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Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page testifies in 'Stairway to Heaven' trial

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If there's a bustle in your hedgerow, don't be alarmed now

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Almost 50 years later? C'mon.

10 ( +12 / -2 )

If he was really that upset about it, he would have filed suit way back when. Just look like a bunch of gold-diggers for doing it so late on.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

Here's the song:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gFHLO_2_THg

This juryman says: nah.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

There's a good analysis of both the similarities and differences here:

https://youtu.be/PCEg9gMJakU

6 ( +6 / -0 )

No one owns common musical elements

That seriously sounds like you are guilty.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

@njca4 You got it right!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

And if successful the next target will be Clapton's "Let it Grow".

2 ( +3 / -1 )

"inspired to write"...possibly

"copied"...no

I don't think they'll win because the A minor chord with a descending base line is too common.

And unlike Page, the greatest rock guitarist IMO, Robin Thicke bragged about creating a song similar to Marvin's "Got to Give It Up"

For a Thursday morning laugh.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3twwafch4g

1 ( +4 / -3 )

I cannot get those links to work in Firefox nor Chrome. Why?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Zeppelin has settled ten similar lawsuits in the past. So if they are guilty, it wouldn't be the first time.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Why the Spirts composer did not file the calim himself years ago? Probably because he did not think it was real. Commong musical elements are shared among many bands. Do writers have to claim right about the usage of articles, prepsitions and part of sentences? C'mon...

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I'm a huge fan of both Randy California, who I met before a concert, and Led Zep, who I saw live. My take:

Popular music has thrived through the centuries by one musician copying another and twisting things around a bit to put their own imprint on it. This was taken for granted and was good for music. Until copyrights, big money and lawyers entered the picture.

That said, Zeppelin borrowed and stole much more than other bands of their era. The worst case is Dazed and Confused, where they hardly changed a thing about the song and still took credit for writing it. Some of these cases have been settled. Thieves or not, it doesn't distract from the great work they did that was also clearly original. Thomas Edison is a world-renowned inventor, and was also a serious thief of others' works. Yet, everybody remembers him as a great inventor.

Stairway did bother Randy California, but I think he just wanted a little credit more than money. He didn't seem like a guy who was driven by money or status. But Randy's song, Taurus, is really just a pretty little unfinished ditty. It stands more as a segue than as a complete song. And the chord progression was pretty standard. He wrote some great songs, but this wasn't complete enough to be called a song. Not sure why they even put it on the album.

Jimmy Page obviously heard Taurus (Zeppelin toured with Spirit and even covered one of their songs). Whether consciously or not, Page started with the Taurus bit and built an epic song around it. The thing they are accused of stealing is a small part of that song. But, since it is the opening, it's the part the is most recognized part. Taurus by itself had zero chance of becoming a hit, much less the hit that Stairway became. And I say that as a fan of the guy who wrote it.

I call for Led Zeppelin on this one. But I would hope Jimmy Page at least has the grace to say something nice about Randy California and Spirit (though this lawsuit may make that difficult).

6 ( +6 / -0 )

A few points missing from the article (as I'm a massive Zepp fan, I'll share the love):

Apparently, it has taken this long to reach the court room because the group / estate aren't exactly rolling in dosh (money). You have to understand that a case of this magnitude would cost a FORTUNE for both sides. Fun fact: The masterpiece that is Stairway To Heaven has been valued at $520m. Yes, that song alone! Led Zeppelin started out as Spirit's support band on their first American tour. Jimmy Page used to jam with the band in sound check and it was at that time that Randy California played a song he'd recently written, Taurus. An amazing piece of music in its own right, and the single was released a full four years before Stairway To Heaven. This judge was specifically chosen as he has absolutely ZERO musical knowledge. By that, I mean he'd never even heard ANY of Zepp's music, let alone the songs before the court.

Even as a die-hard fan I concede that Jimmy Page was more than a little 'inspired' by Taurus. As Steve Jobs once said Good artists copy, great artists steal. This takes nothing away from Zepp being the greatest rock band of all time, but acknowledgement should be made. On a side note, Spirit is an EPIC album that you should all check out!

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Page et. al. were too stoned to remember...

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Nice points, sighclops. Except Taurus was never, ever released as a single. One listen tells you why. In fact, rather than being an amazing piece of music, I thought it was just filler for the album. Fairly standard sounding and not fully developed. Which is why I think it's not what makes Stairway a great song. Stairways soaring progressions and tasteful guitar solo really make it the hit it is. In my opinion.

I agree that Spirit was one of the most interesting bands of the era, and it's a shame that they have been mostly overlooked.

A point of interest, Spirit's bass player Mark Andes (who is party to the lawsuit) went on to join Heart, and married one of the lead singers. Heart themselves went on to play the brilliant cover of Stairway to Heaven at the Kennedy Center in front of President Obama, Zeppelin and 1000s of others. So you have one spouse paying tribute and the other spouse suing them.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I don't think they'll win because the A minor chord with a descending base line is too common.

Generally I favor a laissez faire policy to artistic "borrowing", but the arpegiated chords at the beginning of both songs are really similar. If it were just the chord progression (which is also used in the bridge of the excellent Maroon 5 song "Tangled") or the base line, there'd be no case. But the Zep intro is an almost note-for-note copy of the Spriit intro, especially the non-base notes, which you could regard as a melody.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

In other news, Ritchie Valens' estate is suing Paul McCartney for stealing riffs from LaBamba for Twist and Shout.

Anyone who listens to enough rock and roll knows that they are all stealing from each other. They are truly not ALL creative. Some of them have to get by with face paint, cucumbers wrapped in tin foil, and amps that can be turned up to 11. The only way around the problem is requiring copious footnotes to show listeners what might have been lifted from which prior work.

I am pretty sure that several articles have been written on this subject of bands ripping off other bands' songs, and it has happened from the very beginning. Often.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Anyone who listens to enough rock and roll knows that they are all stealing from each other.

Rock n' roll is riff-based guitar and the drums, lyrics revolving around the main riff. Early Blue's pioneers mastered this. Thus, rock n' roll was stolen from Black American musicians.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

I saw a video recently of David Bowie needling Trent Reznor, because Trent had ripped off a Bowie song unintentionally. Bowie took it in good cheer.

I remember and interview where Pete Seger was interviewing one of his idols, the old and legendary Roscoe Holcomb. He asked Roscoe how he wrote. Roscoe answered, "I just hear something I like, then I play it the way I like, with a few changes. That's how we all do it, isn't it?"

Pete Seger quickly changed the subject.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I've heard both songs and my view is that Jimmy Paige copied the music.... too similar and the timing too close.

1 ( +4 / -2 )

But, I'm curious to know why it took nearly fifty years for them to make the complaint. Yes, the two riffs are very similar, but they are also a little different. And, as LZ's lawyer has stated, neither the riff nor the scale are unique. It's actually one of the most common patterns used for guitar instrumentals. Many guitarists used the same chord progression in many songs. The Animals, House of the rising sun uses the same set of chords in a similar arrangement, but it sounds totally different. I think the Spirit team is just going for a final cash grab, but I doubt if they will get it. There's no way to,prove that Page actually stole the riff, so that's pretty much case closed for Spirit.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

I'm saying little here since I already blogged about it elsewhere but I'll just mention the main reasons why I believe that the whole case is suspect:

Too similar to other cases of the same type where no actual plagiarism has been proven Too much time has passed since both were released (50+ years) Too much money involved

The fact that this case has been brought nearly twenty years after the death of Randy California also makes me very suspicious. Also good luck trying to jog the memories of all concerned about things that happened back then!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Yeah, nah.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Anyone who listens to enough rock and roll knows that they are all stealing from each other. They are truly not ALL creative. Some of them have to get by with face paint, cucumbers wrapped in tin foil, and amps that can be turned up to 11. The only way around the problem is requiring copious footnotes to show listeners what might have been lifted from which prior work.

You make it sound like such an imposition. Sleeve notes is one way to go, and it's exactly how it was done for Bob Dylan's first album, which only contained two originals. By the time Led Zeppelin appeared on the scene quite a few years and much musical history later, this method was well established. It was certainly common enough in the 50s with jazz albums.

But actually a simple credit will do it. If I look at original singles by the Rolling Stones, the information is right there on the labels. They credited Check Berry, Muddy Waters, whoever they covered. What Led Zeppelin did that was controversial was to take from living artists like Willie Dixon - who very much resented the liberty - and pass them off as Zeppelin songs. Some of these lifted tunes and lyrics were of very recent vintage, as were the ones they took from their own contemporaries - and tour partners - like Jake Holmes and Randy California.

So it isn't good enough just to say "everyone was nicking everything". Led Zeppelin was nicking everything, and Page has spent the years since getting very pissed off if journalists have the temerity to ask him about it. On balance, it would have been easier to just print the credit on the album sleeve, or later, when everyone already knew that they plagiarized, to cop to it.

In other news, Ritchie Valens' estate is suing Paul McCartney for stealing riffs from LaBamba for Twist and Shout.

The song is credited to Phil Medley and Bert Berns, not McCartney. By the time the Beatles recorded it, it had been done by the Top Notes and the Isley Brothers, and the riff is already there:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cTaqn8_gMR0

The Beatles acknowledged whose recorded version they drew on:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RklOsQ-jCPY

3 ( +4 / -1 )

As Steve Jobs once said Good artists copy, great artists steal.

@sighclops, Funny you should bring that up in such an article, as Steve jobs stole that line from Picasso, and Picasso was "inspired" for that quote from TS Eliot.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

But actually a simple credit will do it. If I look at original singles by the Rolling Stones, the information is right there on the labels.

Yup, they were so heavily influenced by those Blues musicians. The classical early to even modern ACDC are ALL brilliantly based on blues riffs.

Like Brian Setzer said in the movie, La Bamba: "Rock n' roll is an addiction!"

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Yeah there was a lot of pilfering of the old blues for sure by lots of bands, but Zep was/is pretty damned guilty, they even have come clean on some, the Willie Dixion stuff being an example.

I bet Page was rather influenced by the Spirit song & just cant admit it after all this years, oh well I still love old blues & Zep anyway

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Just like GW says Zep were know for having light fingers when it came to the blue and i also agree that JP was possibly influences by by the track.

Have a listen yourself https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gFHLO_2_THg

1 ( +1 / -0 )

What is going to stop Jimmy, Swinging from the Gallows pole ? Dear friends with booty.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Rock n' roll is riff-based guitar and the drums, lyrics revolving around the main riff. Early Blue's pioneers mastered this. Thus, rock n' roll was stolen from Black American musicians.

We're not talking about a riff, we're talking about four bars lifted virtually intact.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Just like GW says Zep were know for having light fingers when it came to the blue and i also agree that JP was possibly influences by by the track.

A bit more than possibly influenced. He simply all-but copied something that was already there - you can hear it plainly - and inserted that into Stairway to Heaven. In the late 60s/early, this was a habit of Page's, and he and his collaborators apparently thought they could get away with it. Whatever his strengths might have been (basically a very good very loud guitarist), he wasn't, at that point, a startlingly original songwriter. I have more than a few doubts about the quality of some of Zep's later efforts come to that, but then I don't really rate them among the very best. Don't panic anyone, it's just a personal taste thing.

If other people were doing what he did, it's not particularly easy to name them. The Beatles, the Stones, the Who, all gave sleeve credits when they used other people's songs. Dylan, working in a field specifically known for reworking other people's compositions, has very thorough sleevenotes on his first album, either mentioning a songwriter, the historical provenance of the song, or whose sung version he was working with.

The same goes for the original sleevenotes of Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton, from 1966 - we're now into Page era and rather close to Page territory. Yet in the descriptions, there is no attempt to obfuscate, no blank spaces where the songwriter credit ought to be, and instead there is some detail in the notes about arrangement versus improvisation. You're not left in any doubt that these songs (the exception being the three credited to Mayall) were written by other people.

This was undoubtedly a well understood principle at the time. It's also a fact that no matter how good your own version of a song is (Hendrix's All Along the Watchtower for example, or Zeppelin's When the Levee Breaks), or how much better people might think it is than the original version, if you didn't write it you didn't write it, and you treated it accordingly. Hendrix and others had the class to honour this: Led Zeppelin didn't.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

... and they're half-inching the stairway to heavennnnnn...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It was the 60's! Everyone was copying "Spirit"!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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