If there’s a link between financial success and heaven, then it might explain why a certain Led Zeppelin song is pure gold because it has earned a half billion bucks in royalties and still merrily ka-ching chinging along.
The 1960s band Spirit just filed suit against Led Zeppelin claiming Stairway to Heaven is actually a re-make of a song they released called Taurus, and no doubt they’d like to collect a fat share of the profits, but I believe the suit is bunk.
A lot of artists were trying to make extended rock symphonies at the end of the 1960s. Jimmy Castor did one called Just Begun, and it became one of hip hop’s biggest street anthems, just like Stairway became the biggest rock anthem for a while. The Who obviously pioneered this concept too, so I don’t credit Spirit with any big innovations along these lines, although I do realize there are some segments in Taurus that strongly resemble the opening chords in Stairway, but Stairway is a whole lot more than than just those opening chords.
Fate handed me some keys to unveiling this mystery, but first a little background:
Aside from being devilishly handsome and a gifted guitarist, Jimmy Page was a devoted scholar who put a lot of effort into the study of ceremonial magic. He bought Aleister Crowley’s house on the edge of Loch Ness, but eventually sold it, although he blamed the bad energy not on Aleister, whom he loved, but on a previous tenant who’d beheaded a woman in that home, which may have been part of Crowley’s initial attraction to the place.
But another occult scholar Jimmy loved just as much was Lewis Spence, the world’s authority on Celtic ceremonial history and a Scottish activist. Crowley specialized more in Egyptian and Eastern philosophies of magic (aside from climbing mountains, playing chess and writing world class poetry).
Spence wrote an interesting book titled Occult Causes of the Coming War, in which he accused Hitler and the ex-Kaiser of working together to manifest a Satanic take-over of the Christian empire. During those historic moments that manifested Stairway to Heaven, the band was apparently steeped in Lewis’ writings and the lyrics supposedly contain passages influenced by him.
Robert Plant was the party boy of the band, not the ceremonial scholar, and he’s credited with the lyrics and undoubtedly wrote them with some help from Page maybe, but Robert no longer wants to sing this song because it no longer means anything to him at all, and he feels like Spinal Tap when forced to sing it in public. Plus the song’s been tainted by all these phony accusations of secret satanic messages, and Robert actually paid a local radio station $10,000 once never to play the song again, so sick was he of hearing it on the radio. And they took him up on the offer.
The back-stories involving Stairway are numerous, and in the next few weeks a lot of evidence is going to be trotted out by Spirit to bolster their claim. I can only tell you what I saw and heard.
Maybe you know Page had a taste for witchy women. Lewis wrote extensively on how he believed witchcraft was in the hands of the people, while Satanic societies were in the hands of the upper classes. When Page played his first gig in Chicago as a Yardbird, he couldn’t help but notice that amazing blonde wearing a hooded purple velvet cape in the front row. When the show ended, he asked one of his roadies to escort her backstage, and they eventually brought her and her entourage back to the hotel to party.
Her name was Mary Shirley and she later had a cameo in the film Monterey Pop. Mary was one of the guiding forces behind one of the greatest garage bands in Illinois history, a band than is sadly unappreciated because so few recordings exist, and none from the formative glory days. They were called The Finchley Boys, and some of them ended up backstage meeting their heroes the Yardbirds that night.
From that day on, Jimmy never passed through North America without calling Mary Shirley and inviting her to hang. They were rock and roll equals and would not become lovers and housemates until a few years later.
In one of their meetings, Jimmy pulled out some Chopin sheet music. I don’t know if it was a Piano Concerto or what, but there was a passage he wanted Mary to transpose to guitar. Aside from being a scholar of rock and the British invasion in particular, Mary was also a gifted violinist with perfect pitch. She helped pick the Finchley Boy covers and helped quash some she didn’t think were going over. Her music sensibilities were as refined as her fashion, which was heavily influenced by Carnaby Street. At the time, Mary and her sisters were making most of the stage outfits for garage bands in Central Illinois, at least the ones with any money and real taste.
According to George Faber, one of the lead singers of the Finchley’s, when Mary transposed the sheet music to guitar, the result was the opening segment of Stairway. So if this story is true, then all Robert needs to do to escape this frivolous lawsuit is dig up that Chopin sheet music and this case is closed permanently.
And since I happen to know someone at Robert’s current label, and since lawsuits are a big deal in that industry, I’m going to shoot this over to him and see what happens.