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Andy Johns, Engineer for Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones, Dies at 61

Andy Johns, a longtime music engineer and producer who worked with artists ranging from Led Zeppelin to Television, the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix, died on Saturday in Los Angeles. He was 61.

The younger brother of fellow producer Glyn Johns, Johns was a native of Surrey, England, and dabbled with a career as a bass player before taking a job at London’s Olympic Studios in the late 1960s, where he was a tape operator for the recording of the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s “Axis: Bold as Love.”

1969 proved Johns’ breakout year as an engineer, as he logged studio time on such titles as Jethro Tull’s “Stand Up,” Blind Faith’s self-titled debut and Led Zeppelin’s “II,”  as well as producing Humble Pie’s “As Safe as Yesterday Is” and “Town and Country.”

Johns kept busy through the next several years, continuously collaborating with Zeppelin (for whom he engineered six albums) and finding steady engineering work with the Rolling Stones on “Sticky Fingers,”  “Exile on Main St.” and others. Of particular note was his work with Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham on the group’s fourth album, producing deep, unprecedentedly powerful drum sounds that set a new heavy rock standard. (The sludgy, floor-quaking drum intro on “When the Levee Breaks” has since been sampled by everyone from the Beastie Boys to Dr. Dre and Bjork.)

In 1977, Johns co-produced New York act Television’s art-punk masterpiece “Marquee Moon,” and he engineered Joni Mitchell’s jazzy live album “Shadows and Light” in 1980. The next several years saw Johns dip his toes into the decade’s dominant pop metal scene, producing two hit records for Cinderella as well as Van Halen’s multiplatinum “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.”

Shred guitarist Joe Satriani was another repeat customer – working with Johns for both his solo material and his all-star band Chickenfoot – as was L.A. Guns founder Tracii Guns, who composed a tribute to Johns on Facebook.

“There is something intangible that makes a recording magical,” Guns wrote. “Andy Johns in many cases was the intangible ingredient.”

He is survived by his wife, brother Glyn, three sons and two grandchildren.

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