FOR THE ASSOCIATION'S STOP YOUR MOTOR
the Association's Stop Your Motor
album appeared in
mid-1971, it marked not just their first full-length studio effort in
two years, but the last of their records on or distributed by Warner
Brothers. Original member Russ Giguere had departed, to be replaced by
keyboardist Richard Thompson (no relation to the British folk-rock
guitarist of the same name). It's the most obscure of the albums they
had put out up to that point, reaching a mere #158 and failing to
generate any hit singles. Its most famous cut attracted much of its
attention decades later, when the man who inspired it had generated a
large cult following in his own right.
meant getting a new producer on board, and for Stop Your Motor the production was
co-credited to the group and Ray Pohlman (who had just produced their
1970 concert album Live).
Pohlman had been a top Hollywood session player, mostly on guitar or
bass, for years, playing on the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds and records by the
Monkees, Tim Buckley, the Fifth Dimension, and many others (it was he
who played bass on the 1964 single by the Beefeaters, the group
featuring Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark, and David Crosby that would evolve
into the Byrds). "Ray was a good friend socially as well as musically,"
says the Association's Jim Yester. "He also did a lot of work for
[producer] Bones [Howe, who had produced the group's third and fourth
albums]. In fact, Ray did most of the charts for those sessions."
Handling vocal arrangements was another top L.A.
session vet, Don Randi, who as a keyboardist had worked with many of
the same artists as Pohlman, including the Monkees, Buckley, and the
Beach Boys (including Pet Sounds),
as well as Buffalo Springfield, Elvis Presley, Nancy Sinatra, Sonny
& Cher, and others. Two different producers, John Tartaglia &
Randy Steirling, worked on one of the album's highlights, Yester's
"Along the Way," which was plucked off the LP for a single. Handling
the piano on that cut was yet another Hollywood session legend, Larry
Knechtel, hired according to Yester because of his work on another
orchestrated ballad, Simon & Garfunkel's massive smash "Bridge Over
In keeping with past Association albums, most of the
songwriting was divvied up more or less equally among the bandmembers,
ensuring a stylistic diversity than some followers found disorienting.
Some of the country-rock that had come to the fore on parts of 1969's The Association lingered on cuts
like "Bring Yourself," "The First Sound," and "That's Racin'," while
"Along the Way" and "Funny Kind of Song" were the kind of romantic
ballads more associated with the Association's public image. The band
also went to outside writers for a couple of tunes, covering "Seven
Virgins" by Jimmie Spheeris, then starting his career as a
singer-songwriter for Columbia. The other outside contribution, Jimmy
Webb's "P.F. Sloan," would became the album's most well-remembered
tune, even if it didn't chart when initially released as a single in
Most known for writing Barry McGuire's #1 1965
folk-rock protest anthem "Eve of Destruction," P.F. Sloan had written
(sometimes with Steve Barri) a slew of pop-rock and folk-rock hits in
the mid-1960s for the Turtles, Johnny Rivers, Herman's Hermits, the
Grass Roots, and the Searchers. The Association themselves had recorded
one of his lesser-known efforts, "On a Quiet Night," on their 1967 Top
Ten album Insight Out. He'd
also recorded some underrated, overlooked singer-songwriter albums, but
had virtually disappeared from the business after 1967, for reasons
that are still murky. It was only 1971 when "P.F. Sloan" came out, and
it was most unusual for a top songwriter to be writing about a peer as
if he was a long-lost legend, especially as it was just three or four
years since Sloan had vanished from the public eye. Sloan, too, wasn't
nearly as well known to general rock fans as he is these days, his
contributions coming for the most part from behind the scenes.
Asked about his composition by SongTalk, Webb explained, "P.F.
Sloan is the heroic figure of the songwriter who goes out and keeps
writing no matter what. The guy was hot, and he was one of the first,
of one of the few, songwriters who wanted to be a singer, and it was
tough to do that. There was pressure on me to stay a songwriter. [To]
just behave and be a songwriter. He was one of the first guys to go up
against that, and I admire him."
Webb's own version of the song came out on a Reprise
single two months before the Association's was issued on a February
1971 45, an odd circumstance considering that Reprise was a sister
label of Warners. It would be the Association's version that Sloan
himself heard that year. "I first heard it at a hot dog stand on Sunset
Boulevard," he remarked on an America On Line chat session in 1997.
"The Association were singing it. It was 1971. I had borrowed some
coins for coffee...I was away from music and living on someone's couch.
I thought to myself, 'God is still alive, and remembers and loves me.'"
To SongTalk, he elaborated,
"The first time I ever heard the song on the air was a divine moment
for me. I had had all my royalties suspended. I had absolutely no
money. I had no place to live. I was at this hot dog stand on Vine
Street, and trying to scrape up 50 cents for a hot dog, and out of the
speakers from the hot dog place was that song. And I was thinking, 'Is
this a divine play or what?'"
Sloan, alas, was probably one of the few listeners
to hear the song on the radio, as it failed to make the national
charts, although Yester says it did chart high in a few places and made
#1 on a Davenport, Iowa station. "I really liked the song," he adds. "I
don't think Jimmy himself submitted it. Somebody just submitted it,
probably his publishing company. Good song, and very different, with
the thing [in the middle] with Brian [Cole] doing his Johnny Cash
thing. Nice arrangement, a little different. But it might have been
just a little too outside.
"I wasn't surprised at all that it is getting
recognition now, or was recognized more than some of the other stuff on
the album. We were ahead of our time. And a lot of people didn't really
know who he [Sloan] was." With Stop
the Motor completing the Association's contractual obligation to
Warner Brothers, the group moved to Columbia, leaving "P.F. Sloan"'s
rediscovery to collectors of the 1990s and 2000s, after both Sloan and
the Association themselves were rediscovered by an entire new
generation of music fans. -- Richie Unterberger
unless otherwise specified.
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