P.F. Sloan's Long Road Back from 'Destruction' P.F. Sloan virtually disappeared off the music radar screen after writing "Eve of Destruction" in 1965. Now, 30 years later, he's back with Sailover.
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P.F. Sloan's Long Road Back from 'Destruction'

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P.F. Sloan's Long Road Back from 'Destruction'

P.F. Sloan's Long Road Back from 'Destruction'

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In 1965, the song Eve of Destruction, sung by Barry McGuire, became a Billboard number one hit.

(Soundbite of song Eve of Destruction)

Mr. BARRY McGUIRE (Singer): (Singing) The eastern world, it is exploding, violence flarin', bullets loadin'. You're old enough to kill, but not for votin', you don't believe in war, but what's that gun you're totin', and even the Jordan River has bodies floatin'.

But you tell me over and over and over again, my friend, how you don't believe we're on the eve of destruction...

HANSEN: The anti-war anthem was one of the first protest songs to make it on the pop charts, and it became a rallying cry for supporters of the 26th Amendment to the Constitution, which changed the voting age from 21 to 18.

Eve of Destruction was one of several songs written by PF Sloan in the 1960s. He's also responsible for Secret Agent Man, recorded by Johnny Rivers, You Baby by the Turtles, and Where Were You When I Needed You by the Grassroots.

Sloan slipped off the music business radar 30 years ago. He made a few recordings released overseas and rarely performed. This Tuesday, PF Sloan will release a new CD called Sailover. It includes some new songs and some old.

(Soundbite of song Eve of Destruction)

PF SLOANE (Singer/Songwriter): (Singing) The poundin' of the drums, the pride and disgrace, you can bury your dead, but don't you dare leave a trace, hate your next-door neighbor, but don't forget to say grace and tell me over and over and over and over again, my friend, you don't believe we're on the eve of destruction...

HANSEN: PF Sloan joins us from the studios of KCRW in Santa Monica, California. Welcome to the program.

Mr. SLOAN: Thanks for having me.

HANSEN: Why did you want to re-release this song?

Mr. SLOAN: I felt that since the original wasn't available any longer, it would be good to record it for people and fans who had been asking to hear it again.

HANSEN: Do you think it reflects the times today as it did in 1965?

Mr. SLOAN: In sadly too many ways.

HANSEN: Why didn't you record it yourself?

Mr. SLOAN: The publishing company that I was working for at 17 years old, when I had written the song at 19, they refused to publish it, along with Sins of a Family and a number of other songs that I had written. And Barry McGuire had left the New Christy Minstrels and was making the rounds of publishing companies looking for some new songs to sing, and they sent him down the hall to me to listen to this kid's un-publishable material.

HANSEN: What was Barry McGuire's reaction to the song?

Mr. SLOAN: He didn't like it that much. It was a horrible shock to him - at the success of the song.

HANSEN: How did its success affect you then? I mean you were - you were 20 years old.

Mr. SLOAN: It was more traumatic than it was wonderful. The song wasn't embraced as, you know, a child of America singing to its love of the country. And instead it was considered to be Communist propaganda, and basically I was really cast out of the record company and the publishing company because of the success of that song.

HANSEN: Hmm. Is that why ultimately you just left the music business for a while?

Mr. SLOAN: It was a long while. It was close to 30 years.

(Soundbite of laughter)


Mr. SLOAN: I just needed to keep faith within myself. I had to have faith in myself, that someday I'd be able to come out of my gopher hole.

HANSEN: So what brought you out? What led you to decide that it was safe to come out of your gopher hole?

Mr. SLOAN: I had long, long bouts with hypoglycemia and major depression. I had gone on a trip to India, and I began to - began to receive some healing and instruction on how to deal with depression within myself and how to develop a new physical program for myself, a new eating regimen for myself. And I think about two years ago I really felt that I might be interested in starting to play again.

(Soundbite of song, Violence)

Mr. SLOAN: (Singing) Violence, that's what I want to see. Violence on the big screen and TV...

HANSEN: The song Violence. What inspired it?

Mr. SLOAN: The fact that I can actually sit and eat a pizza and watch people raped, killed and maimed. I really want to know the answer to the question about how sick am I. Psychiatrists say, oh, this is just a way of releasing fantasies and emotions. And the other points of view is that this is completely crazy. This is not entertainment.

HANSEN: How did you get into music in the first place?

Mr. SLOAN: I had the good fortune of meeting Elvis Presley when I was about 12, here in Los Angeles. I went up to a large music store about 1959 and Elvis was there, and he gave me a guitar lesson, and then three months later I got an audition sent in my parents' mailbox - you know, open auditions for Aladdin Records, a really wonderful R&B label of the late '50s, with people like Thurston Harris and Big Momma Mae Thornton, and wound up making a record for Aladdin Records when I was 13.

HANSEN: You did a lot of studio work, too, yourself, as a musician, right?

Mr. SLOAN: I had some great experiences with that, working with the Mamas and Papas on California Dreamin' and their first two albums, and worked with the Turtles and Jan and Dean and the Beach Boys. And I mean, hey, L.A. in the '60s. I was 19 and I was really having a great time.

HANSEN: Which is the song you sang falsetto on? Was that the Jan and Dean records?

Mr. SLOAN: Actually, a lot of them, but I guess the one that people talk about is Little Old Lady from Pasadena.

HANSEN: And that's you at the top, the vocal top, there?

Mr. SLOAN: (In falsetto) Uh-huh.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: I'm surprised you can still do that.

Mr. SLOAN: (In falsetto) Uh-huh.

So am I.

(Soundbite of song Little Old Lady from Pasadena)

JAN AND DEAN (Musical Group): (Singing) She's the terror of the Colorado Boulevard.

It's the little old lady from Pasadena.

HANSEN: One of the songs that's not on the new CD is Secret Agent Man, and I don't know of a person who has taken guitar lessons who hasn't learned how to play this one. How did you write this?

Mr. SLOAN: There was a - pretty much a world-wide contest to write the theme song to a new TV show that was coming to American in '66. I submitted about 15 seconds worth of the song, and the producers of the TV show in England picked that song, and then I was writing the song as Danger Man, and then I was told that CBS was going to change it to Secret Agent Man. And wonder of wonders, the song really came together with that title. I started off with the riff, and Johnny Rivers would do about, I think 10 to 15 seconds.

(Soundbite of song Secret Agent Man)

Mr. JOHNNY RIVERS (Singer): (Singing) There's a man who leads a life of danger. To everyone he meets he stays a stranger. With every move he makes another chance he takes. Odds are he won't live to see tomorrow.

Secret agent man, secret agent man. They've given you a number and taken away your name.

HANSEN: I have to ask you about one of the tunes on this. I think it's PK and the Evil Doctor Z.

Mr. SLOAN: Yes.

HANSEN: Yeah. Well, at the beginning I think you dedicate it to the people of Planet Mirth, who have been waiting a long time for a CD from you...

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: Is this kind of a shout out to everyone who's been your fan for such a long time and have kept their faith in you?

Mr. SLOAN: Yeah, I could say that. We did the album in 20 days, and the energy was really superb. Just great musicians on it: Buddy Miller and Felix Cavaliere and Frank Black from the Pixies and Tom Peterson, Cheap Trick, and Billy Block. Just some of Nashville's absolute finest just gave their time and love and energy to it.

(Soundbite of song PK and the Evil Doctor Z)

Mr. SLOAN: (Singing) Doctor Z was a time-traveler on his way Mirth when he dropped into L.A. to see a Dylan concert first. I was there with a rabbi who had wavy purple hair, and we waited by a chain-link fence. He thought Bob might show up there.

HANSEN: You're going to celebrate your 61st birthday next month. Are you ready for re-entry into the life of a touring musician?

Mr. SLOAN: I hope so. I'm going out there and getting a taste of it, and yeah, I really seem to be mentally and physically the happiest I've ever been in my life, and I'm really looking forward to playing and singing for people, which I've been trying to do for most of my life.

HANSEN: PF Sloan, his new CD on the Hightone label is called Sailover. PF Sloan joined us from KCRW in Santa Monica. Thanks and good luck with this.

Mr. SLOAN: Thanks, Liane. It was wonderful talking to you.

(Soundbite of song, PK and the Evil Doctor Z)

Mr. SLOAN: (Singing) Where were you when we needed you? Where were you when I wanted you? Where were you when I needed you?

HANSEN: You can hear the full version of Eve of Destruction and other PF Sloan songs at our Web site, npr.org. This is NPR's WEEKEND EDITION.

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