PF Sloan and Steve Barri
While you may not immediately recognize the name, PF Sloan, there is a chance that you will be diving somewhere in the depths of your record collection, perhaps in the section reserved solely for the 1960s, you will find a song. written by the talented teenage songwriter, or indeed even a track or two recorded by him, under one of his many pseudonyms.
Phil Sloan, as he was known then, already got off to a false start as a singer behind him when he was hired as a staff writer for the West Coast branch of Screen Gems in 1964, at the splendidly tender age of eighteen. He immediately teamed up with another young songwriter, Steve Barri, and together they wrote, in quick succession, a string of Billboard 100 hits, in a wide variety of genres, ranging from R&B and folk-rock to girl groups and surf-pop. . Sadly, a simmering feud with Dunhill Records president Jay Lasker, which was largely the byproduct of Sloan’s understandable desire to perform under his own name, led to him being summarily fired from the fledgling label in late 1967. Barri, who had always been content with his role as writer / producer, became the label’s A&R director before taking the same position at Warner Bros. Records. He is currently winning an award touring the university circuit lecturing on the history of rock ‘n’ roll.
After releasing a couple of solo albums, Measure for Pleasure (1968) and Raised on Records (1972), Sloane simply disappeared without a trace. Subsequently, he has admitted to being “desolate and mentally ill” for long periods. A review in the LA Times of a 1993 concert at the Troubadour in West Hollywood to promote his comeback album (Still on the) Eve of Destruction, suggests that his troubles may not have been entirely left behind even then:
Unfortunately, Sloan’s eccentric playing gestures often clashed uncomfortably with the more engaging qualities of her songs. Constantly on the move, full of tics and nervous movements, chewing gum incessantly, he frequently interrupted the flow of music with long, unfocused stories that became disconnected to the point of dissociation. As the evening wore on, he occasionally added aggressive harangues in support of a vague socio-political agenda. “
Subsequently, he recorded just one more album, Sailover, in 2006.
His incredible pace of work at Dunhills, in the years before his devastating collapse, must have taken a toll. Between 1964 and 1967 he wrote, in partnership with Barri, hits for some of the biggest acts of the decade, including The Searchers, The Mamas and Papas, The Fifth Dimension, The Turtles, Herman’s Hermits and Johnny Rivers. In addition, his anguished protest song “Eve of Destruction,” written in the wake of the Cuban missile crisis, was a global hit for Barry McGuire. It was also registered in the UK under its own name or at least its latest variation, PF Sloan, for the first and last time, when its Dylanesque boiler ‘The Sins of a Family’ reached number 38 in 1965.
Throughout the Dunhill years, Sloan was also recording 24 hours a day with Barri, under group names such as The Lifeguards, The Wildcats, Sheridan Hollenbeck Orchestra and Chorus, Phillip and Stephan, Willie & the Wheels, The Fantastic Baggys. , Themes Inc., The Street and Weed Cleaners. The Fantastic Baggys, perhaps the best of these side projects, released a truly wonderful surf pop album, Tell Em I’m Surfin ‘in 1964, which is still regarded today as one of the best albums in the history of the genre. When he wasn’t writing or recording songs, on an industrial scale, Sloan was busy playing guitar on a host of other seminal records, including The Mamas and Papas all-time classic “California Dreaming.”
It all ended in tears, of course, as Sloan’s insistence on moving to center stage eventually cost her her Dunhill career. His attempt to “ride the beam between creativity and commerciality” ended at the age of 22. An alternate reading of their boy / girl breakup song, “Let me Be,” which the Turtles took to no. 28 on the Billboard chart in 1965 can, in hindsight, be seen as defining his attitude toward art in general and his current conflict with Lasker in particular;
‘Please don’t confuse me or try to make me / anyone else’s shadow / I’m not the he or she you think I am / I’m just trying to be myself … And I’m not a pawn to be told how to move / Sorry I’m not the fool who thought I’d play by your rules. ‘
If it was a verbal warning or a plea to understand that he no longer wanted to be considered a “gun for hire,” then the power brokers at Dunhill no longer mattered to him.
This 25-track compilation from 2010, carefully prepared by Ace Records, includes all the essential cuts from their happy days, along with less familiar offerings like “The Sh-Down Song,” credited to The Ginger Snaps with Dandee Dawson, “Summer Means Future Beach Boy Bruce Johnston’s “fun, Ramona King’s no-nonsense slap,” You say nice words “and a hurt Anne-Margaret, handing out the” You sure know how to hurt someone “products. Additionally, the album comes with a superbly informative and well-presented booklet that answers some of the questions surrounding the enigmatic Sloan.
This includes a particularly poignant anecdote, about sixties soft pop exponents, The Association, represented in You Baby by its version of Sloane’s 1967 composition, “On a Quiet Night,” which bears repeating in this article. revision. Headlining a National Songwriters Association show in 1992, Sloan was intrigued to hear The Association perform the song “P. F Sloan,” which legendary songwriter Jimmy Webb had written as a tribute to him, back in 1970. When Sloan went backstage to introduce himself to the band, they refused to believe that he was the subject of the song, insisting that PF Sloan was a fictional character! It should be noted that Webb, for some peculiar reason, had fueled rumors that PF Sloan was, in fact, a figment of his imagination. The lyrics themselves are suitably vague.
‘I’ve been looking for PF Sloan / But no one knows where he’s gone / No one heard the song / That good boy sent flying / Last time I saw PF Sloan / He was burned in the summer and blown in the winter / He turned the corner all alone / But he kept singing. ‘
It can be easy to forget, so many years after the event, that throughout the ‘mid-1960s’ Sloan and Barri were helping define and codify the burgeoning language of pop, in exactly the same way that Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly did. had done for Rock n ‘Roll a decade before. Only the song titles reconstruct a familiar narrative: “Wherever the girls are,” “I found a girl,” “Summer is fun,” “Unless you care,” “Where were you when I needed you?” , “Another day”. , Another heartbreak “,” Only when you’re alone “,” Things I should have said “and” All I want is to love, “evoking the testosterone heartbreak, the hormonal heartbreak, the teenage trauma of the day.
You Baby not only chronicles the best work of an exceptionally gifted songwriting association, it also serves as a glorious reminder of the salad days of pop music.
* For those who wish to delve a little deeper into PF Sloan’s work, Ace released a collection of Sloane’s Dunhill recordings, Here Where I Belong: The Best of the Dunhill Years 1965 to 1967, back in 2008 and Sloane co-wrote his story. of life, with SE Feinberg, in the entertaining, if somewhat unreliable autobiography, What Exactly Do I Care: Memories of a Life in Music?