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Cover Story ? Go behind the boards with Led Zeppelin

Producers and engineers Eddie Kramer, Andy Johns and Ron Nevison reveal all about their work with definitive heavy metal band Led Zeppelin.

Reuniting to honor late Atlantic Records chief Ahmet Ertegun, Led Zeppelin’s Dec. 10, 2007, reunion show at London’s O2 Arena drew an unprecedented ticket request from 20 million people.

While most of the surviving members of Zeppelin have been mum about a full-fledged reunion trek, Robert Plant did say recently there is no truth to rumors the band will go back out on the road. One thing, though, is certain: If this band brought its “hammer of the gods” back on the road, the tour would assuredly go down as the biggest rock campaign of all time.

Enjoying success with a newly revamped “The Song Remains The Same” CD and DVD (with bonus material) and a splendid two-CD career overview, Mothership, Goldmine sat down with Eddie Kramer, Andy Johns and Ron Nevison, three highly influential producers and engineers who worked on such seminal Zeppelin records as Led Zeppelin II, Led Zeppelin III, Led Zeppelin IV, Houses Of The Holy, The Song Remains The Same and Physical Graffitti, for a peek behind the construction of the band’s mighty sonic architecture.

Eddie Kramer

(engineer on Led Zeppelin II, Led Zeppelin III, Houses Of The Holy, Physical Graffiti, The Song Remains The Same, Coda, How The West Was Won)

In 1969, I started working with them on Zeppelin II, and I saw them on that tour play at The Fillmore East in New York City, and they were so awesome. I don’t think they realized how powerful they were at that point. But, they knew they were really good. Bonham at that particular point probably wasn’t aware how great he was.

John Paul Jones and I go back a long way. I knew Pagey as a session musician, and I knew John Paul Jones as a session musician or John Baldwin — that’s his real name. Having met Pagey a couple of times and recorded him on a couple of occasions as a session musician at Olympic (Studio), I was more friendly with John, because we just sort of clicked. We used to hang out, and I’d go to his house in Hampstead and hang out with him and his wife.

We had a nice, warm, personal relationship. I always admired his playing on sessions. I loved to watch him come in with his bass and his charts and stand up there in front of the orchestra and conduct the whole bloody lot. He was terrific;

he was wonderful to watch.

There’s a self-effacing, quiet, reserved gentleman if ever I’ve seen one. Just a marvelous individual. He just has so much talent and so much skill as an arranger and as a composer. I think when you look at Zeppelin, you look at Pagey and John Paul having those skills as session guys, knowing what it takes to make a great sound, knowing what it takes to put a band together. The fact that you had two highly skilled pro musicians in the band and then these two other guys, Robert Plant and John Bonham, who were close friends. Those guys were the two opposites. But, bringing them into the band, it just worked.

I remember John Paul Jones played me the first Zeppelin record in ’68 just before they left for America, and I said, “Jesus, what is this? It’s pretty heavy.” And I asked him, “Well, what’s the name of the band?” And he said, “Led Zeppelin,” and I laughed and said, “That’s a terrible bloody name.” (laughs) But, boy, was I ever wrong.

I’m very proud of all the records I worked on with the boys. Certainly working at Stargroves at (Mick) Jagger’s house on Physical Graffiti and Houses Of The Holy was amazing fun. But Zeppelin II is a very special record to me. I love that record. It’s the one that seriously kicks butts. Not that the others don’t. The first Zeppelin album is a very good album,