Opening with one of the most pile-driving riffs anybody had ever heard, the hairy-chested huge-dicked “Whole Lotta Love” signaled that Led Zeppelin was going to get even more audacious on their second album in 1969.
It also signaled that Jimmy Page was more that just a guy who knew how to layer guitars; turns out he was also one helluva producer, as well.
In fact, I’m just going to call it: in terms of hard rock, he was the most innovative producer we’ve ever seen, especially in terms of creating massive spaces in the music. Just listen to the first verse of “Whole Lotta Love:” it’s just the guitar whipping back and forth way way low in the mix, John Paul Jones’ bass doubling the riff and Robert Plant all by himself rhyming “cooling,” “fooling” and “schooling.” As you do.
But then John Bonham’s drums come in, and the whole song just gets louder, like everybody knows that they’re going to have to step up their game now that Bonzo has joined the party.
And a party it is. A completely bonkers one, to boot. Because after a couple of almost perfunctory choruses marked by Page sliding around his guitar neck, “Whole Lotta Love” switches gears and suddenly devolves into a psychedelic orgasmic freakout where the only tether to reality is Bonham’s spirit guide hi-hat over in the right speaker. While everyone else is freaking out, that hi-hat is rolling its eyes, saying to the rest of the band: “sure, guys, you add your theremin, your creaking doors, moans and groans, whatever you want, but I’ll be right here keeping time until all of this foolishness is over.”
And that foolishness went on for a long time: nearly two full minutes of crazy-ass shit flying all over the place. But of course, it was all worth it, because even if you were rolling your eyes at Plant’s “loooooooooove” being panned from speaker to speaker, the whole universe changed the second the guitar solo came in and punched you in the face.
Announced by a vicious Bonham roll and practically dancing on his ever-present hi-hat, Jimmy Page’s “Whole Lotta Love” guitar solo came ripping out of the upper right-hand corner of the song scorching every single atom of atmosphere in its path. Within seconds, it woke the dead and commanded them forth so they too could groove on the pile-driving riff one last time before they shuffled back off this mortal coil.
Which probably happened when the song came to a full stop once again, allowing the dead to hear a reverse-echoed Plant declare — because they might have missed it, being dead and all — one last time:
Earth-shattering drum-roll. Pile-driving riff. Echoed Robert Plant screaming into the void (dirty!) as the whole thing fadeed into eternity.
This song was released as a single. And not just released: it was a fucking top ten smash hit all around the world. Which is kind of insane, given all of the hair-raising and dead-raising sorcery going on every single second. Sure, some of those 45s were edited and crap, and while pre-teen me must have heard it on the AM radio, I now can’t imagine any kind of edit of “Whole Lotta Love” that wouldn’t have sounded totally and completely bonkers.
But it’s that completely original and totally bonkers quality that makes “Whole Lotta Love” simultaneously barely a song and one of the greatest things ever recorded.
“Whole Lotta Love”
“Whole Lotta Love” from The Song Remains The Same
“Whole Lotta Love” performed live
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