Gary James' Interview With Songwriter
Philip (Flip) Sloan or P.F. Sloan as he's known the world over, is truly one of Rock's greatest songwriters.
It was P.F. Sloan who wrote "Eve of Destruction" for Barry McGuire, "Secret Agent Man" for Johnny Rivers, "She's A Must To Avoid" for Herman's Hermits, "You Baby" for The Turtles, and "Where Were You When I Needed You" for The Grass Roots. Between 1965 and 1967, 150 of his songs were recorded, of which 45 made the charts. It could be said that Top 40 would have been an empty place without P.F. Sloan. He is often referred to as the "Pioneer of Folk Rock." Many of today's top performers including Alanis Morissette, Joan Osborne and Hootie And The Blowfish all credit Sloan as an influence on their careers. The National Academy of Songwriters honored P.F. Sloan at its Fifth Annual Salute to the American Songwriter Concert held in Los Angeles. They acknowledged Sloan as a legend and he received a standing ovation after performing a medley of his hits. Paul Zollo, the editor of Songtalk, wrote that P.F. Sloan was, "One of the most significant songwriters to ever match music with words."
"Still On the Eve of Destruction" (released in 1993) marked P.F. Sloan's first studio recording in 25 years. We're honored to present an interview with one of the best songwriters around - Mr. P.F. Sloan.
Q - Are there any plans in the works to tour behind this CD of yours?
A - We're actually in the studio right now re-recording the entire CD.
Q - What's the reasoning behind that?
A - Well, we're keeping the main tracks. The feeling behind it is, I really was not satisfied with the final mixes and the final vocals. The vision wasn't able to be manifested at the original date. There was a lot of mix-up and was a very limited time project. The budget was limited. The time was limited. It was hidden that it needed to be re-worked because the producers had a spin on it that they could complete it at a certain time. But, when you cleared all the veneer away from it, you could see that it was written on the wall that it had to be re-worked.
Q - Does that mean it will still be released on the same label? (All The Best Records)
A - Well, it's possible that it may be going out. All I know is we're doing it now, and that it's really great.
Q - Before you started recording this CD, what did you do with your time?
A - I was living a quest really. I was living a quest of picking up the pieces of gold dust that had been spread around my early youth. A good part of that was seeking who I really was in the world, and in reality. There was a very strong spiritual thrust that's been ongoing for a good number of years. There wasn't very much music. There was, in the sense that I wasn't recording music or singing or writing songs. I was virtually just into music, world music, Indian music especially and the likes.
Q - Not to be nosy, but how did you support yourself all those years? Did you live off your royalties?
A - There was some of that, but it's basically been friends who have kept me afloat. But let me tell you what's going on now. The music you heard is going to be amplified and focused and the energies are going to be right there for the ears to hear. So, it's going to be great.
Q - George Harrison once remarked that everybody can write songs, it's just that some songs become more popular than others. Would you agree?
A - I agree, yes. I agree that everybody writes songs, because our lives are a song. There are those of us who maybe focus on writing it down. Whether some write songs that more people want to hear, no. I don't think that's it. I believe that everybody's life is a song and that everybody is writing the song of their lives.
Q - Where do your song ideas come from? The daily news? Slang sayings you may pick up from the street or hanging out at clubs?
A - Well, for these particular songs, and as you know I haven't recorded for a quarter of a century now, basically every song on the album has come from inspiration. Not from the news per se.
Q - You song "Still On the Eve of Destruction," the words ring true, but I do hope you're wrong.
A - Yeah, exactly.
Q - Was "Eve of Destruction" the song that brought you initial fame and acclaim?
A - It was originally the song that brought me into that sphere, yeah. It also was so awesome an experience that it literally also sent me away from music. (Laughs).
Q - How long did it take you to write "Eve of Destruction" and "You Baby"?
A - "Eve of Destruction" was originally written during one night with five other songs as well. "You Baby" was a song that I was working on since I was 13, and that came out when I was around 21, simply because it was an R&B riff. It was an R&B song. "Still On The Eve" has now taken five years to write. Actually 15 minutes when I think about the new lyrics that came out.
Q - Which is pretty fast?
A - Yeah.
Q - And "Secret Agent Man"?
A - A quick delivery.
Q - Did you ever tour with any of the groups you were writing songs for?
A - No.
Q - So you were not really a performer, but more of a behind-the-scenes guy?
A - Not necessarily. I had gone out with an original record in 1965 called "Sins Of The Family, Fall On The Daughter". It was a successful record. I went out with Barry McGuire touring with that, and also The Grass Roots. That's basically the extent of it. I went out in the '70s and did some club dates.
Q - You didn't do anything like the Dick Clark Cavalcade of Stars did you?
A - You gotta be kidding. No. That was a Turtles kind of trip. Those were neat tours. I didn't do any of that stuff. What I can tell you is there was so much happening at the time. I was with The Byrds. I was with The Beatles. I was with The Stones. I was with The Spoonful, The Grass Roots, The Mamas And Papas, The Beach Boys, Jan And Dean, you name it. I was in there in the studios working with everybody at the same time, writing songs for people and also playing guitar on all these albums. The time was really important. Going out on the road would be fine, but it would just take away from that.
Q - What's ahead for you in the immediate future?
A - Let me tell you what we're doing right now. I'm preparing now to record new songs. This project has been in the works for four years, if you can believe it. What I'm really working on is preparing for a new record deal, for new songs, and then we're going out on the road, God willing. That's really where it's at.
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