The late, legendary singer/songwriter––famous for "Eve of Destruction" and other '60s hits–– gets an official Harvey Kubernik-penned statement of appreciation from his record label, MsMusic Productions.
Singer/songwriter P.F. Sloan had passed away on the evening of Nov. 15, at his home in Los Angeles. Sloan had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer several weeks before and was fighting it valiantly.
P.F Sloan was a key element of the music that became the sound of the Sunset Strip. His tunes were covered by Barry McGuire, The Grass Roots, Herman’s Hermits and The Turtles. He was a prodigy, signing his first record deal with Aladdin Records when he was 13.
In a 1987 radio interview with DJ Roger Steffens on his Sounds of the Sixties program, Sloan recalled a 1959 encounter with Elvis Presley in Hollywood when he was 12. (Comments culled from the Sloan interview appear by direct permission from Steffens. His full interview with Sloan can be viewed on YouTube—The Family Acid Archives):
“In 1959 I moved with my parents from New York to Los Angeles. ‘Let’s go to California and make a new start.’ Six months after we came to Los Angeles my father bought me a guitar at Wallichs Music City in Hollywood. (And) I had been listening to Elvis Presley. My sister had bought his first singles and also the Platters’ 78’s. She used to play them every night. (And) I wanted to learn how to play the guitar. When we came to Los Angeles we had gone into Wallichs Music City to learn how to get it tuned and Elvis Presley was there. He came over to me. I was about 12 years old, and he said, ‘What ya doin’ with that guitar kid?’ and I said, ‘Well, I really want to learn how to play it, sir.’ ‘Well, I think you’re gonna learn how to play it just fine, kid.’ And I went home and learned how to play the guitar.”
P.F. Sloan, born Philip Gary Schlein, attended Fairfax High in Los Angeles, with future vocalist and record producer, Izzy Chait, and later teamed with songwriter Steven Barry Lipkin, later known as Steve Barri.
Sloan’s recently published his memoirs, What's Exactly The Matter With Me? with S.E. Feinberg, and his latest album, My Beethoven, was released on the MsMusic productions label.
“I was a fan of The Fantastic Baggies, his music from the Eve Of Destruction LP by Barry McGuire and, of course, his ‘Secret Agent Man,’” offers Carol Schofield, owner of the label who issued My Beethoven. “My friend, Stephen Kalinich, who has recorded for me, introduced Phil and I. We breezed smoothly through the contract and deal.
“Phil was pleasant and we worked well together, possibly a vinyl of some sort will be considered. My Beethoven was Phil's envisioned music masterpiece. He felt a connection to Beethoven.”
Other music and record business veterans also offer their reflections on one of the world’s shape-shifting songwriters.
Gary Stewart, Former VP of A&R for Rhino Records: “I was fortunate enough to work with P.F. Sloan in 1985 when I had the privilege to work on a ‘Best Of’—my first ever Rhino vanity project (our inside term for things driven solely from personal passions). It was my reward for the success we achieved after my signing of the Beat Farmers. I wanted to reclaim the best of his two Dunhill albums from the rarified circles of record collectors and music snobs (at the time I was both).
“I just couldn't accept the fact that folk rock masterpieces like ‘Sins of a Family’ and ‘From A Distance’ weren't well known classics but distant obscurities. In the world I want to live in, most of the tracks on those first two albums would be heavily covered and about half dozen belonged on the charts at the time. We’re not talking about a Captain Beefheart/Rocky Erickson type cult artist but somebody who wrote melodic accessible songs knee-deep in the zeitgeist of the times.
“The fact that Barry McGuire’s cover of his ‘Eve of Destruction’ was the number one record is an indication of just how commercial, how radio friendly most P.F. Sloan songs were at the time. More importantly I wanted to make the case that his best work belonged in a league with anything that came from early Bob Dylan, Donovan or Phil Ochs. Like the best of them he could express beauty, sadness, anger and self-doubt like no one else-sometimes all in one song.”
Jon Tiven, record producer/songwriter: “Phil Sloan was one of the all-time greats, denied his place in the pantheon and the riches that go along with it by powerful people in the music industry. We met in the early ‘90s—after I had done my bit/best to resurrect the career of Alex Chilton, produced B.B. King and made five tribute records to neglected artists—so I felt it was my duty to bring P.F. Sloan to greater standing. But our professional career started with a friendship and a spiritual brotherhood—we were/are both devotees of Satthya Sai Baba—so all of our professional endeavors had a strong and, dare I say, Divine basis. He wouldn’t have had it any other way. We traveled to India, and he brought along his friend Stephen Kalinich, who became not only my friend but a great partner. Phil was and is a beautiful soul, I will miss his voice and his musical gifts, but his presence will stay with me always.”
As a teenager, Rodney Bingenheimer, KROQ-DM DJ, first met Sloan in Hollywood around Sunset Strip venues like The Galaxy and the Trip, as well as the restaurants Ben Frank’s and Canter’s Delicatessen.
“He was a nice guy and always at the recording sessions when his songs were done by the Grass Roots and Herman’s Hermits. He always played on many recordings by the Mamas and the Papas and Sonny & Cher.
“P.F. Sloan wrote anthems like ‘Where Were You When I Needed You.’ Even this decade on my Rodney on the ROQ program, I play his ‘Halloween Mary’—both the original and the re-make.”
Stephen John Kalinich, songwriter: “I love P.F. SLOAN. He inspired me, touched my soul—made me be a better person and poet. He traveled with me to India with Jon Tiven. He got me out of hibernation. I love the songs I created with him but above all he loved people and wanted to make difference in the world and to help others in need. At 19 he wrote those words and melodies. He influenced me as much as anyone ever did in music. I miss him in the flesh and he will always be in my heart.
“Around 1985, I helped locate P.F. Sloan from semi-obscurity via a music publishing connection at my former employer, MCA Records. I subsequently arranged for him to perform after a long hiatus at one of my Be Bop Records music and spoken word events in Reseda, California.
“I last saw Phil in 2013 at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles where he came by to say hello to Howard Kaylan of the Turtles who was promoting his autobiography. The Sloan and Barri team penned ‘Let Me Be,’ ‘You Baby’ and ‘Can I Get to Know You Better’ for the Turtles.”
“I wrote hit records and that was working against me,” Sloan recalled to host Steffens on his revealing radio interview. “It really was. It made me feel isolated, but I met a lot of very nice people who made things easier for me. Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney. I was very honored to have been asked by Bob Dylan to listen to an acetate pressing of his Highway 61 Revisited album just after he’d come out of the studio.”
During his radio visit with Steffens, Sloan mentioned his delight toiling as a tunesmith. “I’m proudest of my work, when I look back, that there are parts of songs that tell me that I was at a place when I was writing the song, that I was in a place that was absolutely music that was out of myself. Songwriting is a 24-hour a day job. It’s the kind of thing that I find myself dreaming about songs at night and working on songs during the day. It makes one become introspective with a unique perception and it makes you listen to people. It makes you look at the world. It makes you see how temporary life is. It makes you see the beauty and the ugliness and vice versa. It gives you perspective and makes you more knowledgeable. It makes you want to reach out and touch people. It makes you exceptionally grateful to be alive. It gives you many, many thanks and it gives you many kicks in the ass. I had never imagined being a songwriter when I auditioned for Aladdin Records. ‘Hey, you sing nice, kid. But can you write a song?’ So what’s to writing a song? Just go home and write a song. So, if you have that feeling inside you, what’s to writing a song? Sit down and do it.”