Whole Lotta Love

Last updated on 24 May 2017

"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 Germany, and number four in the Netherlands. 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. 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 containing the greatest guitar riff of all time.

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Composition

The song is in compound AABA form. Page came up with the guitar riff for "Whole Lotta Love" in the summer of 1968, on his houseboat along the Thames in Pangbourne, England. 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. 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.

Release

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.

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.

Chart success 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. 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, and at the Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert at the O2 Arena, London, on 10 December 2007 (both with drummer Jason Bonham).

Accolades

Publication Country Accolade Year Rank
Spin United States "100 Greatest Singles of All Time" 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" 1994 *
Classic Rock United Kingdom "Ten of the Best Songs Ever!.. (Bubbling under)" 1999 30
VH1 United States "100 Greatest Rock Songs" 2009 46
Rolling Stone United States "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time" 2003 75
Q United Kingdom "100 Greatest Guitar Tracks Ever" 2005 3
Toby Creswell Australia "1001 Songs: the Great Songs of All Time" 2005 *
Grammy Awards United States "Grammy Hall of Fame Award" 2007 *
Rolling Stone United States "100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time" 2008 11
VH1 United States "VH1 Greatest Hard Rock Songs" 2009 3
BBC Radio 2 United Kingdom "Radio 2's Top 100 Greatest Guitar Riffs" 2014 1

(*) designates unordered lists.

Formats and track listings

Notes

(*) Withdrawn

Charts and certifications

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

Cultural influence

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 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.

The 2008 Foreigner compilation album "No End in Sight: The Very Best of Foreigner" contains a live version of "Juke Box Hero" which crosses into "Whole Lotta Love" at one point.

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