Led Zeppelin’s Breakthrough With ‘Whole Lotta Love’

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Jimmy Page with former Atlantic Records President Jerry Greenberg (Photo: Jerry Greenberg archives; used with permission)

As far as we’re concerned, any Jimmy Page sighting is a good sighting. And though we’d prefer it to be onstage or in a recording studio, we’ll take what we can get. Like this photo, for instance, of Page grinning broadly recently with a fellow whom you might not recognize. It’s the guitar legend pictured with his friend of nearly five decades, Jerry Greenberg. Who, you ask? Greenberg was named the President of Atlantic Records in 1974, at 32, the youngest president of a major U.S. record label.

Greenberg oversaw Atlantic’s day-to-day operations during what many will define as the bullseye of what we now call the classic rock era… the 1970s period that spearheaded the development of superstar rock bands like Led Zeppelin on FM radio and, er, led to huge album sales and arena and stadium tours.

Greenberg has a documentary in the works, tentatively titled Man Behind the Music, which devotes much of its time to many of the acts that he signed and with which he had a huge hand in their development–including Foreigner, ABBA, Genesis and Motorhead–as well as dozens of others that he worked closely with. Best Classic Bands will be giving its readers exclusive, regular updates on the progress of the film.

Greenberg and Page in an undated picture (Photo: Jerry Greenberg personal archives; used with permission)

While Greenberg didn’t personally sign Led Zeppelin–that was Atlantic’s legendary producer Jerry Wexler–he helped establish the band’s legacy. When their second album, Led Zeppelin II, was released in October 1969, the group didn’t have any history at Top 40 radio.

“All of a sudden, there’s a track, ‘Whole Lotta Love’ which is getting enormous exposure on FM station,” says Greenberg. As the label’s head of radio promotion at the time, Greenberg recognized that the song wouldn’t be an AM radio hit at its existing 5:33 length because it didn’t fit the shorter lengths that were essentially required by Top 40 programmers.

The 3:05 AM radio edit of “Whole Lotta Love”

Once the band and its manager, Peter Grant, gave their OK, Greenberg suggested a fairly drastic edit, trimming the single to a more “manageable” 3:05. Says Greenberg: “I put the record on the turntable, put the needle down. I watched the clock and at 2:45 they happen to be at the hook… ‘I wanna whole lotta love… whole lotta love…’

“I just faded the song out,” he says, by significantly reducing the song’s instrumental portion while retaining part of Page’s masterful solo. They put it out, and in Greenberg’s words, “the record explodes,” ultimately reaching #4 in the U.S. (and #1 in several European countries).

Related: Listings for 100s of classic rock tours

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Greg Brodsky

Best Classic Bands Founder/CEO Greg Brodsky earned his first professional bylines as a reporter for the music trade weekly Record World. He still has all his vinyl albums and enjoys going to flea markets and garage sales to grow his collection.
Greg Brodsky
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  1. Wes
    #1 Wes 20 July, 2017, 05:07

    I believe the black & white photo above with Jerry Greenberg and Jimmy Page is from the mid 80’s, not the 70’s.

    He signed some great bands over the years. Looking forward to his documentary.

    Reply this comment
    • Greg Brodsky
      Greg Brodsky Author 20 July, 2017, 09:17

      Thanks for the note, Wes. We’ll check with Jerry to see if he can pinpoint when it was taken.

      Reply this comment
  2. Mike
    #2 Mike 17 April, 2018, 23:54

    “Whole Lotta Love” by Zep is one of my all time favorite records, but articles like this should always say that most of the song was written by Willie Dixon and he didn’t get credit or pay until he sued in 1985.

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