HEEEEEEEEERE’S JOHNNY

Flipping through a dollar bin on my way out of a record shop one day, this fisheye image caught my attention. I’d heard of Mr Tillotson and knew just enough about him to know he wasn’t my cup of tea. (Early 60s country pop, cardigan-wearing, neatly quiffed hair, and so on.) But as any fan of psychedelia can surely appreciate, a distorted image on a cover is usually enough to make you at least pick up the record and check out the small print and liner notes.

As a big P F Sloan fan I was naturally most intrigued to discover the LP in my hands included a song by the great songwriter that I hadn’t heard before. I would probably have bought the album based on the cover alone, just in case some of that distortion had found its way into the grooves, but armed with this new information there was no question it was coming home with me.

I wasn’t expecting much from the record other than Phil’s song, so when I put it on later that night and cued up Track 1 Side 1 I was pleasantly surprised by the fuzzy intro of ‘Make This Train’. Sounding a few years earlier than its 1967 release date, it’s a great little R&B number: a little bit mod, a little bit soul, and a solid poppy production with just the right amount of teeth. It ain’t gonna blow your mind or anything, but it’s way to good to be left in a dollar bin.

‘Cling To Me’, however, is a great lost track. A perfect P F Sloan number, expertly crafted by his seemingly effortless hand. As stated above, I’d never heard the song before – not on any of The Grassroots records, Barry McGuire records or his solo records. Turns out Phil’s demo of it was released on a bootleg CDR in 2000 and then legitimately on CD by a French label in 2001. Johnny Tillotson’s lovely, melancholy rendition is the way to hear it though.

 

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