I particularly enjoy the WSJ's recurring recaps of how musical hits from long ago came about. Dissections of "Stand By Your Man" and "Don't Rock the Boat" stand out. I always loved the first, so writer and producer Billy Sherrill's recollection of how he came up with the guitar lick and Tammy Wynette's vocal was enlightening. I always considered the latter as mindless disco candy, but as a piano player and sometime songwriter myself, I found it interesting how the Hues Corporation developed the song from the nursery rhyme "Row, Row, Row Your Boat." Also amusing was how the Hues had to use that name because of pressure from Howard Hughes.
Today, the feature takes a look at the creation of Led Zepplin's "Whole Lotta Love," the 1969 classic that pioneered the metal rock genre. Guitarist Jimmy Page and engineers Eddie Kramer and George Chkiantz talk about how Page created the song's iconic guitar riff and how they came up with the distinctive sound including what sounds like an echo of singer Robert Plant's voice. The recording pushed the limits of the primitive equipment of the day, although the Beatles, Mothers of Invention, Moody Blues and others made complex soundscapes with those old 16-track tape machines and so forth. Now it's all done by computer.
While Page's guitar work is entirely original, Plant's lyrics were close enough to a Willie Dixon blues song that Dixon sued and subsequently received a co-writer credit.
"Whole Lotta Love" was a theme of the soundtrack of my college days. Every time we walked into a certain bar on Highland Road near the LSU campus, the song came blasting from the loudspeakers. The fall of 1969 - cheep beer, pinball, Vietnam moratorium day, Led Zepplin. They never were one of my favorite bands, but I'll never forget that song.