PF Sloan dies in Los Angeles, aged 70

PF Sloan insert 2
PF Sloan

PF Sloan at the Fantasy Fair – the first true rock festival – California, 1967

The ‘Eve Of Destruction’ songwriter, who was himself immortalised in song by Jimmy Webb, died of pancreatic cancer on Sunday

The world of music lost one of its most unsung heroes on Sunday (15 November), when PF Sloan passed away at his home in Los Angeles. Sloan, who was 70 years old, had been battling pancreatic cancer for some time.

Philip Schlein, as he was born, got his first guitar at the age of 13, and by the time he was 14 had recorded his first single, All I Want Is Loving, under the name Flip Sloan. He went on to have something of a two-headed musical career. By day, he wrote songs for the likes of Herman’s Hermits, The Turtles and The Searchers, racking up over 20 hit singles, and was partly responsible for The Beatles getting a US record deal. But he was also a recording artist in his own right: a friend and contemporary of Bob Dylan’s, for his own work he eschewed bubblegum pop in favour of protest-oriented folk-rock.

He’s probably best known for two things: the Jimmy Webb song that bears his name, and penning Barry McGuire’s Eve Of Destruction, a hit in 1968. But that record’s success would sow the seeds of Sloan’s own near-destruction: his major label paymasters didn’t take kindly to his avant-garde leanings, while the underground scene was suspicious of him because of his pop background. By the early 70s, he was living in squalor in Greenwich Village, addicted to heroin and suffering from multiple illnesses; the long road back from there to the release of a new album, My Beethoven, last year is detailed in his fascinating autobiography, What’s Exactly The Matter With Me? (Jawbone, 2014).

Songwriting had the pleasure of interviewing PF Sloan when the book came out, and can vouch for him being – as well as a great songwriting talent – a highly likeable and truly unique character. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.

Below, you can see a 1990 clip of PF Sloan performing Secret Agent Man – another of his compositions that was a 1966 hit for Johnny Rivers, and later covered by artists as diverse as Mel Torme, The Ventures, Devo and Blues Traveller.

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