P.F. Sloan, Bob Dylan, pyrotechny, and a crazy doc running for U.S. President

explosion-139433_1920 I was sorry to hear of the passing of P.F. Sloan, a singer/songwriter/musician/producer who wrote several pop hits in the 60s, including the campy, not-intended-to-be-funny "Eve of Destruction.” (He wrote some good songs too.)

It was Sloan who, in describing his experience performing at a California rock concert in 1967, said his audience transformed into "undulating love jello.” That's one phrase I haven't been able to get out of my brain. But I have to remember that Sloan was in an altered state at the time (it WAS the Summer of Love, as reported here) which may be why I haven’t been able to reproduce that experience with my business audiences. I guess there are some things that don’t carry over so well from rock to business.

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As I continue to work my way through Elijah Wald’s book, Dylan Goes Electric (from which I’ve been gleaning business lessons, as reported here and here), I’m reminded of an early connection I had with Dylan. During my first summer in New York, I was doing all-night session work at Richard Alderson’s recording studio on W. 65th Street and sleeping in his back room, where different artists stored their musical equipment. My bed during that period was a sleeping bag on top of a Fender amplifier cabinet that had the name “Dylan” stenciled on it. I found out later that Alderson had been Bob Dylan’s sound engineer during his first “electric” tours and was warehousing some of Bob’s gear there. Looking back on my music career, I’d have to say that sleeping on Dylan’s amplifier was the closest I ever came to greatness.

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After watching the glitz, glitter, and pyrowizardry on display at the American Music Awards this weekend I’m thinking THAT’s what’s missing in my street performances! Dancing chimps and a fire machine would grab a lot of interest. (Maybe for this blog too?) The art of capturing eyeballs is critical to many kinds of business of course. So don’t be alarmed if crimson flames explode out of your computer screen someday when you land on this site.

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In business, entertainment, and art I’ve often gravitated to the dude or dudette who has trod (if not trodden) the less traveled path—with a radical point a view, a new and big idea, etc. (Most of my favorite rock artists were cut from a rare cloth, from Little Richard to Walk Off the Earth.) And so we celebrate the unique and the distinct on this blog. But I’m not sure what to make of one US Presidential candidate, who’s ranked #2 in the national polls among Republican Party nominees. (To folks unfamiliar with the electoral process in the US, the short version is: every four years the winner of the Republican Party nominating process competes in the general election against the winner of the Democratic Party nominating process, one of whom is elected the next President.)

The candidate in question here has such a creative relationship with reality that he makes my 1984 campaign for US President seem…well…normal. (If that’s news to you, you can watch me declare my candidacy on national TV here.) I'm wondering if we should take seriously a fellow who has stated that evolution is the work of the devil, that homosexuality is a choice, that the Genesis story of creation should be taken literally, that the 2016 elections might not happen, that the Chinese military are in Syria, and so on? But perhaps I'm being picky. He is a bright guy, a celebrated neurosurgeon no less. Maybe he’s just putting us on. It happens. And it sells books. But he’s spending a LOT (millions) of other people’s money—people who apparently aren’t in on the joke.

On the other hand, in recent polls he's been leading the Democratic front runner in a one-to-one match-up! So even if he wasn’t serious before, he might be now. I wonder if P.F. Sloan was onto something after all. Keep that fire extinguisher handy.


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8 Comments

  1. Over at his blog today Steven Pressfield wrote about some of the ways to get readers to buy into the unbelievable aspects of your story. He included the "Boiling a Frog" method, which you can figure out, and the "Truth Truth Truth Fiction" method (obvious again) and the one you might espouse, which he calls, most eloquently (if not succinctly) the "Throw the Reader into the Deep End Without Ceremony and Without Warning" method. As an example, he quotes the opening line of Kafka's The Metamorphosis.

    Perhaps your opening salvo in all instances should be "When I ran for President . . . " and get the suspension of disbelief and some of the pyrotechnics out of the way right up front.

    And now, I'll share my tightest connection with Dylan: I know a guy who once slept on one of Dylan's amps.

    1. Seeing it performed on Hullabaloo by Barry McGuire—with the dancers in the background—was majorly confusing.

      But Sloan wrote some decent songs for the Turtles and the Grass Roots, including "You Baby" and "Where Were You When I Needed You?" And "Secret Agent Man" for Johnny Rivers. He also played the guitar intro on "California Dreaming." But he made his fortune on "Eve of Destruction." Maybe he laughed all the way to the bank.

    1. Thanks, Dave. Glad to hear from you! It was actually Tom Snyder who interviewed me. I would have LOVED a Cavett interview. He was more my style. I think he was off the air by the 80s. I almost got on Letterman in 1982. I did get a long interview with Rolling Stone in 1980 (by Kurt Loder) but it never ran cuz John Lennon was killed a few weeks later and that displaced a lot of other RS stories. Oh well...

  2. In defence of "Eve of Destruction" (albeit conveniently overlooking some genuinely bonkers lyrics) it does contain this rather good verse:

    You may leave here for four days in space
    But when you return it's the same old place
    The pounding of the drums, the pride and disgrace
    You can bury your dead but don't leave a trace
    Hate your next door neighbor but don't forget to say grace

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