The 100 Greatest Songs of the Rock Era: #99: Whole Lotta Love
From Led Zeppelin II (1969)
“Ah, another message song,” Peggy said. Again, no “Hello.” Did Peggy greet all callers like this now?
“You know, some people don’t realize that ‘Shake for me, girl, I wanna be your backdoor man’ was about Cambodia.”
“Casual listeners. So if you were doing a list of coolest breaks ever, where would the mid-section of this song rank?”
“Top five, probably, Gotta put ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ ahead of it at least, right?”
“What about heaviest opening riffs?”
“Maybe top five there, too.”
“And yet the song is only number ninety-nine.”
“Well, yeah. You know me. I’m a melody-and-lyrics guy and, this song’s a little short on both. It’s a testament to how great that break and opening riff are that I listed it so high.”
“Where would this song have ranked when you were seventeen?”
I understood what Peggy was asking here. She wasn’t asking if the song would have been much higher if not supplanted by songs that came later. She was asking if personal context affected my rankings. Would seventeen-year-old me, focused much more on my body than my brain (to put it politely) have resonated with the primal values of the song and therefore considered it much greater? Of course context matters, I thought, jumping to some of the songs higher on the list, but I always put a premium on song craft, even when my hormones called more of the shots.
“A few notches higher, maybe. Not that much.”
“You’re so evolved. Keep it coolin’, babe.”