Led Zeppelin – Whole Lotta Love

One of the most recognizable riffs in rock and roll. This one was also one of their most popular songs. It wasn’t ever one of my favorites by them but I did like it.

It was a rare thing for Zeppelin to release a single…but this was released as one except in the UK.  This song peaked at #4 in the Billboard 100 and #2 in Canada in 1970.

The lyrics are based on a 1962 Muddy Waters song written by Willie Dixon called “You Need Love.” Led Zeppelin reached an agreement with Dixon, who used the settlement money to set up a program providing instruments for schools. All the members of Led Zeppelin get a writing credit along with Willie Dixon now.

Robert Plant has said that Steve Marriott was an influence and you can hear it really strong in the Small Faces rendition (I have it at the bottom) of You Need Love from 1966…and good 3 years before this was recorded. Marriott was one of the best singers of that or any era.

Jimmy Page played a theremin, a bizarre electronic instrument he liked to experiment with consisting of a black box and antennae, famously heard on the 1966 Beach Boys song “Good Vibrations.” The sound is altered by moving one’s hand closer to or farther from the antennae and was used to create the fuzz that alternates back and forth through the speakers.

Image result for theremin jimmy page

John Paul Jones: “The backwards echo stuff. A lot of the microphone techniques were just inspired. Using distance-miking… and small amplifiers. Everybody thinks we go in the studio with huge walls of amplifiers, but he doesn’t. He uses a really small amplifier and he just mikes it up really well, so that it fits into a sonic picture.”

From Songfacts

This blistering track from Led Zeppelin’s second album contains some of Robert Plant’s most lascivious lyrics, culled from the blues. It’s not poetry, but he gets his point across quite effectively, letting the girl know that he’s yearning, and ready to give her all of his love – every inch.

The massive drum sound was the foundation of this track, so Jimmy Page recorded it in the big room at Olympic Studios in London, which had 28-foot ceilings. One of the engineers, George Chkiantz, got the sound by putting the drums on a platform and setting up microphones in unusual places: a stereo boom eight feet above the kit, two distant side microphones, and a AKG D30 placed two feet from the bass drum. “For the song to work as this panoramic audio experience, I needed Bonzo to really stand out, so that every stick stroke sounded clear and you could really feel them,” Page said in the Wall Street Journal. “If the drums were recorded just right, we could lay in everything else.”

Jimmy Page served as Led Zeppelin’s producer, and on this song, he let loose in the studio, using all kinds of innovative techniques, particularly in the freeform section about 1:20 in, which was the result of him and engineer Eddie Kramer “twiddling every knob known to man.” This part is often referred to as “the freakout.”

One of the more intriguing sections of this song comes at the 4-minute mark, where the distant voice of Robert Plant sings each line (“Way down inside… woman… you need… love”) before his full-throated vocal comes in. This is known as “backward echo,” and one of the first uses of the technique, but it happened by accident: A different take of Plant’s vocal bled over to his master vocal track, so when Page and engineer Eddie Kramer mixed the song, they couldn’t get rid of it. They did what most creative professionals do with a mistake: they accentuated it to make it sound intentional, adding reverb to it so Plant sounded like he was foreshadowing his lines from afar.

Led Zeppelin didn’t release singles in the UK, where it was considered gauche, and in America, they didn’t issue any from their first album. “Whole Lotta Love” was the first song they allowed as a US single, and it became their biggest hit, going to #4 (their only Top 10 entry) despite a 5:33 running time. Many of Zeppelin’s most popular songs, including “Stairway To Heaven,” were not released as singles.

Led Zeppelin used this as the basis for a medley they performed in their later shows. They had lots of songs by then, so they used the medley to play snippets of their popular songs they did not want to play all the way through. They incorporated various blues songs in these medleys as well, notably “Boogie Chillen” by John Lee Hooker, which was often followed by what they called “Boogie Woogie, by Unknown,” and “Let’s Have A Party” by Wanda Jackson. They would put this in when Robert Plant would yell, “Way Down INSIDE.”

When this song became a hit in America, the UK division of the band’s label, Atlantic Records, pressed copies of a shortened version of the song to release there, but Jimmy Page quashed that idea when he heard the 3:12 truncated edit (“I played it once, hated it and never listened to the short version again,” he told the Wall Street Journal). The band issued a press release stating: “Led Zeppelin have no intention of issuing ‘Whole Lotta Love’ as a single as they feel it was written as part of their concept of the album.” The American single is the same version as found on the album.

This was recorded on an 8-track tape machine at Olympic Studios, London in April 1968, but Jimmy Page waited to mix it until the band came to New York on tour in August because he wanted Eddie Kramer, who had relocated there, to work on it. To the delight of deconstructionists, Page later released the eight split tracks of Whole Lotta Love, along with the mixdowns, on the Studio Magik – Sessions 1968-1980 CD compilation. These stems reveal an entire middle vocal section that’s totally different and the “da da” vocal about two beats behind what was released. In the drum tracks, during the rolls, you can hear John Bonham groaning.

The line, “Shake for me girl, I wanna be your back door man” is a reference to the “back door man” of blues cliché (popularized in a Willie Dixon song). This guy enters and leaves through the back door to avoid detection, as the lady is using him to cheat on her boyfriend or husband. This adds an illicit edge to the storyline.

After Page started fooling around with the theremin in the studio, it was open season for experimentation on the track; he started messing around with his guitar by detuning it and pulling on the strings, and Plant did his part by going to the extreme high of his vocal range. 

Page, Plant, and John Paul Jones played this at the Atlantic Records 40th anniversary concert in 1988 with Jason Bonham sitting in on drums for his late father. Jason joined the band again in 2007 at a benefit concert for the Ahmet Ertegun education fund, where they played this as the first encore.

In 1997, this became the only single Led Zeppelin released in the UK when a 4:50 edit was issued to celebrate the band’s 30th anniversary. The singles chart was dominated by acts like the Spice Girls and Puff Daddy, and this release got little attention, reaching just #21.

Guitar World noted Page’s use of the wah-wah pedal during his famous solo, securing its place at #17 on the magazine’s 2015 list of greatest wah solos of all time. Jack White has cited it as the greatest guitar solo ever recorded.

Jimmy Page played the loose blues riff for the intro on a Sunburst 1958 Les Paul Standard through a 100W Marshall “Plexi” head amp with distortion from the EL34 output valves.

Alexis Korner hit #13 UK and #58 US with his mostly instrumental cover of this song in 1970 with his studio group CCS. King Curtis also did an instrumental version that went to #64 US that year. A vocal cover by The Wonder Band reached #87 US in 1987. Tina Turner recorded it for her 1975 album Acid Queen, and the London Symphony Orchestra also covered it. 

The remaining members of Led Zeppelin played this at their Live Aid reunion in 1985. Along with Tony Thompson, Phil Collins sat in on drums. Collins was the biggest presence at Live Aid. He played a set in London, flew to Philadelphia, played another set, then stayed on when Zeppelin took the stage. Jimmy Page was not happy – he thought Collins butchered it.

This song was performed by Leona Lewis and Jimmy Page at the closing ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics during the hand over to the host of the 2012 games, London. Prior to the performance there was some concern about the track’s somewhat family unfriendly lyrical content, but Lewis tactfully changed the words from “every inch of my love” to “every bit of my love.”

They appeared alongside English soccer star David Beckham as symbols of British entertainment, both old and new. The performance took place in a magnificent, elaborate setting: Beijing’s “Bird’s Nest” Olympic Stadium. Lewis and Page appeared out of what had been a London double-decker bus, later transformed into a garden of green hedges. 

On May 5, 2009, this became the first Led Zeppelin song performed on American Idol when Adam Lambert sang it during Rock Week, with Slash as the guest mentor. The judges loved Lambert’s version and he advanced to the next round.

In 2010, Mary J. Blige covered “Whole Lotta Love” and “Stairway To Heaven,” which were released as downloads and appeared on the UK version of her Stronger With Each Tear album. Musicians contributing to these tracks include Steve Vai, Orianthi, blink-182 drummer Travis Barker and Randy Jackson of American Idol fame, who played bass. “Whole Lotta Love” was produced by RedOne and Ron Fair, who is Chairman of Geffen Records. >>

The song’s guitar riff was voted the greatest of all time by listeners of BBC Radio 2 in a 2014 poll. “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses came second in the listing and “Back In Black” by AC/DC third.

The songwriting credits on this track have been convoluted over the years. The four band members were listed as the writers on the original recording, and later, Willie Dixon was added as part of his settlement. But the ASCAP record shows this, which is often reprinted:

John Bonham
John Paul Jones
Pete Moore
Jimmy Page
Sharon Plant

The best we can tell, these credits come from a 1996 cover of the song by the British group Goldbug, which sampled Pete Moore’s song “Asteroid.” “Sharon Plant” is apparently a mistake (should be “Robert Plant”). This version of the song was a hit in the UK, reaching #3. At some point, Dixon’s credit was omitted in most listings.

This song got a mention in the 2014 lawsuit alleging that Jimmy Page stole the intro to “Stairway To Heaven” from a song called “Taurus” by the group Spirit.

In 1968, Spirit played some shows on the same bill with Zeppelin, and “Taurus,” an instrumental written by guitarist Randy California, was in Spirit’s set. California died in 1997, but his estate filed the wide-ranging lawsuit, which accused page of nicking an entire sound during this time. It states: “Jimmy Page’s use of the Etherwave – Theremin, and other psychedelic-type audio effects which helped give Led Zeppelin its distinctive sound – especially prominent in ‘Whole Lotta Love’ – was inspired by seeing California effectively use these types of audio-enhancing effects on tour.”

The CCS version was used as the theme song to the BBC music show Top of the Pops from 1970-1977 and again from 1998-2003. Led Zeppelin never appeared on the program, as they had no interest in lip-synching and weren’t a good fit for the TOTP audience.

Jack Johnson performed a very laid-back version of this song when he headlined the first night of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in 2008.

Robert Plant played this on his Strange Sensations tour of the UK in 2005. 

In Led Zeppelin: The Oral History of the World’s Greatest Rock Band, Jack White, one of the most notable rock guitarists of the early 2000s, is quoted saying the guitar solo in “Whole Lotta Love” may be the greatest of all time. He’s talking about the part running from 2:22 to 2:39, popularly called the “freakout.”

Whole Lotta Love

You need cooling
Baby I’m not fooling
I’m gonna send ya
Back to schooling

A-way down inside
A-honey you need it
I’m gonna give you my love
I’m gonna give you my love

Want to whole lotta love
Want to whole lotta love
Want to whole lotta love
Want to whole lotta love

You’ve been learning
Um baby I been learning
All them good times baby, baby
I’ve been year-yearning

A-way, way down inside
A-honey you need-ah
I’m gonna give you my love, ah
I’m gonna give you my love, ah oh

Whole lotta love
Want to whole lotta love
Want to whole lotta love
Want to whole lotta love

You’ve been cooling
And baby I’ve been drooling
All the good times, baby
I’ve been misusing

A-way, way down inside
I’m gonna give ya my love
I’m gonna give ya every inch of my love
I’m gonna give ya my love

Alright! Let’s go!

Whole lotta love
Want to whole lotta love
Want to whole lotta love
Want to whole lotta love

Way down inside
Woman, you need, yeah

My, my, my, my
My, my, my, my
Shake for me girl

I wanna be your backdoor man
Hey, oh, hey, oh
Hey, oh, hey, oh
Oh, oh, oh, oh

Cool, my, my baby
A-keep it cooling baby
A-keep it cooling baby
Ah-keep it cooling baby
Ah-keep it cooling baby
Ah-keep it cooling baby

Author: badfinger20 (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

70 thoughts on “Led Zeppelin – Whole Lotta Love”

  1. The CCS version was also used as athe theme tune for the UK chart show Top of the Pops from 1970-1977 and was also used in the chart rundown until mid-81. That version was the first time I heard Wholje Lotta Love, when I heard the Zeppelin song it blew my mind, especially the ferocity of Bonzo’s drumming! 🤘

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love when Mike Fraser answered our question about working with Page and Page schooled him in leaving things alone in regards to the guitars on the Coverdale/Page record. To hear that kind of thing is Gold.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This is classic early Led Zeppelin. I’ve really come to dig that tune, and it’s now one of my favorites. When I think of Jimmy Page, I mostly think of great guitar riffs. This song is one of the reasons why. I realize this may a bit of a narrow view of Page, who undoubtedly is also a decent lead guitarist.

    Why Zep once again tried to take somebody else’s work without acknowledgment is really beyond me. Unlike that other song, I’m glad the artist who should have been credited in the first place, Willie Dixon, eventually got a writing credit. And how noble by Dixon to use the settlement money to set up a program providing instruments for schools. This makes Led Zeppelin’s behavior look even worse!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes I can’t understand it either on why they did that to blues guys…just give the man credit to begin with…. You can tell Plant was listening to Marriott also…big time.

      Dixon was a good guy to do what he did.


  4. a “classic rock” classic for sure, although not one I really am much of a fan of. I kind of think it’s the prototype of the sound that instantly pops into my head when I hear ‘Led Zeppelin’ yet really when you look through their catalog, they didn’t do that many that sounded like this.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. me too.
        I think I saw on another post you got snow too? We’re pretty much snowed in here – had about 5″ overnight and with wind there are drifts of about a foot… and temps are in teens! Would be bad but not unusual weather for back in Ontario but here… wow. As the governor said, “unprecedented”. that’s after more freezing rain yesterday morning. We’re lucky because we have power… seems like close to half the city doesn’t right now. Hope you’re faring a bit better there.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. We have around a quarter or a half ince of ice right now…which of course is worse than snow…where I live…it is predicted that we are getting 2-6 inches now…I figure 2-3…but it’s nice…I’ll be working at home this week probably until Wednesday or Thursday…which is fine with me.

        We have electricity and I really hope that continues!

        Liked by 2 people

      3. It’s a nasty storm/polar vortex. I’m hearing from my buddies in Texas. They are struggling with set, rolling brown outs, every hour for 30 minutes. Their grid is struggling. Texas, except the Amarillo/Lubbuck/Wichita Falls area, doesn’t do “cold” very well. I’ve been sent shots of snow on Galveston Island and that is unheard of. A close friend has five inches of snow, due west of Austin and he’s never seen that much snow, there, in his lifetime.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I wish I could enjoy it but work has kept me busy…almost tempted to get a vacation day lol…but that would be wasting it.

        It’s still not snowing here…I hope it doesn’t miss us


      5. dropped to 0 or 1 degree overnight…second coldest on record for the city. I just thought ‘wonder if the car would even start ?” but haven’t gone out to see since roads are still pretty impassable.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Our power went out last night…it came back on this morning…you could see your breath early in the morning…yea our roads are toast…I would have taken us to a hotel if they were passable… we have it now thank goodness.


      7. Yes but it’s in my music room….with my guitars…so a big no…plus we have never used it so it might be full of crap…I would use it if we were freezing…but that is why we have Martha for! LOL


      8. If you have a diesel, nope unless you have a warmer. Canadian Ice Road truckers would have some tips.

        Strong battery, fresh antifreeze, good alternator and good ignition, yeah. Transmission fluid doesn’t freeze, oil doesn’t freeze and gasoline doesn’t either. Might be trouble if water is in the gas.

        Electric car? Nope. Those things aren’t built for cold weather.

        Liked by 1 person

      9. Water in the tank is a great possiblilty… that is when you get….what’s it called? Oh yes…seafoam…I would endorse that product if I could.


      10. Great product that you add to gas…it takes water out. I use it on the lawn mower a lot when it has sat and won’t start…i also use it on the car


    1. Yea I saw that! Uh Page and Jones were the only ones known…and Jones only as a studio musician and arranger. …The hype machine was running full blast.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes it is…and the Small Faces….Plant pretty much got his vocals from Steve Marriott through parts of it. Why they didn’t credit Dixon to begin with is just wrong.


      1. They were lucky Willie had a reasonably good temper, because he was the size of a bear and could probably destroy them…

        Steve Marriott was with Small Faces and Humble Pie, wasn’t he?

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes they did… I like Steve’s voice over Rod’s and certainly Plant’s…Read about Marriott at sometime…the guy couldn’t catch a break… first of all Arden was his manager when Page wanted him as the lead singer of Led Zeppelin…Arden refused and when he was with Humble Pie John Gotti threatened him…they had their fingers in the pie.


  5. When I hear this song start, I now think of the scene in ‘It Might Get Loud’, where Jimmy plays it for Jack White and The Edge, who can’t hide their awe.

    The PBS series ‘History Detectives’ had a Theremin in one episode. That’s the only reason I know what it is. I’m fascinated to know it was used in this song.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It seems like the only bands I liked were broken up when I was younger…I had something backwards lol. I like their light/heavy songs a lot like Over The Hills and Far Away.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I was 15 when this song came out, and I hated it at first, as it was way too hard for my tastes. Back then, I preferred pop, R&B and easier rock like the Beatles, Turtles, Mamas & Papas, etc. I wasn’t a huge Rolling Stones fan then either. Eventually, I grew to like harder, edgier rock and both the Stones and Led Zeppelin became two of my favorite bands.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. All I listened to was The Beatles other than what my sister played between 5 years old and 10….After I heard Helter Skelter by the Beatles that got me into harder music…Stones and Who….after that song nothing was much harder…not even this one.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. The CCS version is the one known by most of the UK public of a certain age, it was iconic of the period when Top Of The Pops was a huge-ratings family show where kids could get excited and parents could say “look at the state of that” or “call that music”. It was an exciting start to a music show, and CCS did a great version and deserved the hit they got out of it cos Led Zep were being a bit sniffy and elitist towards kids (like me) who didn’t have money to buy albums, but could buy a single every few weeks with pocket money. They released UK singles when they went solo. Funny that….. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It was musical snobbery amongst the ‘serious’ album community in the UK at that time that resented having to lower themselves to something as base as being commercial 🙂 Took me 20 years to forgive them, but I got there in the end – by buying their Greatest Hits, hah! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  8. It’s a great song, always has been. I remember when I first bought the album and sat myself down in front of my dad’s huge hi-fi speaker (it was meant to be stereo but he only had one speaker for it!) and blasted my brain out from the volume. Much better when I got my own stereo system, better still with headphones, and wayyy better live. Really couldn’t go wrong with them doing this song live. Ditto Dazed and Confused and How Many More Times.

    I know a lot of people hated the movie The Song Remains The Same, but having the spacy separation of Whole Lotta Love playing like that, really took me back to their lives gigs each time I saw it in the cinema (which was several times!)


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