Led Zeppelin in Montreux
Mountain Studios 1976
During a trip there in September 1976, John Bonham ventured into Mountain Studio (located at the base of The Casino), to record a thunderous all-percussion song that he had been working on: later titled Bonzo's Montreux.
Details of these sessions had remained somewhat elusive until now.
Bonzo’s Montreux was John Bonham’s third drum solo "song". The first, called Pat’s Delight (named after his wife), was played during the group’s early tours, and evolved into Moby Dick.
Credited as the John Bonham Drum Orchestra, Bonzo’s Montreux was passed over for the group's 1979 In Through the Out Door album. Thankfully, it was released on the post-Zeppelin release, Coda. Bonzo's Montreux was also featured on the 1990 Box Set which cleverly combined it with Bonham's other drum solo, Moby Dick.
"They seemed to be living in a twilight world in those days", recalls assistant recording engineer David Richards. "There was no routine start time for working. One night I got a call at 3:00 am. They had some ideas and would like to record. I phoned the resident engineer at that time and he refused to come down. I was suddenly put in charge of the session." The twenty year-old was used to late night activities, having assisted on several Rolling Stones sessions earlier in that year. There was never a routine time to start working.
Page and Bonham directed their instructions to set up in the main concert hall of the Casino. They quickly achieved the sound they wanted. "The idea was to fix pick-up mics to a set of five Timpani that the studio had at the time, and to pass these through various harmonizers in order to create melodies with the drums", explained Richards. "His drums sounded like canons going off". An AKG C24 valve microphone was used which fed through a custom Neve 8048 console. Both pieces of equipment still exist in the studio today. "We used a stereo mic about 5 meters in front, and it sounded massive!". The recording process began with John Bonham playing the drums on his own, for about ten minutes. "He played these pounding and mesmeric grooves".
Page and Bonham felt they had a suitable bed track to work from, and decided to add some overdubs and electronic effects using the top (small) studio. After some minor electronic treatments by Page, the track was thankfully released on Coda in 1982.
David Richards explained
"It was a fun technical challenge for all, that took the rest of the night and following morning. I remember walking them to their car (a black Mercedes) at about 11:00 am the following day to say goodbye. It was terrible weather...fog and rain and Jimmy looked tired. I didn't hear from them for two days."
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