At the invitation of his friend and Bay area concert promoter, Mike Somavilla, legendary singer/songwriter and music producer P. F. Sloan will be making a one-night-only Northern California appearance at the Berkeley Art House Gallery and Cultural Center, this Saturday, July 19, starting at 7:30 pm. On Monday, July 15, Somavilla said "Tickets are only $15 and you’ll have a chance to hear the music and excerpts from the book as well as participate in a Q&A session with Sloan," whose last public appearance was in the UK.
Any classic rock music lover and faithful vinyl album liner note consumer knows the name P. F. Sloan as the brilliant songwriter who, in many cases along with writing colleague Steve Barri, is not much short of a genius. Somavilla shared that "Sloan is, in a major or minor way, responsible for the successful careers of musicians including The Rip Chords, Jan & Dean, Barry McGuire, The Turtles, The Searchers, Johnny Rivers Herman’s Hermits, The Fifth Dimension, and oh yes, the Grass Roots." As the co-author (together with S. E. Feinberg) of the just-released memoir, “What’s Exactly the Matter with Me?” Sloan is about to make music history one more time.
P.F. Sloan has long been described as elusive, not given to public appearances in general. He is described as “one of the influential geniuses to emerge from the golden age of the 1960s.” Reality is that fame, fortune, stardom and pedestals have come to many amongst the giants in the music business, because fans live through every note and melody of a song they claim as “theirs” for one reason or another.
In actual fact, songwriters chronicle the pain, the joy, the fears and the successes of the “average person,” as brought to life by performers whose gifts elevate those songs to “hits,” played by radio stations that make them “monster hits,” and when purchased en masse by the greater audience, elevate them again to “music that has stood the test of time.” If you disagree, it’s time to reconsider.
What songs on the radio today do you think anyone will really give a flying fig about? I might personally select “Let it Go,” and “Happy” as potentially bringing a smile to the newest members of the AARP group in the year 2064. But you can’t, for a minute, think that there will be a reunion tour the likes of the Happy Together Tour in 2064 featuring the music of Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Drake, or Robin Thicke. And yet, there’s P.F. Sloan, whose songs have relevance and importance almost 50 years after he wrote them.
Today across the country, legendary performers with careers that have endured still play his songs to audiences that keep demanding they be heard. Ask Mark Dawson, the current lead singer and bass player for the Grass Roots since 2008, how much Sloan's work matters. On any given night when the Grass Roots perform across the country, you’ll potentially hear: “Things I Should Have Said,” “Wake Up, Wake Up,” by Sloan or “Only When You’re Lonely,” “Where Were You When I Needed You” or “Tip of My Tongue” by Sloan/Barri, who co-produced as many Grass Roots songs on the Dunhill Label as they wrote. When asked on Monday, Mark Dawson said, "anyone who is anywhere near Berkeley and loves Grass Roots song needs to be at that Art House concert!"
Even though Herman’s Hermits also recorded “Where Were You When I Needed You” and are equally identifiable with that hit, the names of P. F. Sloan and Steve Barri are well known to classic rock devotees but remain among “the best kept secrets in show business” on a more global scale. Sloan was, undoubtedly, a starmaker with so many of his own songs. He did record his own albums, such as "Twelve More Times, "Songs of Our Times," and "Measure of Pleasure," but most of his acclaim came via the public faces, and voices of others. Somavilla said, "Sloan was an incredibly important part of the success of The Mamas and the Papas during his work at Dunhill Records."
Every time the engaging and charming Peter Noone has audiences within his hands, and sings, “A Must to Avoid,” that’s P.F. Sloan’s song. Whenever Howard Kaylan is on the uber-successful Happy Together Tour with Mark Volman, causing chaos and conundrums of frivolity, hitting every perfect note backed by Godfrey Townsend, John Montagna, Steve Murphy and Manny Focarrazzo, on “You Baby,” or “Let Me Be” or “Can I Get To Know You Better,” that’s P.F. Sloan. When Johnny Rivers starts out that easily identifiable screaming guitar hook on “Secret Agent Man,” that’s P. F. Sloan.
When the father of all protest songs, “Eve of Destruction” by Barry McGuire is loaded up in the cart machine in some terrestrial radio oldies station or if it's simply soaring through the airwaves of Sirius/XM Radio, via their 60s on 6 channel, that’s P.F. Sloan who wrote that #1 Billboard chart hit. When The Rip Chords make a festival appearance for fans in Anywhere, USA, and do “One Piece Topless Bathing Suit,” that’s P.F. Sloan. When Jan & Dean would do “(Here They Come) From All Over the World” or “I Found a Girl,” you guessed it, Sloan again. “Another Day, Another Heartache” took the Fifth Dimension to the Top 50 of the Billboard Charts. You've heard countless DJs say it before, "And the hits just keep on coming!"
There’s plenty of stories behind each song, and you only have one night to hear them. Only because music producer and concert-gathering guru Mike Somavilla was asking, did Sloan say “yes” to the San Francisco Bay Area, so don’t look for a list of big U.S. tour dates. There’s not one. It’s a one-night-only chance of a lifetime to meet the artist and hear him play his own songs and learn what happened to him to make him title his own memoirs, “What’s Exactly the Matter with Me?”
Sloan was always the person who shunned the spotlight such that he was long considered as simply “elusive.” Many writers have sought to learn more about the man behind the music, but he chose a less public life of preferred privacy until recently. Multiplatinum-selling songwriter, Jimmy Webb even wrote his own tribute, aptly titled, “P. F. Sloan.” The video accompanying this story is Sloan singing and playing his own composition made most famous by the Grass Roots, “Where Were You When I Needed You.” His version of “Secret Agent Man” (also on YouTube) is equally charismatic.You can hear this song, and many more, from the man who wrote, or co-wrote them, this weekend, if you act fast.
This Saturday night, July 19, 2014, get there early to Berkeley’s Art House Gallery and Cultural Center, located at. 2905 Shattuck Avenue, between Ashby Ave. and Russell St. in South Berkeley. Doors open at 7 p.m. Call Harold Adler at (510) 472-3170 for details and advance tickets ($15) to make sure you won’t be out in the parking lot wishing you’d have arrived hours sooner. Somavilla said, "There are no do-overs or make-up dates. Saturday night is the night."
If you must miss the concert, be sure to check out Sloan’s new book. The Kindle version is online now, but you can get an autographed copy that night, as Jawbone Press has made some early print books available. It’s another must-read rock music book by the guy who was there at the beginning and who, by virtue of his talents, made careers and lives for so many other grateful, working musicians.
P. F. Sloan deserves a standing ovation before he ever says a word or plays a note. Make plans now to be a part of the crowd who was there. Thanks to Mike Somavilla and Crest of the Waves Productions for the interview and heads-up on his latest great show produced in the Art House Gallery and Cultural Center.