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P.F. Sloan

+ {The Fantastic Baggys}

Embracing a number of music genres, P.F. SLOAN became a cult pop figure through the decades since the 60s. Born Philip Gary Schlein, September 18, 1945, New York City, NY, a young 12-year-old Philip (or “Flip” to his schoolmates) upped sticks with his family to Los Angeles.
After an impromptu meeting with ELVIS, Flip Sloan (as he then billed) impressed Aladdin Records enough for them to issue a single, `All I Want Is Loving’, in 1959 (a second ballad-type 45 – for Mart Records as Phil Sloan – `If You Believe In Me’, also flopped soon afterwards). While working as a staff songwriter at Screen Gems, SLOAN joined up with Steve Barri and, under the wing of executive Lou Adler and producer Gary Usher, they formed The FANTASTIC BAGGYS (a duo, not a quartet, as depicted in promo photos). On a mission to keep the youth-fuelled beach party/surf craze alive, the act delivered three 45s, including a title track accompanying LP, TELL ‘EM I’M SURFIN’ (1964) {*5}; subsequent releases as the Rincon Surfside Band and Willie & The Wheels also flopped, although Round Robin had a minor US hit via `Kick That Little Foot, Sally Ann’.
1965 was the turning point for SLOAN (and indeed the Sloan-Barri partnership). Influenced by BOB DYLAN and the folk-protest/revival machine, Philip jumped on the bandwagon by writing a dozen songs for Adler’s new imprint, Dunhill. `Eve Of Destruction’ was handed to another folk newbie of sorts, BARRY McGUIRE, and the rest was chart-topping pop history. However, SLOAN as a solo entity (with Barri as part co-conspirator), was a different kettle of fish; the album SONGS OF OUR TIMES (1965) {*8} unfairly cited at the time for deriding the genre.
Featuring a subtle rendition of `Eve…’, and what turned out to be SLOAN’s sole chart entry, `The Sins Of A Family’ (a kitchen-sink tale about teen prostitution), the album suffered at the hands of fickle folkies and critics alike. On reflection, the set contained more than its fair share of folk-pop gems, i.e. `Take Me For What I’m Worth’ (a subsequent hit for The SEARCHERS), the DYLAN-esque `What Exactly’s The Matter With Me’, The BEATLES-ish `I’d Have To Be Out Of My Mind’, The BYRDS-y `This Mornin’’ and the HOLLY-esque `This Is What I Was Made For’; permeate all of the above for `All The Things I Do For You Baby’.
Subsequent Sloan-Barri hits were coming thick and fast, the start of 1966 seeing a further three chartbusters for HERMAN’S HERMITS (`A Must To Avoid’), The TURTLES (`You Baby’) and JOHNNY RIVERS (`Secret Agent Man’), while a rush-released SLOAN follow-up set, TWELVE MORE TIMES (1966) {*6}, hit the shops. Although another commercial failure, the album had a fair share of similarly-themed high moments, most notably `From A Distance’ (a hit in Japan), `Let Me Be’ (already a hit for the aforementioned TURTLES), the BEATLES-esque `I Found A Girl’, the DYLAN-ish `The Man Behind The Red Balloon’ and SLOAN’s piece de resistance, `Here’s Where You Belong’. Although The GRASS ROOTS had a subsequent Top 30 hit with `Where Were You When I Needed You’, SLOAN became disillusioned by the lack of interest from Dunhill to promote subsequent solo 45s such as `Halloween Mary’, `City Women’, `Sunflower, Sunflower’ and the excellent `Karma (A Study Of Divinations)’; he was afforded the liberty of buying out his contract, waiving any past, present and future royalties – a CD compilation of this, his folk era was belatedly issued as HERE’S WHERE I BELONG: The Best Of The Dunhill Years 1965-1967 (2008) {*9}.
Like so many other artists of the day, SLOAN turned in a cocktail of blues, funk and country-folk by way of his follow-up set, MEASURE OF PLEASURE (1968) {*6}, a record that conjured up images of TIM HARDIN, TONY JOE WHITE and JIMMY WEBB, et al., best treats stemming from `Miss Charlotte’, `And The Boundaries Between’, `One Of A Kind’ and `How Can I Be Sure’. One really can’t say much for Phil’s early-70s comeback, RAISED ON RECORDS (1972) {*4}; not exactly what the doctor ordered, more of a diluted repeat prescription by way of `Let Me Be’ and `The Sins Of A Family’.
Suffering from periods of depression and schizophrenia, SLOAN cut himself off from the public eye. However, with backing from Nashville producer/guitarist Jon Tiven (and a few big names such as FRANK BLACK and LUCINDA WILLIAMS), the man was back with SAILOVER (2006) {*6}. Sounding a little like COSTELLO, CLAPTON or FOGERTY, the set was a hit and miss affair; the range of rootsy songs such as `Violence’, `Soul Of A Woman’ and the title track were effective nevertheless. For followers of PF’s folk-pop years, there were at least five worthy renditions from his 60s heyday period: `Sins Of A Family’, `Eve Of Destruction’, `Halloween Mary’, `From A Distance’ and `Where Were You When I Need You’; the ghost of DYLAN was still there in the shape of `PK & The Evil Dr Z’ and the easy-going `If You Knew’.
Ambitious and finally allowing his fixated 13-year study of German composer Ludwig van Beethoven to emerge fully, P.F. SLOAN returned to the fore in summer 2014 a la MY BEETHOVEN {*6}. In this comparative struggle to embody the spirit of the once-revered legend, the singer-songwriter taught himself the piano, whilst also studying orchestral arrangements and hitherto composition rules to complement his idol. In this “rock opera” of sorts, classical pop made way for the blues, jazz and rock’n’roll, but the centuries-old cabal or juxtapose junto helped him heal his own wounds; much of which duly came out in a book (co-written with S.E. Feinberg) entitled What’s Exactly the Matter With Me? Memoirs of a Life in Music. Sadly, that was Philip’s final chapter, as he died from pancreatic cancer on November 15, 2015.
© MC Strong 2010/GFD // rev-up MCS Nov2015

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