There was no live-act on the planet in 1970 who could compete pound for pound with Led Zeppelin — the four Brits were simply in a league of their own. In the space of fewer than two years, the band had shared three masterpieces, and even though they sounded stellar on vinyl, it was during a concert that Led Zeppelin truly came alive.
‘Whole Lotta Love’ is Led Zeppelin’s career-defining track, and it epitomises everything spectacular about Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham inside six minutes. As far as perfect rock songs go, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better example than ‘Whole Lotta Love‘, which was then put on steroids whenever Led Zeppelin wheeled it out during a live show, and the Royal Albert Hall in 1970 was no different.
Everything about the track is electrifying. Jimmy Page’s bone-shimmering opening riff combines deliciously with Robert Plant’s scorching vocals, John Paul Jones’ understated genius. All underpinned by the unadulterated power of the inimitable John Bonham. When this tour de force was put on stage, everything was kicked up to eleven.
Following the astronomical success of their debut record, The Zep didn’t squander a moment before re-assembling at London’s Olympic Studios just five months later. There’s always been the tiresome age-old myth about the difficult second album syndrome. Still, when you open an album with a track like ‘Whole Lotta Love’, it becomes apparent from the moment the needle dropped that Led Zeppelin were on to a winner.
Page later told Wall Street Journal: “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. If the drums were recorded just right, we could lay in everything else.”
John Paul Jones revealed to Uncut in 2009 how this was the moment that Jimmy Page indeed came into his own as a producer and how making ‘Whole Lotta Love’ was a pivotal moment for Led Zeppelin. “The backwards echo stuff. A lot of the microphone techniques were just inspired. Using distance-miking… and small amplifiers,” the bassist said.
“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,” he added.
Back when Zeppelin released ‘Whole Lotta Love’, it was frowned upon for bands to release singles, and it didn’t receive a release in the UK as a stand-alone track until decades later. However, thanks to radio, it soon became a hit on radio across the States and gave Led Zeppelin the highest-charting single of their career.
All the exuberance that Led Zeppelin pour into this performance at the Royal Albert Hall exemplifies why there was no one else around who was fit to tie their shoes in 1970. Seeing Led Zeppelin in the flesh during their pomp must have been akin to an out-of-body experience, but for those of us who weren’t so fortunate, we’ll have to settle for this startling video.