Saturday, November 28, 2015

P F Sloan remembered

My friend Ronnie Cook has reminded me that I haven't paid tribute on The Vinyl Word to P F Sloan, who we both saw at the Ponderosa Stomp at the beginning of October for the first time. Phil (P F) looked and sounded good so it was a terrible shock to learn that he had died of pancreatic cancer aged 70.

Better known as a songwriter than a singer, P F Sloan was a child prodigy and became the only white artist to sign with Aladdin while still only 13 when he recorded as Flip Sloan, and by the age of 16 he was working with Lou Adler in Los Angeles as his assistant. He claimed to have met James Dean two years after he died and says that he was taught to play the guitar by Elvis Presley when they were locked in a department store in LA.
He sang with Jan and Dean, frequently taking Dean's place as the falsetto voice, and says that he rescued early Beatles and Rolling Stones demos from the waste bin when Lou Adler threw them out. As a songwriter he wrote with Steve Barri but was frequently in trouble with Lou Adler at Dunhill records, who fired and rehired him several times for flirting with folk rock and daring to talk to Bob Dylan. He wrote a global hit, Eve of Destruction, for Barry McGuire but it was considered by some, particularly in the US, but also initially by the BBC, to be subversive and was banned widely. On the same night he wrote four other songs, including his own hit Sins Of A Family - about a 14 year old cousin who turned to prostitution to buy food - in one night. On the strength of these hits he visited England with Barry McGuire, where he became friendly with Brian Epstein. He joined the LA session backing group the Wrecking Crew and formed the Grassroots, a group name that had been given up by Love when they changed their name. He also helped create the sound of the Mamas and Papas, including the opening bars of California Dreaming which helped make it a hit. He was involved in early records by the Turtles and wrote Secret Agent Man, the US theme for the Patrick McGoohan series Danger Man, which became a hit for Johnny Rivers. He worked with the Rolling Stones on Paint It Black and also wrote successful records for Hermans Hermits and the Searchers. He was a friend of Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs. Later, he met songwriter Jimmy Webb while he was still unknown and Jimmy wrote a song entitled P F Sloan. After threats from Dunhill Phil moved to New York, and recorded an album for Atco at Sun Studios, took up drugs and eventually retired from the music business.
On stage at the Stomp, his voice was strong on Eve of Destruction and some of his more pop orientated material and he went down well. Earlier, at the Stomp conference sessions, he was promoting his autobiography, What's Exactly The Matter With Me?, (co-written with S E Feinberg), the title of the B side of Eve of Destruction, and was a highly amusing interviewee. On stage, backed by Deke Dickerson and Eve and the Exiles, (plus Woodie Armand St Martin on keyboards) he looked very much the sixties folk rocker with his guitar and harmonica set up. Eve of Destruction was a song that changed the law, with its line about being old enough to kill, but not for voting, he said. He also showed what a good pop singer and songwriter he was with That's Cool, That's Trash and the surf sounds of the Fantastic Baggy's Tell Them I'm Surfing and Anywhere The Girls Are. Other songs included Kick That Little Foot Sally Ann, Live For Today, the gay rights favourite Let Me Be (recorded originally by the Turtles), Secret Agent Man and Take Me For What I'm Worth. It was an enjoyable and varied set by a man who looked in good health. How quickly things can change.


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