Whole Lotta Love
|"Whole Lotta Love"|
French single picture sleeve
|Single by Led Zeppelin|
|from the album Led Zeppelin II|
|B-side||"Living Loving Maid (She's Just a Woman)"|
|Released||7 November 1969(US)|
|Led Zeppelin singles chronology|
"Whole Lotta Love" is a song by English hard rock band Led Zeppelin. It is the opening track on the band's second album, Led Zeppelin II, and was released in the United States, several countries in Europe, and Japan as a single; as with other Led Zeppelin songs, no single was released in the United Kingdom. The US release became their first hit single, being certified Gold on 13 April 1970, having sold one million copies. It reached number one in Australia and Germany and number four in the Netherlands and the United States. Parts of the song were adapted from Willie Dixon's "You Need Love", recorded by Muddy Waters in 1962; originally uncredited to Dixon, a lawsuit in 1985 was settled with a payment to Dixon and credit on subsequent releases.
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. In 2014, listeners to BBC Radio 2 voted "Whole Lotta Love" as containing the greatest guitar riff of all time.
Composition and recording
Jimmy Page came up with the guitar riff for "Whole Lotta Love" in the summer of 1968, on his houseboat on the River Thames at Pangbourne, England. 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". Page denied that the song originated onstage and that he had the riff and the rest took it from there.
The song is in compound AABA form. Playing the loose blues riff for the intro, on a Sunburst 1958 Les Paul Standard guitar, 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. Audio engineer Eddie Kramer explained that he and Page experimented with mixing the album and left in some audio tape bleed through from an earlier vocal take. Page also employed the backwards echo production technique.
This section relies largely or entirely on a single source. (October 2017)
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. 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, but this was cancelled by request of manager Peter Grant.
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.
Similarities to "You Need Love"
In 1962, Muddy Waters recorded a blues vocal, "You Need Love", for Chess Records. As he had done with "You Shook Me", Waters overdubbed vocals on an instrumental track previously recorded by blues guitarist Earl Hooker and his band. Willie Dixon wrote the lyrics, which Dixon biographer Mitsutoshi Inaba describes as being "about the necessity of love":
You've got yearnin' and I got burnin'
Baby you look so ho sweet and cunnin'
Baby way down inside, woman you need love
Woman you need love, you've got to have some love
I'm gon' give you some love, I know you need love
In 1966, British band the Small Faces recorded the song as "You Need Loving" for their eponymous debut Decca album. According to Steve Marriott, the group's vocalist and guitarist, Page and Plant attended several Small Faces gigs, where they expressed their interest in the song. Plant's phrasing is particularly similar to that of Marriott's, who added "he [Plant] sang it the same, phrased it the same, even the stops at the end were the same". Similarities with "You Need Love" led to a lawsuit against Led Zeppelin in 1985, settled out of court in favour of Dixon for an undisclosed amount. On subsequent releases, Dixon's name is included on the credits for "Whole Lotta Love". Plant explained in an interview with Musician magazine:
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.
Charts and live history
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. Live, the song debuted 26 April 1969. Live versions of "Whole Lotta Love" were released officially on the following titles:
- The Song Remains the Same; (28 September 1976, from a 1973 concert and movie soundtrack)
- Led Zeppelin BBC Sessions; (11 November 1997, from a 1971 concert)
- How the West Was Won; (27 May 2003, from a 1972 concert)
- Led Zeppelin DVD; (2003, from a 1979 and a 1970 concert)
"Whole Lotta Love" was the last song Led Zeppelin 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, and at the Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert at the O2 Arena, London, on 10 December 2007 (both with drummer Jason Bonham).
|Spin||US||"100 Greatest Singles of All Time"||1989||39|
|Rock and Roll Hall of Fame||US||"The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll"||1994||*|
|Classic Rock||UK||"Ten of the Best Songs Ever!.. (Bubbling under)"||1999||30|
|VH1||US||"100 Greatest Rock Songs"||2009||46|
|Rolling Stone||US||"The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time"||2003||75|
|Q||UK||"100 Greatest Guitar Tracks Ever"||2005||3|
|Toby Creswell||Australia||"1001 Songs: the Great Songs of All Time"||2005||*|
|Grammy Awards||US||"Grammy Hall of Fame Award"||2007||*|
|Rolling Stone||US||"100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time"||2008||11|
|VH1||US||"VH1 Greatest Hard Rock Songs"||2009||3|
|BBC Radio 2||UK||"Radio 2's Top 100 Greatest Guitar Riffs"||2014||1|
(*) designates unordered lists.
Charts and certifications
Single (digital download)
Note: The official UK Singles Chart incorporated legal downloads as of 17 April 2005.
Appearances and covers
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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 for much of its history. The first version used 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 No. 13 on the British charts in autumn 1970. The song returned as the theme in 1998, this time using a reworked version of the original Led Zeppelin guitar riff.
A cover of the song by the American band King Curtis and the Kingpins reached number 64 on US pop charts and number 43 on the R&B charts in 1971 and was performed live at the Fillmore West the same year.
A rewritten version of the song featured in the "London 2012" presentation during the closing ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing on 24 August 2008, 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.
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Led Zeppelin II found them further tightening up and modernizing their blues-rock approach on such tracks as "Whole Lotta Love," "Heartbreaker" and "Ramble On."
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