Eddie Kramer: The first time I heard “Whole Lotta Love” was in August ’69, when Jimmy and I started working on the album’s final mix at New York’s A&R Sound.
Jimmy and I had first met in 1964, when he was playing on the Kinks’ first album [“Kinks”] at Pye Studios and I was the assistant engineer. I also had heard Led Zeppelin early on in ’68, when John Paul Jones had played me an acetate of Led Zeppelin’s first album, before it was released. I was blown away—it sounded so hard and heavy.
In New York, the recording console at A&R was fairly primitive. It had only 12 channels with old-fashioned rotary dials to control track levels instead of sliding faders and there were just two pan pots [control knobs] to send the sound from left to right channels. But as Jimmy and I listened to the mix, something unexpected came up.
At the point where the song breaks and Robert slowly wails, “Way down inside…wo-man…you need…love,” Jimmy and I heard this faint voice singing the lyric before Robert did on the master vocal track. Apparently Robert had done two different vocals, recording them on two different tracks. Even when I turned the volume down all the way on the track we didn’t want, his powerful voice was bleeding through the console and onto the master.
Some people today still think the faint voice was a pre-echo that we added on purpose for effect. It wasn’t—it was an accident. Once Jimmy and I realized we had to live with it on the master, I looked at Jimmy, he looked at me and we both reached for the reverb knob at the same time and cracked up laughing. Our instincts were the same—to douse the faint, intruding voice in reverb so it sounded part of the master plan.
Mr. Page: I hadn’t heard anything like that before and loved it. I was always looking for things like that when I recorded. That’s the beauty of old recording equipment. Robert’s faraway voice sounded otherworldly, like a spirit anticipating the vocal he was about to deliver.
Mr. Kramer: By adding reverb, we made his faint voice more dynamic, and it became part of rock history. I also used the pan pots on Jimmy’s guitar solo to fling it from side to side, so it would move from one speaker to another. I loved the sonic imagery and I like to think of my mixes as stereophonic paintings.