© Warner Brothers
Live in New York 73
“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. 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. 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).
The song is in compound AABA form. Page played the loose blues riff for the intro, on a Sunburst 1958 Les Paul Standard guitar through a Vox Super Beatle, 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.”
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“.
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.
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.
For this track, Page employed the backwards echo production technique.