Rhino Factoids: Led Zeppelin Releases Their First-Ever UK Single…in 1997?!?
Given how many times their songs have been played on the radio over the years, it may surprise you to learn that today only marks the 17th anniversary of the release of Led Zeppelin’s first UK single, “Whole Lotta Love,” a song which came out 28 years after the album on which it appears, Led Zeppelin II, first hit record store shelves.
Why did it take so long? You can blame it on the band, if you wish…or, if that makes you uncomfortable, blame it on their manager, Peter Grant, instead. (That’s what managers are there for, after all.)
In Led Zeppelin: The Story of a Band and Their Music, when author Keith Shadwick writes about the struggle to get “Whole Lotta Love” released as a single back in 1969, he notes that “(Jimmy) Page and Grant were not entirely against any thought of a single being released, although they genuinely felt it was better to stick to their albums-only position.” After Atlantic Records put out the album version of the song as a single in the States, however, an edited version of the song was released by the label in order to earn more radio airplay. “Weeks before its release, they sent me an acetate of the edit,” Page told The Wall Street Journal. “I played it once, hated it and never listened to the short version again.”
Nonetheless, the single proved to be a huge hit in the US, making it all the way to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100, thereby leading the folks in Atlantic Records’ British offices to start sniffing around at the possibility of releasing a single in the UK as well…not necessarily that one, you understand, but just a Led Zeppelin single, period. Unfortunately, the band wasn’t interested in compromising their sound or their artistic right to play as it pleased: per Shadwick, “although from time to time singles would be issued in the USA, Germany, France, Japan, and Australasia as new albums came out, Grant retained his stranglehold at home and concentrated the local Atlantic office on selling albums.”
Finally, though, Led Zeppelin changed their tune and, in 1997, the band celebrated their 30th anniversary by issuing a single edit of “Whole Lotta Love” in the UK, but shortened only to 4:50 this time, as opposed to the 3:10 version which had scored so much airplay back in the day. The end result: the song made it to #21, finally earning the band their first hit single in their homeland…and only 17 years after they’d broken up!