Whole Lotta Love

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"Whole Lotta Love"
Single by Led Zeppelin
from the album Led Zeppelin II
B-side "Living Loving Maid (She's Just a Woman)"
Released 7 November 1969
Format 7" single
Recorded May 1969
Genre
Length 5:34 (album version)
5:33 (single, 1st pressings)
3:10 (single, 2nd pressings)
Label Atlantic
Writer(s)
Producer(s) Jimmy Page
Certification Gold
Led Zeppelin singles chronology
"Good Times Bad Times" / "Communication Breakdown"
(1969)
"Whole Lotta Love" / "Living Loving Maid (She's Just a Woman)"
(1969)
"Immigrant Song" / "Hey Hey What Can I Do"
(1970)
Alternative cover
Led Zeppelin II track listing
"Whole Lotta Love"
(1)
"What Is and What Should Never Be"
(2)
Music sample

"Whole Lotta Love" is a song by English hard rock band Led Zeppelin. It is featured as the opening track on the band's second album, Led Zeppelin II, and was released in the United States and Japan as a single. The US release became their first hit single, it was certified Gold on 13 April 1970, having sold one million copies.[4] As with other Led Zeppelin songs, no single was released in the United Kingdom, but singles were released in Germany (where it reached number one), the Netherlands (where it reached number four), Belgium and France.

In 2004, the song was ranked number 75 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and in March 2005, Q magazine placed "Whole Lotta Love" at number three in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks. It was placed 11 on a similar list by Rolling Stone. In 2009 it was named the third greatest hard rock song of all time by VH1.[1] Already part of their live repertoire, "Whole Lotta Love" saw its first official release on the LP Led Zeppelin II on 22 October 1969 (Atlantic LP #8236). In 2014, listeners to BBC Radio 2 voted "Whole Lotta Love" as the greatest guitar riff of all time.[5]

Song construction[edit]

The song is in compound AABA form.[6] Page played the loose blues riff for the intro, on a Sunburst 1958 Les Paul Standard guitar[7] through a Vox Super Beatle,[citation needed] which ascends into the first chorus. Then, beginning at 1:24 (and lasting until 3:02) the song dissolves to a free jazz-like break involving a theremin solo and a drum solo and the orgasmic moans of Robert Plant. As audio engineer Eddie Kramer has explained: "The famous Whole Lotta Love mix, where everything is going bananas, is a combination of Jimmy and myself just flying around on a small console twiddling every knob known to man." Kramer is also quoted as saying:

[A]t one point there was bleed-through of a previously recorded vocal in the recording of "Whole Lotta Love". It was the middle part where Robert [Plant] screams "Wo-man ... You need ... Love" Since we couldn't re-record at that point, I just threw some echo on it to see how it would sound and Jimmy [Page] said "Great! Just leave it."[8]

Led Zeppelin's bass player John Paul Jones has stated that Page's famous riff probably emerged from a stage improvisation during the band's playing of "Dazed and Confused".[9]

Alternatively, Jimmy Page has vehemently denied that the song originated onstage:

Interviewer: Is it true "Whole Lotta Love" was written onstage during a gig in America, when you were all jamming on a Garnett Mimms song?

Page: No. No. Absolutely incorrect. No, it was put together when we were rehearsing some music for the second album. I had a riff, everyone was at my house, and we kicked it from there. Never was it written during a gig--where did you hear that?

Interviewer: I read it in a book.

Page (sarcastically): Oh, good. I hope it was that Rough Guide. That's the latest one, the most inaccurate. They're all inaccurate, you know.[10]

In a separate interview, Page explained:

I had [the riff] worked out already before entering the studio. I had rehearsed it. And then all of that other stuff, sonic wave sound and all that, I built it up in the studio, and put effects on it and things, treatments.[11]

For this track, Page employed the backwards echo production technique.[12]

Release[edit]

Upon release of the LP, radio stations looked for a track that would fit their on-air formats from the quickly successful LP with the pulsing lead track "Whole Lotta Love" being the prime contender. However, because many radio stations saw the freeform middle section as unfit to air they simply created their own edited versions. Atlantic Records was quick to respond and in addition to the release of the regular single in the US (coupled with "Living Loving Maid (She's Just a Woman)" from the same LP as the B-side) released a 3:10 version of the track with the freeform section cut and an earlier fade-out on 7 November 1969. Both versions were released as Atlantic #45-2690. The edited version was intended for radio station promotional release but some copies were apparently released commercially in the US and are a collector's item for fans. The song was released as a single in the US, France, Germany (as No 1), Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Australia (where it was also issued as an EP) and Japan (countries where the band had less control). The edited version was withdrawn.

In the United Kingdom, Atlantic Records had expected to issue the edited version themselves, and pressed initial copies for release on 5 December 1969. However, band manager Peter Grant was adamant that the band maintain a "no-singles" approach to marketing their recorded music in the UK, and he halted the release. An official statement from the band added that they had written a special number which they intended to be their first British single. This never materialised, and despite much record company pressure, they declined to issue official singles in the UK throughout their career.[12]

Several years later, Atlantic Records reissued "Whole Lotta Love" (with its original B-side "Living Loving Maid") on its Oldies Series label (OS-13116) with a slight error. The edited 3:10 version was used for the reissue, but the labels were printed with the unedited running time of 5:33.

In 1997 Atlantic Records released a CD-single edited (to 4:50 this time) from the original 1969 recording of the song. This version charted in the UK where the band had maintained control over single releases during their existence.

Controversy[edit]

In 1962, Muddy Waters recorded "You Need Love", written for him by peer Willie Dixon. In 1966 British mod band the Small Faces recorded the song as "You Need Loving" for their eponymous début Decca LP. Some of the lyrics of Led Zeppelin's version were copied from the Willie Dixon song, a favourite of Plant's. Plant's phrasing is particularly similar to that of Steve Marriott's in the Small Faces' version. Similarities with "You Need Love" would lead to a lawsuit against Led Zeppelin in 1985, settled out of court in favour of Dixon.[12] The Small Faces were never sued by Dixon, even though "You Need Loving" still only credits Ronnie Lane and Steve Marriott.

Robert Plant, a huge fan of blues and soul singers, regularly quoted other songs, especially live.

Page's riff was Page's riff. It was there before anything else. I just thought, 'well, what am I going to sing?' That was it, a nick. Now happily paid for. At the time, there was a lot of conversation about what to do. It was decided that it was so far away in time and influence that...well, you only get caught when you're successful. That's the game.

—Robert Plant, Robert Plant's manic persona[13]

Chart success and live history[edit]

The single entered the Billboard Hot 100 chart on 22 November 1969. It remained on the chart for 15 weeks, peaking at no. 4 and becoming the band's only top 10 single in the US.[14] Live, the song debuted 26 April 1969.[15] When performed live, "Whole Lotta Love" also occasionally included segments of other Led Zeppelin songs such as "I Can't Quit You Baby", "You Shook Me", "How Many More Times", "Your Time Is Gonna Come", "Good Times Bad Times", "The Lemon Song", "The Crunge", "D'yer Mak'er", "Black Dog", "Out on the Tiles" and "Ramble On". A famous show closer at Led Zeppelin concerts, it was since mid-1970 performed as a medley of blues and rhythm and blues interpolations favoured by the band. Many of these included classics by Eddie Cochran, Elvis Presley and John Lee Hooker.

Live versions of "Whole Lotta Love" were released officially on the following titles:

"Whole Lotta Love" was the last song Led Zeppelin ever played live. It was however performed again at the band's reunions at Live Aid in 1985 (with drummers Phil Collins and Tony Thompson), at the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary concert in 1988 (with drummer Jason Bonham), and at the Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert at the O2 Arena, London, on 10 December 2007 (with drummer Jason Bonham).

Accolades[edit]

Publication Country Accolade Year Rank
Spin United States "100 Greatest Singles of All Time"[16] 1989 39
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame United States "The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll"[17] 1994 *
Classic Rock United Kingdom "Ten of the Best Songs Ever!.. (Bubbling under)"[18] 1999 30
VH1 United States "100 Greatest Rock Songs"[19] 2009 46
Rolling Stone United States "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time"[20] 2003 75
Q United Kingdom "100 Greatest Guitar Tracks Ever"[21] 2005 3
Toby Creswell Australia "1001 Songs: the Great Songs of All Time"[22] 2005 *
Grammy Awards United States "Grammy Hall of Fame Award"[23] 2007 *
Rolling Stone United States "100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time"[24] 2008 11
VH1 United States "VH1 Greatest Hard Rock Songs"[1] 2009 3
BBC Radio 2 United Kingdom "Radio 2's Top 100 Greatest Guitar Riffs"[5] 2014 1

(*) designates unordered lists.

Formats and track listings[edit]

Notes:
(*) Withdrawn

Charts and certifications[edit]

Preceded by
"Venus" by Shocking Blue
Australian Go-Set National Top 40 number-one single
4 April 1970 (1 week)
Succeeded by
"Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)" by Edison Lighthouse
Australian Kent Music Report number-one single
23 March 1970 – 30 March 1970 (2 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Let It Be" by The Beatles
Preceded by
"Dein schönstes Geschenk" by Roy Black
German number-one single
23 February 1970 – 20 April 1970 (9 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Mademoiselle Ninette" by the Soulful Dynamics

Personnel[edit]

Cultural influence[edit]

The song has been widely covered by many artists. It was famous in the United Kingdom for having been the theme music for the long-running television programme Top of the Pops during the 1970s and 1980s. This version was based on a recording by the Collective Consciousness Society (or C.C.S.), a band led by blues guitarist Alexis Korner. The C.C.S. version reached #13 on the British charts in autumn 1970.

It also featured in the London 2012 presentation during the closing ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing on 24 August 2008, in a rewritten version with Jimmy Page on guitar and Leona Lewis providing the vocals. Both Lewis and the organisers requested that some of the lyrics be changed, notably "I'm gonna give you every inch of my love". Lewis felt that the line made little sense coming from a female singer.[58]

The main riff of the song was also excerpted in a Frank Zappa live performance excerpted on the Läther album (originally intended for release in 1977, but not officially released until 1996) as "Duck Duck Goose". A more complete erotic version was issued as a bonus track entitled "Leather Goods". (The latter track also contains an excerpt from "Dazed and Confused").[citation needed]

In the 1980s, Detroit television station WXON used the instrumental bridge from the song as intro music for its weekly horror film program Thriller Double Feature.

On 29 May 1997, Jeff Buckley waded into the Mississippi River while singing the chorus to "Whole Lotta Love" and drowned shortly after.

In 2008, the song was featured on Led Zeppelin - The Ride at the Hard Rock Park in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Also in 2008 Foreigner released their album "No end in sight: The very best of Foreigner", which contains a live version of Juke Box Hero which crosses into Whole Lotta Love at one point.[59]

Christina Aguilera performed it during the 2014 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

Sources[edit]

  • Lewis, Dave (2004) The Complete Guide to the Music of Led Zeppelin, ISBN 0-7119-3528-9
  • Welch, Chris (1998) Led Zeppelin: Dazed and Confused: The Stories Behind Every Song, ISBN 1-56025-818-7

References[edit]

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External links[edit]