Whole Lotta Love voted “greatest riff of all time” by Total Guitar, Guitar World readers

It beat out Ozzy Osbourne’s Crazy Train and AC/DC’s Back In Black for the top spot.

Jimmy Page

David Redfern / Getty

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Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love is the greatest guitar riff of all time – at least according to Total Guitar and readers of its sister publication, Guitar World.

Readers of the publications voted Jimmy Page’s riff on the Led Zeppelin II opener to the top of the poll. It beat out Ozzy Osbourne’s Crazy Train (which nabbed second spot) and AC/DC’s Back In Black (third), whose riffs were penned by the late guitarists Randy Rhoads and Malcolm Young, respectively.

The full, 50-strong list is published in Total Guitar‘s July 2021 issue. To compile it, the magazine asked Guitar World readers to cast their votes from a shortlist of 125 riffs, picked by the Total Guitar staffers.

Total Guitar noted that while Whole Lotta Love might not have been “the first great riff”, it was certainly “defining” in terms of riffs becoming “central to guitar music”.

“Jimmy Page launched his own giant leap for mankind,” Total Guitar wrote. “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.”

The top 50 as a whole is mostly a classic-rock-dominated selection, although some modern metal such as Opeth and Slipknot did make the cut. With the exception of Money by Pink Floyd, all of the riffs are in 4/4 time. The tempo of the riffs featured showed a larger variation, however, ranging from 84 to 170bpm. It’s also worth noting that 98% of the guitarists featured are male, with Heart’s Nancy Wilson bucking the trend of the other 49 entries.

You can see Total Guitar‘s full list below.

50: Heir Apparent – Opeth
49: Ticket To Ride – The Beatles
48: All Right Now – Free
47: G.O.A.T. – Polyphia
46: Outshined – Soundgarden
45: No One Knows – Queens Of The Stone Age
44: Can’t Stop – Red Hot Chili Peppers
43: Life In The Fast Lane – Eagles
42: Message In A Bottle – The Police
41: Stargazer – Rainbow
40: Alive – Pearl Jam
39: Born To Be Wild – Steppenwolf
38: Psychosocial – Slipknot
37: Scuttle Buttin’ – Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble
36: Mississippi Queen – Mountain
35: Sweet Child O’ Mine – Guns N’ Roses
34: Man In The Box – Alice In Chains
33: You Really Got Me – The Kinks
32: The Boys Are Back In Town – Thin Lizzy
31: Lateralus – Tool
30: Seven Nation Army – The White Stripes
29: The Spirit Of Radio – Rush
28: (Don’t Fear) The Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult
27: Barracuda – Heart
26: Breaking The Law – Judas Priest
25: Walk This Way – Aerosmith
24: 2 Minutes To Midnight – Iron Maiden
23: Beat It – Michael Jackson
22: Ace Of Spades – Motörhead
21: Money – Pink Floyd
20: (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – The Rolling Stones
19: Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd
18: Angel Of Death – Slayer
17: Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana
16: Killing In The Name – Rage Against The Machine
15: Symphony Of Destruction – Megadeth
14: Sunshine Of Your Love – Cream
13: Money For Nothing – Dire Straits
12: Johnny B. Goode – Chuck Berry
11: Layla – Derek And The Dominos
10: Purple Haze – Jimi Hendrix
9: La Grange – ZZ Top
8: Walk – Pantera
7: Iron Man – Black Sabbath
6: Enter Sandman – Metallica
5: Ain’t Talkin’ ’Bout Love – Van Halen
4: Smoke On The Water – Deep Purple
3: Back In Black – AC/DC
2: Crazy Train – Ozzy Osbourne
1: Whole Lotta Love – Led Zeppelin


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