R.I.P., P.F. Sloan

“You may leave here for Four Days in Space, but when you return it’s the same old place”:  I just learned that P.F. Sloan, the legendary L.A. songwriter/singer who mysteriously disappeared for a couple of decades, has died. His Wikipedia entry has most of the details. I sense from the minimal response to my tweets about him that he’s not a revered figure on the East Coast. So a few other things:  1) He’s way more than “Eve of Destruction,” his most famous song. He was signed to a local black record label when he was 13. When I heard him recount it, he was billed as “Little Phil Sloan, the White Boy Who Can Sing.” He was out of work at 15 (the label went broke) and started writing surf tunes. That’s him singing falsetto on “Little Old Lady from Pasadena.” 2) He co-wrote  “I Found a Girl” (for Jan and Dean) and “Let Me Be” (the Turtles) and “Secret Agent Man.” He pretty much created the “Grass Roots.” He put on his pants one leg at a time, but once his pants were on he made hit records.  3) He was in the Wrecking Crew! 4)  He embodied L.A.’s Second City problem, which in folk-rock translates into the subconscious assumption that anything coming from the gritty streets of West Hollywood can’t be authentic or profound. You get a partial pass if you lived in Laurel Canyon. 5) Specifically, people in the East seem to see Sloan as a slightly dumber, more earnest version of Bob Dylan. Which I guess he sort of was. Dylan famously dissed him during a concert in LA. (Then again, didn’t Dylan diss his own son?)  But Sloan was so talented he made it work. “Eve of Destruction” may be a little “naive,” as Sloan later said, but it’s powerful and builds to an effective crescendo. (“Hate your NEXT DOOR NEIGHBOR. But don’ forget to say Grace.”) It’s no more naive than 70% of the posts on Daily Kos ( 99% when the topic is immigration). In a way, it is a blog rant before it’s time. 6) My guess: What’s missing from Sloan, compared with Dylan, is romantic, egomaniacal rage. 7) I bet Sloan had more Top 20 hits than Dylan. 8) And did Dylan ever write a song about how other countries are ungrateful for US foreign aid (“When the Wind Changes”), I ask you? You could sing that at a Commentary fundraiser. 8) My favorite Sloan song is the faux-Dylan “Halloween Mary.” It comes from the ’60s! 9) I saw Sloan perform in a small club in Hoboken, in the 90s, after he reemerged. There were about 8 people there, six of them clutching Sloan’s (low-selling, rare) solo albums for him to sign. He was charming. 10) His best story involved him going to buy a guitar at a famous Hollywood guitar store at age 13. Elvis Presley walks in. He’s there to have a guitar gold-plated. Elvis shows him how to play “Love Me Tender.” Then he walks upstairs. Before he disappears behind a curtain, he turns and says, “You’ll do all right, kid.” 11) A couple of years ago, someone invited me to a big holiday party given by, yes, Frank Luntz. As I’m leaving I learn that P.F. Sloan had been there, but I’d missed him. Left behind on the gift table was a signed copy of the sheet music for “Eve of Destruction. ” Posterity can be cruel.