Whole Lotta Love

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Whole Lotta Love
1969 US single (album version)
Appears on Led Zeppelin II
Published by Superhype Music
Registration ASCAP 530162664
Release date 7 November 1969
Recorded 4 - 6 May 1969
Genre Psychedelic rock, hard rock
Language English
Length Album version: 5 minutes 33 seconds; Single version: 3 minutes 10 seconds
Composer Jimmy Page, John Bonham, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, and Willie Dixon
Label Atlantic Records
Producer Jimmy Page
Engineer George Chkiantz and Eddie Kramer

'Whole Lotta Love' is a song written and recorded by British rock band Led Zeppelin, with some additional lyrical credit to Willie Dixon. Not released as an official single by the band, it nonetheless became an international chart topper and was a song closely associated with their subsequent live performances, becoming one of their most performed tracks. The song, with its definitive riff, psychedelic sound effects and production techniques, has since topped numerous magazine polls . 'Whole Lotta Love' also started a practice by the band of starting albums with a strong riff heavy lead track, as was the case on Led Zeppelin II (October 1969).

Album version

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, May 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 Mickie Most 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. 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 Kramer and Page decided to add reverb to it, transforming a potential liability into a deliberate special effect.[1]

As with the first album, 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.[2] Additional pre-recorded sounds were also inserted which included John Bonham's aural colouration with a conga drum, bongos, hi-hat, cymbals, backed with clamouring trains, sirens, primal screams, a steel mill shutting down, an enraptured wail from Plant, which can all be heard swirling from left to right with increasing urgency.[3]

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.[4]

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.[5] This phrasing consisting of two bars of E5 with the single notes was doubled using octaves and open strings. The chorus contains a C-B♭ '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.[6] 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.

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 emphasised 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. This included 1950s and 1960s standards such as 'Let that Boy Boogie', 'Boogie Chillen' and 'I'm in the Mood' by John Lee Hooker, 'I'm Movin' On', 'Hello Mary Lou', 'Mess o' the Blues', 'Fixin' to Die', 'Shake 'em on Down', 'Killing Floor', 'Dust My Broom', 'The Hunter', 'That's Alright Mama', 'Blueberry Hill', 'Trucking Little Woman', 'I Can't Be Satisfied', 'Let's Have a Party', and 'Everybody Needs Somebody'. The entire song with medleys would often stretch out to 30 minutes in length.[7]

'Whole Lotta Love' has also appeared on the recordings such as the 1973 concert and motion picture soundtrack to The Song Remains the Same, the 1971 BBC in-house concert BBC Sessions, the 1972 concert captured on the 3-CD release How the West Was Won and various versions on the Led Zeppelin DVD. It was the last song performed by the band on their final 1980 Over Europe tour.[8] 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 Summer Olympics closing ceremony in Beijing. The lyrics were modified for singer Leona Lewis, with a backing performance by Jimmy Page on guitar.

The single

The 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.[9]

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 4 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.[10]

In 1997 Atlantic Records finally released an approved CD-single of 'Whole Lotta Love' where it reached Number 21 on the UK Singles Chart.[11]

Cultural influences

Alexis Korner's Collective Consciousness Society (CCS) had a charting single with their horn-driven version of 'Whole Lotta Love', which peaked at Number 13 on the British Singles chart, in October 1970. The instrumental became the long running theme tune for the BBC's music programme Top of the Pops.[12]

Albert Grossman writing in Disco claims that 'Whole Lotta Love' with its strong backbeat and repeated breathy style vocalisation (during the fantasy segment) was a major influence on the sensual dance mixes of the 1970s, including 'Love to Love You' by Donna Summer.[13] Hard Rock Park, a rock 'n' roll theme park located in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, utilizes 'Whole Lotta Love' as central to their synchronised Led Zeppelin – The Ride roller coaster ride, opened in June 2008.[14]

In the long running Fox Network sitcom series 'That '70s Show', the episode 'Who Are You' (Season 6, Episode 15), Michael Kelso once thought that he heard his name on Led Zeppelin II, believing that on 'Whole Lotta Love,' Robert Plant sung 'Kelso Lotta Love'.[15]

The AC/DC song 'Whole Lotta Rosie' was Bon Scott's response to 'Whole Lotta Love'.[16]


Publication Country Accolade Year Rank
Spin United States '100 Greatest Singles of All Time'[17] 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[18] 1994 *
Classic Rock United Kingdom Ten of the Best Songs Ever!.. (Bubbling under)[19] 1999 30
VH1 United States The 100 Greatest Rock Songs of All Time[20] 2000 46
Rolling Stone United States The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time[21] 2003 75
Q United Kingdom 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks Ever[22] 2005 3
Toby Creswell Australia 1001 Songs: the Great Songs of All Time[23] 2005 *
Grammy Awards United States Grammy Hall of Fame Award[24] 2007 *
Rolling Stone United States 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time[25] 2008 11
VH1 United States VH1's 100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs[26] 2009 3

(*) designates unordered lists.

Chart positions


Chart (1970) Peak position
French Singles Chart[27] 13
Japanese Singles Chart[28] 50
US Cash Box Top 100 Singles Chart[29] 2
US Record World 100 Top Pop Chart[30] 4
Canadian CHUM 30 Chart[31] 2
Canadian RPM Top 100 Chart[32] 2
Dutch Singles Chart[33] 5
US Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart[34] 4
South African Top 20 Singles Chart[35] 6
German Singles Chart[36] 1
Swiss Singles Chart[37] 5
Australian Go-Set Top 40 Singles Chart[38] 1
Austrian Singles Chart[39] 3
New Zealand Top 50 Singles Chart[40] 4
Italian Singles Chart[41] 25
Spanish Singles Chart[42] 4
Chart (1997) Peak position
UK Singles Chart[43] 21

Single (Digital download)

Chart (2007) Peak position
UK Singles Chart[44] 64
Canadian Billboard Hot Digital Singles Chart[45] 49

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

Sales certifications

Country Sales Certification
United States (RIAA) 1,000,000+ Gold[46]

Certification history

Organization Level Date
RIAA – USA Gold 14 April 1970


  • 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)


  1. Cleveland, Barry 'Mixing Led Zeppelin II' in Guitar Player, May 2008
  2. Glinsky, Albert (2000). Theremin: Ether Music and Espionage. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 341. ISBN 978-0-252-02582-2. 
  3. Lewis, Dave (2012). Led Zeppelin: From a Whisper to a Scream. London: Omnibus Press, 31. ISBN 978-1-78038-547-1. 
  4. Jimmy Page, 1970
  5. Fast, Susan (2001). “The Wanton Song”, In the Houses of the Holy: Led Zeppelin and the Power of Rock Music. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 196. ISBN 978-0-19-511756-1. 
  6. Welch, Chris and Nicholls, Geoff (2001). John Bonham: A Thunder of Drums. San Francisco: Backbeat Books, 75. ISBN 978-0-87930-658-8. 
  7. Lewis, Dave (2012). Led Zeppelin: From a Whisper to a Scream. London: Omnibus Press, 32. ISBN 978-1-78038-547-1. 
  8. Williamson, Nigel (2014). “The Story: Crash Landing”, The Dead Straight Guide to Led Zeppelin. London: Red Planet Publishing, 126. ISBN 978-1-9059-5952-5. 
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  10. Welch, Chris (2009). Led Zeppelin: The Stories Behind Every Led Zeppelin Song. London: Carlton Books, 35. ISBN 978-1-78038-547-1. 
  11. Lewis, Dave (2003). Led Zeppelin: The Tight But Loose' Files: Celebration II. London: Omnibus Press, 166. ISBN 978-1-84449-056-1. 
  12. Lewis, Dave (2012). Led Zeppelin: From a Whisper to a Scream. London: Omnibus Press, 32. ISBN 978-1-78038-547-1. 
  13. Goldman, Albert (1978). Disco. New York: Hawthorn Books, 115. ISBN 978-80-15-52128-4. 
  14. Hard Rock Park (13 April 2008). Hard Rock Park Offers a 'Whole Lotta Love': World's First Rock 'n' Roll Theme Park Unveils Led Zeppelin - The Ride. PR Newswire. Retrieved on 9 April 2014.
  15. That '70s Show: episode 615. Hypnoweb.net (March 2004). Retrieved on 9 April 2014.
  16. Masino, Susan (2006). The Story of AC/DC: Let There Be Rock. London: Omnibus Press, 9. ISBN 978-0-8256-3469-7. 
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  22. 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks Ever - March 2005. Q. Retrieved on 10 February 2009.
  23. Creswell, Toby (2005). “Whole Lotta Love”, 1001 Songs: the Great Songs of All Time. Prahran: Hardie Grant Books, 303. ISBN 978-1-74066-458-5. 
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