer of Love, Sloan played as a solo artist on the final day of the Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Music Festival on Sunday June 11, 1967. A famed celebration of pop music,[4] this event is important because it occurred prior to the Monterey Pop Festival held the following weekend, however all performances contained therein are now lost to the ages as, unlike Monterey, Magic Mountain had neither a movie nor a record made in order to preserve it for generations yet unborn. (see List of electronic music festivals).

Sloan's final Dunhill release was a solo single, "I Can't Help But Wonder, Elizabeth" b/w "Karma (A Study of Divinations)", once again released under the name Philip Sloan.

Political influence[edit]

Due to its line "You're old enough to kill, but not for votin'", "Eve of Destruction" was used as a rallying cry by supporters of the Twenty-sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which changed the voting age from 21 to 18 as of 1971.[5]

Hits and charted songs written by Sloan[edit]

Year Song Original artist U.S. Hot 100 Other versions
1964 "Kick That Little Foot Sally Ann" Round Robin 61
"Summer Means Fun" Bruce & Terry 72 Fantastic Baggys (1964); Jan & Dean (1966)
"One Piece Topless Bathing Suit" Rip Chords 96 Jan & Dean (1966)
"Unless You Care" Terry Black 99
1965 "(Here They Come) From All Over the World" Jan & Dean 56
"I Found A Girl" Jan & Dean 30
"Eve of Destruction" Barry McGuire 1 The Turtles (1970 – #100); P.F. Sloan (1965); The Grass Roots (1966); D.O.A. (1982); The Screaming Jets (1997)
"Let Me Be" The Turtles 28 P.F. Sloan (1966)
"Take Me For What I'm Worth" The Searchers 76 P.F. Sloan (1965)
"Child of Our Times" Barry McGuire 72
"Sins of a Family" P.F. Sloan 87 Murray the K (1965)
1966 "A Must to Avoid" Herman's Hermits 8
"You Baby" The Turtles 20 The Grass Roots (1966); The Mamas and the Papas (1966)
"Where Were You When I Needed You" The Grass Roots 28 Herman's Hermits (1966)
"Secret Agent Man" Johnny Rivers 3 Mel Torme (1966); The Ventures (1966 – #54); Devo (1979), Blues Traveler (1995)
"Only When You're Lonely" The Grass Roots 96
"Can I Get to Know You Better" The Turtles 89
1967 "Another Day, Another Heartache" The Fifth Dimension 45
"Things I Should Have Said" The Grass Roots 23
"Wake Up, Wake Up" The Grass Roots 68

After Dunhill[edit]

After leaving Dunhill, Sloan recorded an album in 1968, Measure of Pleasure, that he says was recorded in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, but which listed Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee as the locale. The album, produced by Tom Dowd and released by Atco Records, was Sloan's most accomplished bit of record-making (as opposed to songwriting), but it did not sell. Before largely dropping out of sight in the late 1960s due to numerous business and legal problems, Sloan has repeatedly reported that Dunhill made threatening advances to force him to essentially sign away the rights to his valuable compositions in order to resolve them as being one of the main reasons for doing so. In addition, the artist has also discussed the other main reason for his disappearance from the music world as having to spend most of the last three decades battling various mental and physical illnesses.[6] During this period, he did not record or perform again until the 1980s, save for the poorly received Raised on Records released in 1972 and then only produced a single CD in the early 1990s, originally intended solely for release in the Japanese market. However, positive fan response led to the disc being released worldwide the following year.

Finally, in 2005 Sloan made a series of recordings with producer Jon Tiven in Nashville, Tennessee. The resulting album, Sailover, was released in August 2006 on the Hightone label. Tiven, known for his work with artists such as Alex Chilton and Frank Black, played on the record, as did his wife, Sally Tiven. The record was a mixed bag of old and new songs, including several co-written by Tiven, and includes guests Frank Black, Buddy Miller, Lucinda Williams, Felix Cavaliere, Tom Petersson, and Gary Tallent.

Reissues[edit]

Sloan's early work has been poorly represented on compact disc, with only a smattering of releases to his name. Measure of Pleasure was reissued on CD in January 2007. There is a collection of his demo recordings available (Child of Our Times), and there was a now-out-of-print 1993 anthology of his Dunhill recordings.

In 2008, UK-based Ace Records did a near-definitive reissue of Sloan's solo recordings for Dunhill. Entitled Here's Where I Belong: The Best of the Dunhill Years 1965–1967, the CD omits the album tracks "When The Wind Changes" and "Patterns Seg. 4". Sloan's final Dunhill recording, "I Can't Help But Wonder, Elizabeth", made its legal CD debut on this release.

Tribute from fellow songwriter[edit]

"P.F. Sloan" is also the title of a song by singer-songwriter Jimmy Webb, who is better known for the 1960s hits "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" and "Up, Up and Away". Webb released two different versions of the catchy, bittersweet composition, which seems to be about the costs and disappointments of being a creative groundbreaker.

Cover versions of the song were recorded by The Association in 1971, Jennifer Warnes, and by British band Unicorn in the early 1970s – released as a single and album track on Transatlantic Records. Jackson Browne performed the song with Webb on Webb's 2010 album Just Across the River. In 2012 it was covered by the British singer, Rumer, who treated it as the signature song on her Boys Don't Cry album, which featured relatively obscure songs by male singer/songwriters from the late 60's and 70's.

While Sloan's insistence on becoming a recording artist was an inspiration to fellow songwriter Webb, who had worked with Sloan with Bones Howe and The 5th Dimension, a personal dispute led Webb to deny the existence of "P.F. Sloan" when asked about the song's title character during an article interview, saying that he had made the name up. Eugene Landy, the controversial psychologist, laid claim to being the real P.F. Sloan when he was asked by reporters why he considered himself able to direct Beach Boys lead singer Brian Wilson's musical career. Landy claimed to have written the songs attributed to "P.F. Sloan".[citation needed]

Discography[edit]

Solo[edit]

Singles
Year Song Label
1959 "Little Girl in the Cabin" /
"All I Want Is Lovin'"
Aladdin
1960 "If You Believe in Me" Mart
1965 "Sins of a Family" Dunhill
"Halloween Mary"
1966 "From a Distance"
"City Women"
"A Melody for You"
1967 "Sunflower Sunflower"
"Karma (A Study of Divinations)" /
"I Can't Help But Wonder, Elizabeth"
1969 "New Design" Atco
1972 "Let Me Be" Mums
Albums
  • Songs of Our Times (1965 – Dunhill)
  • Twelve More Times (1966 – Dunhill)
  • Measure of Pleasure (1968 – Atco)
  • Raised on Records (1972 – Mums)
  • Serenade of the Seven Sisters (1994 – Pioneer)
  • Child of Our Times: The Trousdale Demo Sessions 1965–1967 (2001 – Varese Sarabande)
  • Sailover (2006 – Hightone)
  • My Beethoven (2014 – MsMusic)

With Steve Barri[edit]

Singles
Year Band Name Song Label
1964 Themes Inc. "Theme from Peyton Place (Allison's Theme)" Vee Jay
Phillip and Stephan "When You're So Near You're So Far Away" / "Meet Me Tonight Little Girl" Interphon
Sheridan Hollenbeck "Tokyo Melody"
Wildcats "The Swim" Counsel
Lifeguards "Swimtime USA" Reprise
Street Cleaners "That's Cool, That's Trash" Amy
Rally-Packs "Move Out, Little Mustang" Imperial
Fantastic Baggies "Tell 'Em I'm Surfin'"
"Anywhere the Girls Are"
1965 Fantastic Baggies "It Was I"
Willie and the Wheels "Skateboard Craze" Dunhill
Grass Roots "Mr. Jones (Ballad of a Thin Man)"
1966 Grass Roots "Where Were You When I Needed You"
"Only When You're Lonely"
"Tip of My Tongue"
Albums
  • Tell 'Em I'm Surfin' – Fantastic Baggys (1964, Imperial)
  • The Surfing Songbook – Rincon Surfside Band (1965, Dunhill)
  • The Surfing Songbook – Willie and the Wheels (1965, RCA) (identical release)
  • Where Were You When I Needed YouThe Grass Roots (1966, Dunhill)

References[edit]

  1. ^ The liner notes accompanying the Time-Life compendium of CD's titled Classic Rock
  2. ^ a b c d Scott R. Benarde (July 2003). Stars of David: Rock 'n' Roll's Jewish Stories. p. 91. ISBN 1-58465-303-5. 
  3. ^ Dan Daily (July 1, 2004). "Classic Tracks: The Mamas & The Papas' "California Dreamin'"". Mix Magazine. Retrieved 2010-11-18. 
  4. ^ Lomas, Mark. "Fantasy Fair & Magic Mountain Music Festival". Marin History. Marin Independent Journal. Retrieved December 29, 2011. 
  5. ^ Liane Hansen (August 20, 2006). "PF Sloan's Long Road Back from 'Destruction'". National Public Radio. Retrieved 2011-02-19. 
  6. ^ Gene Sculatti (August 14, 2006). "'Eve of Destruction' poised to explode again". USA Today. Retrieved 2010-11-17. 

External links[edit]