This was Led Zeppelin's first US single, and their only US Top 10 hit. Some of their most popular songs, like "Stairway To Heaven
," were not released as singles.
Atlantic Records pressed copies of the single to release in England, but Peter Grant, their manager, wouldn't let them. He felt releasing singles in England would hurt album sales, and the band thought that one song was not a good representation of any group. In the US, it was acceptable because more people bought singles.
Blues great Willie Dixon sued the band, claiming they stole this from his song "You Need Love." The band reached an agreement with Dixon, who used the settlement money to set up a program providing instruments for schools.
The freeform section was the result of Page and engineer Eddie Kramer "twiddling every knob known to man."
This might be the first use of "backward echo." Page put the echo of Plant's lines before he says them, creating an interesting sound.
Robert Plant did the vocal in one take.
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." (thanks, Thomas - Toronto, Canada)
This was used as the theme song to the BBC music show Top of the Pops. The band never appeared on the program, as they had no interest in lip-synching and weren't a good fit for the TOTP audience.
Some parts of the song as well as some lyrics were borrowed form a song called "You Need Loving" by the Small Faces. Small Faces was a '60 band that Zeppelin modeled themselves after. (thanks, Andy - Cleveland, OH)
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 this.
On some live versions, Jimmy Page played the theremin, a bizarre electronic instrument he liked to experiment with consisting of a black box and antennae. 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. It can be heard to great effect on their Royal Albert Hall footage. Page decided to try theremin after hearing the group Spirit use one. (thanks, Collin - Midland, TX)
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 would join 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, although there were several pressings made of "Trampled Underfoot
" that were all shelved before being released, and are, today, viewed as highly collectable. (thanks, Jon - Wayne, PA)
Robert Plant played this on the Strange Sensations tour of the UK in 2005. (thanks, iain - edinburgh, Scotland)
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.
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.
Alexis Korner hit #13 UK with his cover of this song in 1970 with his studio group CCS. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France, for above 2)
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. (thanks, Arthur - North East, Poland)
John Paul Jones told Uncut magazine January 2009 that Page began to come into his own as a producer around the time of this song. Said 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."
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. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
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.