Whole Lotta Love

'Whole Lotta Love' is a 1969 song by English rock band Led Zeppelin. The song was composed by Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, John Bonham, and recorded at Olympic Studios, Barnes, England in April 1969; Sunset Sound, Los Angeles in May 1969, and mixed at A & R Studios, New York, in August 1969. It appeared as the opening track on Led Zeppelin's second album Led Zeppelin II, released on 22 October 1969. 'Whole Lotta Love' was also issued as a promotional single in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Italy, Greece, Mexico, Japan, and the Philippines. An attempt by Atlantic Records to release such a single in the United Kingdom was famously thwarted by manager Peter Grant, and only 500 copies made it as far as Manchester. It reached number four on the US Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart, the best performance by a Led Zeppelin song on that chart. The song has since topped numerous magazine polls with its definitive riff, psychedelic sound effects and production techniques.

Overview

The song was rehearsed and assembled during the course of the band's second North American tour in 1969, with its basic framework recorded upon return to Olympic Studios in London, April 1969, with engineer George Chkiantz, and additional overdubs added whilst in Los Angeles. Engineer Eddie Kramer and producer Jimmy Page finally mixed 'Whole Lotta Love' within two days at A & R Studios in New York City, using a Scully 280 1' 8-track machine, and a custom-built 12 channel mixing console. The song features a number of innovations including 'backwards reverb' a technique Page pioneered with the Yardbirds and in the Little Games sessions, where the tape is flipped over, and reverb recorded to an empty track while it is playing in reverse. Then, when the tape is turned back over, the backwards reverb is heard starting before the sound it was applied to it. The use of backwards reverb came in handy when Robert Plant's guide vocal recorded on track eight was heard bleeding ('Way down inside … way down inside … you need … you need, etc.') into the mix due to a faulty fader, and that Kramer and Page decided to add reverb to it, transforming a potential liability into a deliberate special effect.

As with the eponymous debut album, Led Zeppelin, Page used distance miking techniques to increase the depth in tone for the rhythm guitar track. A metal slide was used for a descending guitar effect during the chorus of 'Whole Lotta Love'. Plant's vocals were all recorded in one take. For the 'fantasy section', the increasingly complex sound effects in the studio recording was added to by Page investing in a theremin to imitate various out-of-this-world noises achieved in the song. Additional pre-recorded sounds were also inserted which included John Bonham's aural coloration with a conga drum, bongos, hi-hat, cymbals, backed with clamouring trains, sirens, primal screams, a steel mill shutting down, an orgasmic wail from Plant, which can all be heard swirling from left to right with increasing urgency. Page stated: 'We already had a lot of the sound on tape, including the theremin and slide with backwards echo but his (Kramer) knowledge of low-frequency oscillation helped complete the effect. If he hadn't known how to do that I would have had to try something else.'

Page's recording used a 1958 Gibson Les Paul Standard sunburst through a 100W Marshall 'Plexi' head amplifier, relying on distortion from the overdriven EL34 output valves and combined with the use of Sola Sound Tone Bender MKII and Vox CryBaby pedals, both modified by engineer Roger Mayer. 'Whole Lotta Love' revolves around Page's distinctive three-note riff with an octave E conclusion - a simple blues three note phrase (B-D-E), with an added E5. This phrasing consisting of two bars of E5 with the single notes was doubled using octaves and open strings. The chorus contains a C-Bb 'vamp' progression and the verse in a C major progression. Every beat of the measure is articulated by a stroke of the guitar. The insistent riff subsides twice during the song, making way for the experimental section of electronic music in the first instance and a guitar solo in the second. This spacey mid-section of the song is broken by Bonham's snare introducing short guitar outbursts from Page before a return to the vocals. The overall simplicity of the riff would also allow the song to be used as a launch vehicle for incorporating blues medleys into the live version.

Cover of the French single 1969

The single

A single was planned in advance by Phil Carson from the London office of Atlantic Records. The manager of Led Zeppelin, Peter Grant, was unaware of what was about to transpire until Grant received word that over 500 singles had been pressed and had been shipped to Manchester for distribution. Grant had stipulated to Carson that under the contract Led Zeppelin had signed with Atlantic Records, the band had the final say whether singles would be released or not. With confirmation with Ahmet Ertegun, Carson had to recall all copies of the UK single and had to have them destroyed. The situation was different in the US where the single was released despite the band's wishes. The track had been edited down to 3 minutes 10 seconds, with the fantasy section cut completely, to make it of suitable length for US AM radio airplay, on 7 November 1969 (Atlantic #45-2690). Grant believed this was a mistake as it infringed upon the artistic integrity of the song and breached their contract, but it was released by Atlantic Records anyway. It reached number four on the US Billboard charts in January 1970, and was also released as a single in the France, Germany (reached number one), Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Japan. All countries where the band had less control, until Atlantic Records was finally pressured to withdraw the edited single version.

In 1997 Atlantic Records finally released an approved CD-single of 'Whole Lotta Love' where it reached number 21 on the UK Singles Chart.

Cover of the UK CD single 1997

Live performances

The song had been performed live just prior to the release of Led Zeppelin II, and quickly supplanted 'Dazed and Confused' as the band's centrepiece. In order to accommodate the various studio effects, the theremin use was increased, adding to the visual theatrics of the song. Page soon found that the traditional blues 'call and response' could be emphasized with Plants vocals matched with the sounds emanating from the theremin. When performed live, 'Whole Lotta Love' also occasionally included segments from the Led Zeppelin catalogue including 'Good Times Bad Times', 'Your Time Is Gonna Come', 'I Can't Quit You Baby', 'You Shook Me', 'How Many More Times', 'The Lemon Song', 'Ramble On' and later 'Out on the Tiles', 'Black Dog', 'The Crunge', and 'D'yer Mak'er'. In addition it was normally a standard practice to randomly include a medley of blues and rhythm and blues covers favoured by the band. The entire song with medleys would often stretch out to 30 minutes in length.

'Whole Lotta Love' has also appeared on the recordings such as the 1973 concert and film soundtrack to The Song Remains the Same, the 1971 BBC in-house concert BBC Sessions, the 1972 concert captured on the triple-CD release How the West Was Won and various versions on the 2003 Led Zeppelin DVD. It was the last song performed by the band on their final 1980 Over Europe tour. It was performed again at the band's reunions in 1985 and 1988, as well as at the Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert at the O2 Arena, London on 10 December 2007. The song was also used during the handover ceremony to London during the 2008 Beijing Olympics closing ceremony. The lyrics were modified for singer Leona Lewis, with a backing performance by Jimmy Page on guitar.

Accolades

  • Rolling Stone - The 100 Best Singles of the Last 25 Years (1989) 96
  • Spin - 100 Greatest Singles of All Time (1989) 39
  • Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll (1994) *
  • Guitar - 50 Heaviest Riffs of All Time (1995) *
  • Guitarist - Top 100 Guitar Solos of All-Time (1998) 38
  • Classic Rock - Ten of the Best Songs Ever!.. (Bubbling under) (1999) 30
  • The Guitar Magazine - Riff of the Millennium (1999) 3
  • VH1 - The 100 Greatest Rock Songs of All Time (2000) 46
  • Guitar World - 100 Greatest Solos of All-Time (1998) 38
  • Record Collector - 100 Most Valuable Records of All Time (2004) *
  • Q - 150 Greatest Rock Lists Ever: Rock of Ages (2004) 1
  • Kerrang! - 666 Songs You Must Own: Hard Rock (2004) 1
  • Rolling Stone - The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (2004) 75
  • Q - 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks Ever (2005) 3
  • Toby Creswell - 1001 Songs: the Great Songs of All Time (2005) *
  • Grammy Awards - Grammy Hall of Fame Award (2007) *
  • Rolling Stone - 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time (2008) 11
  • The Guardian - 1000 Songs Everyone Must Hear (2009) *
  • VH1 - VH1's 100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs (2009) 3
  • Absolute Classic Rock - Top 10 Greatest British Rock Songs of All Time (2010) 4
  • Gibson - Top 50 Guitar Solos (2010) 43

(*) designates unordered lists.

Chart positions

  • French Singles Chart (1970) 13
  • Japanese Singles Chart (1970) 50
  • US Cash Box Top 100 Singles Chart (1970) 2
  • US Record World 100 Top Pop Chart (1970) 4
  • Canadian CHUM 30 Chart (1970) 2
  • Canadian RPM Top 100 Chart (1970) 2
  • Dutch Singles Chart (1970) 5
  • US Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart (Pop Singles) (1970) 4
  • South African Top 20 Singles Chart (1970) 6
  • German Singles Chart (1970) 1
  • Swiss Singles Chart (1970) 5
  • Australian Go-Set Top 40 Singles Chart (1970) 1
  • Austrian Singles Chart (1970) 3
  • New Zealand Top 50 Singles Chart (1970) 4
  • Italian Singles Chart (1970) 25
  • Spanish Singles Chart (1970) 4
  • UK Singles Chart (1997) 21
  • UK Singles Chart (2007) 64
  • Canadian Billboard Hot Digital Singles Chart (2007) 49

Note: The official UK Singles Chart incorporated legal downloads as of 17 April 2005.

Sales certifications

  • United States (RIAA) 1,000,000+ Gold
  • RIAA – USA Gold 14 April 1970

Formats and track listings

1969 7" single (US: Atlantic 45-2690, Angola: Atlantic ATS 485, Australia/New Zealand: Atlantic AK 3412, Belgium: Atlantic BE 650186, Bolivia: Polydor 508007, Canada: Atlantic Oldies Series OS 13116, Chile: Atlantic 2164 002, France: Atlantic 650 186, Germany: Atlantic 70409, Greece: Atlantic 255 017, Italy: Atlantic ATL NP 03145, Japan: Atlantic/Warner Pioneer P-2550A, Mexico: Atlantic AT 45-52, the Netherlands: Atlantic ATL 2690, Philippines: Atlantic ATR 0046, Sweden: Atlantic ATL 70409, Uruguay: Atlantic 2164002)

1969 7" radio edit (UK*/Lebanon: Atlantic 584309, Canada: Atlantic AT 2690, South Africa: Atlantic ATS 485)

  • A. 'Whole Lotta Love' (Bonham, Jones, Page, Plant) 3.12
  • B. 'Living Loving Maid (She's Just a Woman)' (Page, Plant) 2.39

1969 7" radio edit (Brazil: Atlantic 205.025, Peru: Atlantic ALT 7035)

  • A. 'Whole Lotta Love' (Bonham, Jones, Page, Plant) 5.33
  • B. 'Whole Lotta Love' (Bonham, Jones, Page, Plant) 3.12

1969 7" single (Japan: Atlantic/Nihon Gramophone DT-1139)

  • A. 'Whole Lotta Love' (Bonham, Jones, Page, Plant) 5.33
  • B. 'Thank You' (Page, Plant) 4.49

1970 7" single (Costa Rica: Atlantic 70.020, Portugal: Atlantic ATL 10058, Spain: Atlantic H 523)

1970 7" single (Turkey: Atlantic 70501)

  • A. 'Whole Lotta Love' (Bonham, Jones, Page, Plant) 5.33
  • B. 'Ramble On' (Page, Plant) 4.23

1970 7" EP (Bolivia: Atlantic AX 11695)

  • A. 'Whole Lotta Love' (Bonham, Jones, Page, Plant) 5.33
  • B1. 'Good Times Bad Times' (Bonham, Jones, Page) 2.47
  • B2. 'Communication Breakdown' (Page, Jones, Bonham) 2.28

1970 7" EP (The Netherlands: Atlantic ATL 2091 208)

1970 7" EP (Mexico: Atlantic Gamma GX07 762)

  • A. 'Whole Lotta Love' (Bonham, Jones, Page, Plant) 5.33
  • B1. 'Communication Breakdown' (Page, Jones, Bonham) 2.28
  • B2. 'Immigrant Song' (Page, Plant) 2.25

1970 7" EP (Mexico: Atlantic 2207 002)

  • A. 'Whole Lotta Love' (Bonham, Jones, Page, Plant) 5.33
  • B1. 'Living Loving Maid (She's Just a Woman)' (Page, Plant) 2.39
  • B2. 'Heartbreaker' (Bonham, Jones, Page, Plant) 4.14

1970 7" EP (Australia/New Zealand: Atlantic EPA 200)

  • A1 'Whole Lotta Love' (Bonham, Jones, Page, Plant) 3.12
  • A2 'Good Times Bad Times' (Bonham, Jones, Page) 2.47
  • B1 'Immigrant Song' (Page, Plant) 2.25
  • B2 'Hey Hey What Can I Do' (Bonham, Jones, Page, Plant) 3.55

1970 7" EP (Australia: Atlantic AX 11695 (MX 34022))

  • A1 'Whole Lotta Love' (Bonham, Jones, Page, Plant) 3.12
  • A2 'Black Mountain Side' (Page) 2.12
  • B1 'Good Times Bad Times' (Bonham, Jones, Page) 2.47
  • B2 'Communication Breakdown' (Page, Jones, Bonham) 2.28

1970 7" single (France: Atlantic 10236, Germany: Atlantic Oldies Series ATL 10236)

  • A. 'Whole Lotta Love' (Bonham, Jones, Page, Plant) 3.12
  • B. 'Immigrant Song' (Page, Plant) 2.25

1976 7" single (Japan: Atlantic P-116A)

  • A. 'Whole Lotta Love' (Bonham, Jones, Page, Plant) 5.33
  • B. 'Living Loving Maid (She's Just a Woman)' (Page, Plant) 2.39

1979 7" single (Belgium: Atlantic ATL 10236)

  • A. 'Whole Lotta Love' (Bonham, Jones, Page, Plant) 3.12
  • B. 'Immigrant Song' (Page, Plant) 2.25

1997 CD single (UK: Atlantic AT 0013 CD (7567 84014 6), Australia: Atlantic 7567 84014 2, Brazil: Atlantic LZ 1997, Germany: Atlantic A 4014 CD, Japan: Atlantic AMCY 2403, Korea: Atlantic 84014 2, South Africa: Atlantic 7567 84014)

Notes:
(*) Withdrawn

Credits

Musicians:

  • Jimmy Page – electric guitar, producer, remastering, digital remastering
  • Robert Plant – vocals
  • John Paul Jones – bass guitar
  • John Bonham - drums, percussion

Production:

  • Peter Grant – executive producer
  • George Chkiantz - engineer, mixing
  • Joe Sidore - original CD mastering engineer (mid-1980s)
  • George Marino - remastered CD engineer (1990)

Bibliography

  • Lewis, Dave (2012) Led Zeppelin: From a Whisper to a Scream. London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-1-78038-547-1 (OCLC 782996334).
  • Welch, Chris (2009) Led Zeppelin: The Stories Behind Every Led Zeppelin Song. London: Carlton Books. ISBN 978-1-84732-286-9 (OCLC 317254118).

External links

Registrations

  • APRA: GW02133532
  • ASCAP: 530162664
  • GEMA: 371806-001
  • ISWC: T-070.202.109-7
  • US Copyright Office: EP0000267876

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