Where Were You When I Needed You

Album: Where Were You When I Needed You (1966)
Charted: 28
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Songfacts®:

  • This song has a very odd and confusing history. It was written by P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri, who were signed to Dunhill Records as songwriter/producers, not artists. When they started working on demos in the studio, however, they decided to be artists as well, calling themselves "The Grass Roots," as in a "grass roots project" for the label.

    Sloan and Barri's first release was a cover of the Bob Dylan song "Ballad of a Thin Man" which they re-titled "Mr. Jones (Ballad Of A Thin Man)." That went nowhere, but their next single was a song they wrote called "Where Were You When I Needed You" (with Sloan singing lead), which got picked up by a Los Angeles radio station.

    Deciding they needed a full group, Sloan and Barri recruited a San Francisco band called the Bedouins to join them, and had their lead singer, Bill Fulton, replace Sloan's vocals. This version of the song was a national hit, going to #28 in the US in July 1966.

    Things didn't work out with the Bedouins, so Sloan and Barri recorded the rest of the songs for their debut album themselves.

    The following year, Sloan and Barri recruited another band - an LA outfit called the 13th Floor - to join them as The Grass Roots. Their second album was called Let's Live For Today and featured a new version of "Where Were You When I Needed You" with new lead singer Rob Grill on vocals. A few months later, Sloan left the group, and Grill took a more prominent role in their direction. Subsequent issues of the song - including Greatest Hits compilations - always used the version with Grill singing lead.
  • The song's writers Barri and Sloan had earlier recorded surf music as the Fantastic Baggys, and written pop songs for a variety of acts, including Round Robin ("Kick That Little Foot Sally Ann" - #61) and Bruce & Terry ("Summer Means Fun" - #72).

    After Sloan's incisive protest song "Eve of Destruction" became a #1 hit for Barry McGuire in 1965, he was banished by many in the pop music machine. This song was a return to those pop music roots: a song about a girl who didn't stick around during the down times. The song could be seen as an analog to Sloan's experience: After the "Eve of Destruction" kerfuffle, many of his fellow folk singers abandoned him. Two who didn't were Judy Collins and Bob Dylan.

Comments: 8

  • Greyrock from VirginiaSo essentially there are three version of Where were you when I needed you? I like Rob Grill's vocals the best. Was the second version with Bill Fulton ever released? I don't care for Sloan's version but would like to here Fulton's version.
  • Neal Umphred from WashingtonIn late 1965 or early '66, Sloan and Barri were brought in to help Herman's Hermits with the music on their first feature film HOLD ON. They gave the group four new songs to record, including "Where Were You When I Needed You?" The soundtrack album was released in the US in March 1966, three months before the Grass Roots version was released!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZqu1RMhVzc
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn August 1st 1965, a song titled "Where Were You When I Needed You?" by Jerry Vale entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart for a one week stay at position #99..Exactly one year later on August 1st, 1966 the Grassroots' "Where Were You When I Needed You?" {a completely different song} was at #30 on the Top 100...{See the next post below}.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn July 22nd 1966, the Grass Roots performed their debut charted record, "Where Were You When I Needed You?", on the ABC-TV program 'Where The Action Is'...
    One month earlier on June 12th, 1966 it entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #89; and on July 24th, 1966 it peaked at #28 (for 1 week) and spent 9 weeks on the Top 100...
    Between 1966 and 1975 the group had twenty-one Top 100 records; with three making the Top 10, "Let's Live For Today" (at #8 in 1967), "Midnight Confessions" (at #5 in 1968), and "Sooner or Later" (at #9 in 1971)...
    Bassist and lead singer Rob Grill passed away on July 11th, 2011 at the age of 67...
    May he R.I.P.
  • Jackson from Angeles City, PhilippinesSloan and Barri first hired a San Francisco band called "The Bedouins" to be the "face of their project. They were the first "real" Grass Roots. Willie Fulton sang on the release of "Where Were You hen I Needed You". Other band members were Denny Ellis, David Stensen, and Joel Larson. They ended up leaving because they wanted to do their own material, while Sloan and Barri wanted artistic control. Only Drummer Larson re-appeared, in the '70s.
  • Jack from Cohasset, MaIf you listen to this song and "Eve of Destruction" by Barry Mcguire, you'll hear a strong similarity. Both songs were written by PF Sloan.
  • Andy from Arlington, VaThe Bangles covered this song and included it on their Greatest Hits.
  • Brandon from Seattle, WaThe Turtles originally turned this song down. But, interestingly compare this song to the Turtles' "Let Me Be." The lyrics are similar, as well as the music.
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