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Jimmy Page names the one song that proved Led Zeppelin were "avant-garde"

Led Zeppelin‘s second album, the imaginatively named Led Zeppelin II, is one of the most influential records of all time. Across its 41-minute duration, the band started to move away from their explicitly blues-oriented sound and moved into the direction of the esoteric gargantuan they would become. 

Released in October 1969, the album features some of their best-loved tracks such as ‘Ramble On’, ‘Moby Dick’ and ‘Whole Lotta Love’. Sonically, it can be taken as the band acknowledging the end of the 1960s and the dawn of the ’70s. One of the band’s heaviest records, it is hailed as a progenitor of hard-rock and metal. 

Famously, the writing and recording sessions for the album came during a hectic period for the band. It was conceived between January and August 1969, and, remarkably, Led Zep had completed three American and four European tours whilst writing the record. This sense of always being on the move bled into the album’s sound. Each song was recorded, mixed and produced at a mixture of studios in the UK and America, including Olympic in London and Sunset in LA. Never before or after had a record been created so literally on the fly. 

“It was quite insane, really,” Jimmy Page later recalled Rolling Stone. “We had no time, and we had to write numbers in hotel rooms. By the time the album came out, I was really fed up with it. I’d just heard it so many times in so many places. I really think I had lost confidence in it.”

Soon, this ill-will would dissipate with the release of the album. Famously, it was produced by Page and managed to knock The Beatles’ Abbey Road off the number one spot on the US album charts twice. Engineer Eddie Kramer credited Page for the album’s sound, despite all the odds it faced.

In 2008, Kramer told Classic Rock: “We cut some of the tracks in some of the most bizarre studios you can imagine… but in the end it sounded bloody marvellous… there was one guy in charge and that was Mr. Page.”

The album’s definitive highlight was undoubtedly ‘Whole Lotta Love’, which also became the band’s biggest hit. A fan favourite since its release, it was a swaggering statement of intent by the band, hard-rocking to a tee, mixed with some psychedelic, experimental brilliance. The dye was cast, Led Zeppelin were heading for the stratosphere. 

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In an interview with Guitar World, Page said: “During the mix, with the aid of engineer Eddie Kramer, we did all the panning and added the effects, including using Low-Frequency Oscillators on the tape machine to really pull the whole thing down and lift it back up so the sound is moving in rhythm.” 

Starting Led Zeppelin after the demise of The Yardbirds and wanting to carry on in a heavier, avant-garde direction they had first trodden, Page finally achieved his vision on ‘Whole Lotta Love’. The middle section is one of the most visceral parts in their entire back catalogue. Of the song’s composition, Page opined: “It was something no one had ever done before in that context, let alone in the middle of a song. That’s how forward-thinking we were, that’s how avant-garde it was, and that’s how much fun we were having.”

Additionally, Kramer later said: “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.”

Against all odds, Led Zeppelin produced an iconic record with some of the most important songs they ever created. They had the foresight and fearlessness to follow their own creative vision, and it worked. Soon after, they would fill the hole that The Beatles left, and everybody else would be following their lead. A lot of this can be attributed to the effects of ‘Whole Lotta Love’, it sounded like nothing had been done before.

Listen to ‘Whole Lotta Love’ below.