Friday, October 8, 2010

Lon Van Eaton: Making "Sweet Music"

When publicist / P.R. Guru David Salidor asked me if Forgotten Hits would be interested in running an EXCLUSIVE piece on Lon Van Eaton, former Apple Records Recording Artist who just happens to have a few NEW pieces coming up that are definitely worth talking about, too ... you can bet that there wasn't a moment's hesitation on my part to bring this piece to you.

And when he told us that celebrity biographer Mark Bego would be handling the interview, we said, "Bring It On!!!"

So today we get to share ALL of it with you ... right here in Forgotten Hits!

Lon Van Eaton

Although you might not instantly know the name of Lon Van Eaton, you soon will. Van Eaton, who is one half of the 1970s duo Lon & Derek Van Eaton, became one of The Beatles’ prime progété’s, when “The Fab Four” decided to run their own record label: Apple Records. Thanks to an exciting new October 2010 Apple album release, and several new projects, Lon Van Eaton is currently amidst a dramatic re-emergence in the entertainment world.

Back in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, The Beatles had such a wealth of money and influence, they felt that could share their magic by discovering and signing new acts to Apple Records, and turn them into huge stars. In many instances, particularly the rock group Badfinger, they were correct. Amongst the other stars who were signed to Apple were Mary Hopkin, Ronnie Spector, James Taylor, Billy Preston, and Lon & Derrek Van Eaton.

In October of 2010, the new album, "Come and Get It: The Best of Apple Records", will be released, including a lot of material that has never been available before on CD, or digital download. The album will include the biggest Lon & Derrek Van Eaton song, “Sweet Music.”

Together with his brother Derrek, Lon Van Eaton recorded a historic album called "Brother", which was released on Apple in 1972, produced by George Harrison, and including the expert drumming of Ringo Starr. Lon then went on to record with Harrison and Starr, on their solo albums, as well as appearing on albums by Carly Simon, Martha Reeves, Harry Nilsson, and several other huge stars of the era.

Far from the 1970s London music scene, Lon Van Eaton today lives in Colorado, where he continues to make music, and to plan new projects. Although the times have changed, Lon is someone who still has his Beatles-esque “Give Peace a Chance” theories intact, and he has a great sense of humor about his past, present, and future in the entertainment business.

Explaining how he and his brother ended up on Apple Records, Lon says, "Derrek and I were in a group signed to CBS called 'Jacob’s Creek.' The band later disbanded leaving Derrek and I alone with our manager, Robin Garb. We set to work writing and recording for the first time as a duo and produced a seven song demo. Robin sent it to record companies and three or four were interested. We decided to work with George and Apple.

"On September 15, 1971, Derrek and I signed a five year contract with Apple Records. Two weeks later we were at EMI Studios on Abbey Road in London, recording our first song for the label, ‘Sweet Music’ which George Harrison produced with us.”

In the middle of all of this activity, Lon found himself in legendary Abbey Road Studios, with George Harrison, Ringo Starr, and Peter Frampton. “Abbey Road was a wonderful place with several differences from other studios I had recorded in,” says Lon. “The engineers and workers all wore lab coats, looking like scientists. I remember someone calling down to request the ADT machine. That is a device that doubles an instrument, getting that sound like on ‘When My Guitar Gently Weeps.’ A few minutes later the door opened and two ‘scientists’ wheeled in this huge contraption with dials and knobs. Looked like the controls from Young Frankenstein. ‘Bye-bye Marty Feldman. You are great!’

"Now you can get that sound with a tiny plug in on your music software. However, with all the new tricks and tech advances, you don’t get the genius of a song recording like ‘When My Guitar Gently Weeps.’ Bravo George!

"George produced the song ‘Sweet Music’ and I played this black Harptone during the recording session. George played the guitar but not while recording. Derrek and I and Peter Frampton were playing acoustic guitars on the basic track at Abbey Road. George was in the control room coming in and out to suggest things. He did ask for the guitar and played an E7 chord to use at the place right before the chorus. It was a very good musical idea, and we did it from then on. The album was an incredible dream to work on.”

Oddly, the Apple Records album, "Brother", has never been released on CD, yet in its vinyl version, it is still considered to be a highly desirable prize amongst record collectors. One of the reasons was the unique way it was packaged. Recalls Lon, “Interesting that you mention that as I just saw an ad on TV for a new album and they are using the Zoetrope carousel concept. It was fun!

"In our album there was a cardboard cut-out which you assembled and placed on your turntable. As it turns, you look through the slits and the pictures move like the original Thomas Edison moving picture experiments. This was back in an era in which all sort of promotional goodies were included in an album package. The Beatles had the money and creativity to do things like that — which they did in the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. With this assemble-it-yourself Zoetrope, our album benefited from it as well. These are all things that are lost on the new 'download generation.' Album packages were special and unique.

"I have had so many requests for the 'Brother' album to be released on CD, and it is a dream of mine to finally see it happen. Actually, George signed a new contract with us for the CD release in the early 1990’s.”

Lon also appeared on the George Harrison album, "Dark Horse", in 1974. “During that period in Los Angeles,” Lon says, “I remember being with George at a party before we left to go to the Charlie Chaplin lots on La Brea where A&M Records was located — and also where George housed Dark Horse Records. Poor George. He had eaten something that had meat in it that evening and several of the people at the party started talking and questioning ‘his Holiness’ for having eaten meat! That made for an uncomfortable but swift exit.

"We arrived at the A&M Records gate on La Brea in George’s Morgan convertible with iron chain steering wheel, and we were greeted by an officer not knowing who George was and refusing him entrance. George, who was a deep-thinking spiritual man and, for the most part, even-keeled and calm, went ballistic! I remember him standing up in his car and yelling , ‘Ever heard of the Beatles?’ It took a few minutes and another guard to arrive before recognition took place.

"George had magic. Another time he came into a session for Derrek and I in New York City and he was asked to play a slide guitar part on a track we were doing. Calmly and without losing concentration, he went over and over the track, transforming the sections with an amazing, quite magical sense of phrasing and harmony. He literally saved the song and created a masterpiece. I am so very lucky to have seen genius at work in person and the sense of it is beyond mere words.”

Lon also appeared on the exciting 1974 Martha Reeves solo album that Richard Perry produced, which was released on MCA Records. At the time that was known as “the most expensive album every recorded.” It was recently remastered and released by MCA’s label.

“Maybe it was so expensive because of my fee for playing those bits on ‘Wild Night!’” Lon laughs. “But seriously, everyone working on that record was striving to be as perfect as possible to honor the great Motown Diva, Martha Reeves. Ms. Reeves is such an amazingly gracious lady and great singer and performer. There were a lot of incredible performers on that album, including James Taylor and Billy Preston — both Apple Records alumni — like myself. That was a great album, and it was a lot of fun to be a part of the all-star band.”

Lon was featured on five different Ringo Starr albums: including: "Ringo", "Goodnight Vienna", "Rotogravure", "Ringo the Fourth", and "Bad Boy". According to him, “It was always a wonderful and exciting experience to be involved in recording with Ringo, whether at Cherokee Studios, Sunset Sound or even under Pseudonyms for the album we did in Vancouver, B.C. You always knew that you would be joined by great musicians and have brilliant songs to record. Everything was smooth and first class all the way. Plus, having the rock solid drummer, Ringo, and sometimes even two — when Jim Keltner would be on the sessions — you sensed the abilities of true pros and knew that the best drum sounds were second nature.”

One of the things that he seemed to share with The Beatles, is a “Zen” sort of “All We Need Is Love” type of credo. I wondered if this was a bonding “meeting of the minds” sort of a philosophy that he shared with George Harrison and Ringo Starr ...

Replies Lon, “Yes, what you focus on expands. I love Dylan, McCartney and other great writer artists who paint pictures that give you the feeling of actually being there like on recordings such as ‘Penny Lane.’ John Lennon and George Harrison took the art a step further in many ways by also depicting a possibility of how it could be. ‘Imagine’ is the best example. John was a house husband before the woman’s movement. This idea of creating reality through media was what I am learning and keeping alive with Imagine a Better World and the LIVIES™. George’s ‘Living in the Material World’ says much about that.”

In 1998 Lon and Derrek released an album called "Black & White". It was their first full album since the ‘70s. According to Lon, “I think the credit belongs to Matt Hurewitz, who was the publisher of ‘Good Day Sunshine.’ Matt called and mentioned through his connections the possibility of recording a Badfinger song on a tribute album. He sent some selections and I went to work at Angels Ranch. Matt came and visited for a couple weeks and recorded an amazing vocal on a song called ‘Gringoland.’ While recording the Badfinger song, ‘Apple of My Eye,’ a magical wind came just as the song ended and a huge door slammed. Angels Ranch is where we developed the concept and company, Imagine a Better World. I wanted to give back all that I had been given during the recording years and founded Imagine a Better World as a company dedicated to creating conscious change through media. The lessons from the Beatles and the effect and impact they had on society were inspirational for millions. Take just the song: ‘We Can Work It Out,’ need more be said? ‘All You Need Is Love’ is the truth!”

One of the Lon & Derrek Van Eaton tracks, the single “Sweet Music,” is on the new Apple Records compilation, "Come And Get It: The Best of Apple Records".

It sounds like a unique and exciting release to include Badfinger, James Taylor, Billy Preston, and Ronnie Spector. “It is a total and complete honor to be included and to have those great artists on the same recording,” says Lon. “By the way, James Taylor and I are astral twins, same day and year. I think I mentioned that to Carly Simon when I also had the great privilege of playing on some of her recordings. Those sessions came about because of the very underrated genius of Richard Perry, the great producer. Derrek and I also were blessed with Richard producing our A&M Album, "Who Do You Out Do" along with Bill Schnee. It was George who had originally introduced us to Bill Schnee and his genius.”

With regard to his move to Colorado in 1985, Lon explains, “When I moved out to Denver from Los Angeles 25 years ago, it was truly a matter of culture shock. It was like: ‘Hey, where’s the all-night Pink’s Hot Dogs? Where’s Sunset Strip?’ It took some adjusting to get used to a different pace. However I created ‘’ as a way to ‘give back’ some of the good karma that I had been given pre-1985, which was wonderful experience. I also had the chance to do some great non-profit recordings for The Boy Scouts, and I did some charity recordings with Zubin Mehta and Stevie Wonder as well.”

Most recently, Lon has been working on a new 3-D theatrical presentation called “Livies™.” As he explains, “I would humbly suggest it is beyond 3-D, some call it 4-D! We call it: “LIVIES™.” It is a new entertainment delivery system. First, there were Silent Films ... Movies. Then, sound ... Talkies. Many improvements came leading to the current 3-D craze. The next step in the future of entertainment ... LIVIES™—Live Interactive Visual Immersion Entertainment Shows!

"Imagine a theatre of breathtaking high definition images immersed in surround sound. A theatre where performances are projected onto awe-inspiring high-def virtual realities. A theatre designed to educate and entertain audiences of all ages. This is LIVIES™ Digital Theatre ... And you don’t have to imagine it: it is here! The first ever Live Interactive Visual Immersion Environmental Shows! We can safely guarantee that after experiencing a LIVIE show — your life will be transformed. It is an interactive journey to a brand new person that you will become.”

It is great to have Lon Van Eaton back in the forefront of the musical and entertainment scene with the new Apple album, a planned re-release of "Black & White", and his LIVIE shows projected in the future. According to him, “It feels great, like I have never been gone from the spotlight!”

This very special Lon Van Eaton Interview was prepared EXCLUSIVELY for Forgotten Hits by celebrity biographer Mark Bego, through an arrangment made with David Salidor. Mark Bego’s latest book is called Paperback Writer: A Memoir (Publish America) and it is a journey through his five decade career of interviewing rock, pop, and movie stars. He is also the author of Martha Reeves’ autobiography, Dancing in the Street: Confessions of a Motown Diva (Hyperion). His website is:

Thanks, Lon, Mark and David, for choosing Forgotten Hits to tell your story ... this was GREAT! (kk)

For more information, be sure to check out Lon Van Eaton's website:
Click here: Lon Van Eaton

Click here: Times Square Gossip: THE BEATLES INSIDER LON VAN EATON

I asked Lon if he had a new piece of music he might like to share with our readers ... and he sent me this ... yet ANOTHER Forgotten Hits EXCLUSIVE that you can hear HERE before you can even buy it!!!

Hello Kent:
The votes have been tabulated and RULES is choosen.
We hope you have a laugh with us.
It will be on the new album tentatively entitled: "Stubborn Chickens".
Thanks again very very much!

By the way, Forgotten Hits will be giving away a copy of the brand new Apple Records "Best Of" CD, featuring long out-of-print tracks by Apple Artists like Badfinger, James Taylor, Mary Hopkin, Billy Preston, Lon and Derrek Van Eaton, Ronnie Spector, The Radha Krishna Temple and more!

Have you registered to win YOUR free copy yet? Just send us an email to and tell us that you'd like your name entered in the drawing. Later this month, we'll be giving away an autographed copy of the hot new CD!

And, Apple Record is waging a full-blown reissue campaign later this month ... complete album / CD reissues are on the way from Badfinger ("Magic Christian Music", "No Dice", "Straight Up" and "Ass"), Mary Hopkin ("Post Card" and "Earth Song, Ocean Song"), James Taylor's Apple debut (titled simply "James Taylor" and featuring his ORIGINAL recordings of "Carolina In My Mind" and "Something In The Way She Moves"), Billy Preston ("That's The Way God Planned It" and "Encouraging Words"), Jackie Lomax ("Is This What You Want?"). The Radha Krishna Temple's self-titled LP, Doris Troy's self-titled CD, "Under The Jasmin Tree / Space" by The Modern Jazz Quartet and "Whale / Celtic Requiem" by John Tavener. Many of these releases feature the involvement of The Beatles in some capacity (whether as songwriters, producers, studio musician sidemen or all of the above) and ALL have been LONG out of print ... so here's your chance to snatch up copies NOW in pristine CD sound.

And, while we're on the subject, watch for a HUGE wave of John Lennon reissues and collectors' sets, too, in honor of what would have been John's 70th Birthday tomorrow. His entire solo catalog is being re-released along with a new Greatest Hits Package, a "stripped down" version of his "Double Fantasy" comeback LP, and three brand new CD Box Sets.