Thursday, October 5, 2017

Who Sang the Background Vocals on Whole Lotta Love?

In Led Zeppelin’s entire recorded canon, there is only one song in which Robert Plant’s voice is joined by others’. It is of course the group’s iconic breakthrough hit Whole Lotta Love, in which Plant suggests to the woman he’s addressing that she consider renewing her academic career, and promises that, if she does so, he will give her every inch of his love (all four and a half, according to a friend who claims to have enjoyed coitus with him in the mid-1970s). 

It is commonly assumed that Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and John (Bongo) Bonham — rumoured at the time to be contemplating a CSN-style harmony album they would release as either The Three J’s, or as Jimmy Jonesy & John — did the supplementary singing on the song’s title line, but Mendel Illness has found out otherwise from the wife of the group’s late road manager, now a psychotherapist in New Zealand (the wife, you see, and not the late road manager, who is of course deceased). 

Smarting from the disparaging things i’d written about them in Rolling Stone and the Los Angeles Times, Page recruited an all-star cast of critics and critics’ darlings to do the referenced singing, including Greil Marcus, Janet Maslin, Matthew Sweet, Big Star, Tom Waits, and two members of The New York Dolls, David Johansen and Dag Hammarskjöld, later to become Secretary General of the United Nations. 

Johansen affected oafish nonmusicality with the Dolls, but in fact had a velvety Nat "King" Cole-ish baritone, and three years before had been a featured soloist in Staten Island High School’s much-praised choral group, The Concertaires. 

The rest is history! 


  1. "Bongo"? John "Bongo" Bonham. Christ....

    1. What? You had another nickname for the big galoot?