Take a moment to consider a number of the songs written or co-written by Philip “P.F.” Sloan: “Secret Agent Man,” “Eve of Destruction,” “Let Me Be,” “Where Were You When I Needed You,” “You Baby,” “A Must to Avoid,” “Another Day, Another Heartache.” Yet the songwriter, who died on November 15 at the age of 70, may be best known for the bittersweet, elegiac ode penned by his colleague and admirer, Jimmy Webb. “I have been seeking P.F. Sloan,” Webb’s song begins. “But no one knows where he has gone…”
In an impressionistic fantasia and meditation on fleeting pop stardom, the cost of breaking creative ground and remaining true to oneself, Webb admonished, “Don’t sing this song…it belongs to P.F. Sloan.” The Association – earlier, the recipients of Sloan’s ravishing “On a Quiet Night” – picked up Webb’s song. So did Jennifer Warnes, the band Unicorn, and much later, Rumer. P.F. Sloan became a mythical figure as acclaimed for a song about him as for the hits he penned for Barry McGuire, Herman’s Hermits, The Turtles, The Searchers, Johnny Rivers and the Grass Roots. As for Sloan, he recalled roughly two decades ago, “I first heard it at a hot dog stand on Sunset Boulevard. The Association were singing it. It was 1971. I had borrowed some coins for coffee…I was away from music and living on someone’s couch. I thought to myself, ‘God is still alive, and remembers and loves me.'” A return to recording with 1972’s Epic/Mums release Raised on Records was short-lived.
Happily, we will always remember and love the words and music of P.F. Sloan. Though his absence from the grind of the music business inspired Jimmy Webb’s incredibly poignant composition, recording artists and younger musicians whom he influenced never forgot P.F. Sloan. Years later, he was to receive the credit he deserved. In the compact disc era, Sloan emerged for 1994’s new album Serenade of the Seven Sisters. His past work was paid homage by Ace Records with Here’s Where I Belong: The Best of the Dunhill Years collecting Sloan’s solo sides for Lou Adler’s record label, as well as with You Baby: Words and Music by P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri, an overview of the team’s best work encompassing ebullient pop, surf, and groundbreaking folk-rock. In 2001, Varese Sarabande compiled Child of Our Time: The Trousdale Demo Sessions 1965-1967, and in 2007, Collectors’ Choice Music revisited his Atco solo album Measure of Pleasure on CD. Sloan periodically ventured to create new music, too, with albums including Sailover (2006) and My Beethoven (2014). Just last year, he penned his long-awaited memoir entitled What’s Exactly the Matter with Me?.
Those seeking P.F. Sloan will be rewarded with some of his era’s most diverse and richly rewarding music. Please do sing his songs; they belong to everybody.