From Simon to the Stones, Kramer recalls ‘Golden Age’

By Jess Decina

After working with dozens of music legends and becoming one of the greatest producers in rock ’n’ roll, Eddie Kramer’s biggest worry on Wednesday night was a simple technological glitch.

Sitting on the stage of the Bart Luedeke Center Theater before his lecture, Kramer fiddled with his Macintosh Powerbook, trying to set up a slideshow for his presentation. Amidst technical difficulties, Kramer went back to his beginnings and talked about the music business 40 years ago.

Q: What got you hooked into music?

A: The start of it all is when I was a kid. My parents encouraged me to play piano and I gravitated toward piano and classical music. I grew up in a very musical household. The rot set in early.

Q: As you began your career as a producer, when did you realize you had gotten your big break?

A: The first record that I was recognized for [as] a producer for was probably Carly Simon’s first album, That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be. That was the first sort of serious recognition. I’d always aspired to be a record producer when I first started working with Jimmy Miller, who was producing the [Rolling] Stones. He was such an influential person in terms of his ability to take a band like the Stones and make them more interesting than they really were. I enjoyed his perspective, I enjoyed his way of producing and I figured, ‘OK, this is
something I could do.’

Q: As a producer, how have you seen music evolve?

A: It seems to me that today in this particular time in the record business, kids are recognizing that marvelous moment in time, that period from 1967 to [19]72, something which I call the golden years of rock ’n’ roll, is very influential on today’s music. Zeppelin, the Stones and Hendrix, those bands are the bands that people still want to hear and they influence all other bands today because their music’s really powerful. One must look very carefully to find bands today that are even close to where those bands were. The music business has changed so much today; it’s a totally digital revolution. Any kid today, whether you’re 10 years old or 20 years old, you’re online and you’re going to go to iTunes and you’re going to download a song or two or three. Where the record companies really screwed up was [when] they figured, “We’ll keep selling CDs. We’ll charge $16, $20.” And kids were going, “No, that’s not what we want. We want four songs for 99 cents apiece. And if we like, maybe we’ll buy the record.” There’s a big difference.

Q: Do you think this evolution has been a good change?

A: You can’t stop the evolution. The whole record business is evolving. The old business model of how we recorded, how we manufactured, how we distributed music, is gone. It’s disappearing as we speak.

Q: Did you ever realize while producing these rock ’n’ roll greats they would become some of music’s biggest influences?

A: When you’re in the moment of recording and tracking, you’re in the studio and you don’t have time to think. You don’t have time to breathe. Your main focus is to serve the artist and to make sure that what they’re playing in the studio gets recorded properly. I think the time for standing back from the project and looking at it objectively was never there. You have no preconceived notion that this is going to happen, that Hendrix was going to be a huge star. Your mind is so taken with the moment and that you don’t think about it.

Q: Do you have any musical influences?

A: I would say the most important influence would be Hendrix, only because of the fact that he was the greatest guitar player of his generation and his music is still valid today. I worked very closely with him for years and you can’t help but be influenced by a man who is a genius.

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