"Whole Lotta Love" Has Been Voted the Greatest Guitar Riff of All Time
The 'Led Zeppelin II' cut edged out "Crazy Train" and "Back in Black" for the honor.
Jimmy Page's earth-shaking opening riff to Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" has been voted the greatest guitar riff of all time by readers of Total Guitar and Guitar World magazines.
The riff edged out Randy Rhoads' opening salvo to Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train" and the solid-as-concrete, instantly recognizable riff that opens AC/DC's "Back in Black."
“In 1969, the year Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon, Jimmy Page launched his own giant leap for mankind,” Total Guitar wrote in its July 2021 issue, which is out today (June 4).
“Whole Lotta Love's guitar figure took just 2.7 seconds to play, but it immediately projected music into another decade. While everyone else was still playing the '60s, Zeppelin were now playing the '70s.”
“It wasn't the first great riff, but it is the defining one," the magazine's piece continues. "It's why riffs became central to guitar music, the reason bands search for the guitar hook that can propel a whole song – or even a whole career.”
"Whole Lotta Love," it bears mentioning, was adapted partially from a Willie Dixon tune called "You Need Love," and the Small Faces' "You Need Loving," which itself was an adaptation of Muddy Waters' recording of the Dixon song.
Total Guitar's top 10 riffs list was rounded out by Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water" in fourth, Van Halen's "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" in fifth, Metallica's "Enter Sandman" in sixth, Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" in seventh, Pantera's "Walk" in eighth, ZZ Top's "La Grange" in ninth, and Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze" in 10th.
To see the remainder of the list, pick up the new issue of Total Guitar from Magazines Direct (opens in new tab).
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Jackson is an Associate Editor at GuitarWorld.com and GuitarPlayer.com. He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player. Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder and Unrecorded. Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.