Stairway to Heaven lawsuit is bunk

0If 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:

20121120-jimmypage-x306-1353424339Aside 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.

maryshirleyHer 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.

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20 thoughts on “Stairway to Heaven lawsuit is bunk

  1. I learned in the ’70s from a San Fran bluesman (the late Marcus Guerin) how Stairway (and much of their oeuvre in general) were straight cops from existing blues songs. I can’t remember now which song, but I do remember the logic of his explanation, basically a descending chromatic bass line with changes over the top, perhaps as a turnaround.

    From Wikipedia on Spirit (Randy California!):
    “They capitalized on the success of their first album with another single, “I Got A Line On You”. Released in November 1968, a month before their second album, The Family That Plays Together, it became their biggest hit single, reaching No. 25 on the charts (#28 in Canada). The album matched its success, reaching No. 22. They also went on tour that year with support band Led Zeppelin, who were heavily influenced by Spirit—Led Zeppelin played an extended medley during their early 1969 shows that featured “Fresh Garbage” among other songs, Jimmy Page’s use of a theremin has been attributed to his seeing Randy California use one that he had mounted to his amplifier,[1] and it is now widely accepted that Page lifted the descending guitar figure from Spirit’s instrumental “Taurus” for Led Zeppelin’s signature tune “Stairway To Heaven”.[2]”

    So it appears Page had the opportunity to hear and lift a Spirit song, a tactic exhibited in many of his tunes.

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    • Since the incident I refer to pre-dates his appearance on the same stage with Spirit, I tend to discount the claim. Yes, like many other British bands, Zep stole from the blues men and just reworked their stuff and called it their own. Most of these people were jerked off by their companies anyway as thievery is a way of life in the industry. However, music is spiritual and certain chords do resonate over and over, don’t need to be copied down, they are in our DNA at this point. I am not defending the unlawful appropriation of anyone’s copyrighted material, but in this case, I do believe the claim is frivolous and way too late coming to the table.

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    • I don’t deny Plant and Page might have heard Taurus, maybe. But if the Mary Shirley story is correct, the progression was lifted from Chopin before the Zep-Spirit gigs were played.

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  2. Actually, the timing works in Spirit’s favor:
    Taurus released by Spirit (written by Randy California): 1968
    Spirit tour with Led Zep: 1968
    Led Zep covers Spirit songs in public: 1969
    Page writes Stairway: 1970
    Years California waits to file copyright claim: 46
    So in listening to Taurus, I do see California’s point. A chromatic descending bass line over Am, to Bm, to G, back to Am. But Taurus does NOT have the other half of the figure, the harmonic counterpoint. So at most the intro sounds only HALF borrowed, but, damn, way too late! 46 years is a long time to wait to make such a claim, I wonder if there are Statute of Limitations issues? As to your point about borrowing, yes, with only 12 notes and 3 chords to work with (in blues), everybody is borrowing.

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  3. There is a big difference between influenced and copied. Should we give the Beatles and Stones royalties on everything after 1975? The nature of new music is that it draws from our experiences and peers. That is not copying.. The totality of the two songs are completely different. Count how may songs are like Johnny B. Goode? You’ll run out of fingers and toes even in a crowded room!

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  4. Among Ms. Shirley’s credits it should also be mentioned that she was an exceptional Hostess at Uncle John’s Pancake House in her early years; some biographers contend that the experience she gained there affected the trajectory of her growth as an artist.

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  5. Jimmy Page Addresses Staircase

    Archangelic archenemy, Moriarty Malofly, more e-Art FULL criminal Superfly
    mastermind, unbound and detrimentally determined mental, heartless no less !!!
    sides with those that wanna take it from those who’ve got it.
    He who just doesn’t get it, Doctor of (Man-Made) Laws, Moriarty Malofly obviously,
    obliviously is utterly unaware of independent contemporaneous discovery –
    like Sir Isaac & Gottfried.

    Sir, I say, Christ sakes Get Free’ed of your Greed
    GO ON !! GET OUT !!
    of here you can’t hear

    ///

    Yes “No!” Perhaps “Really?!”
    You really mean it?:- “‘Spirit’ed’!”
    with malice of forethought
    premeditated on a Taurus
    reaching round Uranus
    Hear Way Too “Heaven’s!” –
    Among you, who’s hung you, Lost Angels’ least –
    End of the Randy Rainbows’
    Cause California Claws – desist and cease!!

    Rite Intro: Stairways To Heaven,
    Crepuscular Rays in the Woods.
    Two score and two good – too, too good
    …till Black Knot ruins: “Copy? Would he not? – I would!”
    – Cased action brings trouble or Nothing…
    Quite the Mouthpiece to feud you are dude
    you’re mainly mean-spirited,
    your really mean “‘Spirit’ed’
    is Stairway To Heaven!” allude

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  6. Although a fairly accurate account of Jimmie Page and Genevra’s (Mary Shirley) relation you give Jimmie’s ability to pick a “witchy women” out of a crowd too much credit. Genevra and her entourage had ties with the Yardbirds long before Jimmie played with them. Short of finding the sheet music they could ask her entourage, A.K.A younger sisters Anne and Jane, to testify. They were there.

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    • Hello Fred, I got my version entirely from George Faber, who was at most of the meetings. I intended the witchey woman comment as praise for Genevra’s incredible style, so evident when she was still in high school, and I think you are confusing Led Zeppelin with the Yardbirds. Mary and Jimmie met because she was a Yardbirds fan and went to the concert and stood in the front row wearing her purple velvet hooded cape. For whatever reason, Jimmie asked his roadie to invite her backstage to meet him. Maybe it was the robe, or her beautiful face. But that’s the way they first met according to George, who says he was there…..let me know if you disagree with this and I’ll be happy to contact George and go over the details one more time on camera.

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      • George wasn’t there the first time Mary met Page and it wasn’t in Chicago. If my memory serves me correctly it was in Indiana Beach in Indiana. Page was playing bass for the Yardbirds and Jeff Beck lead. Of coarse I was only 13 at the time but I do remember the concert. If you haven’t guessed Mary was my sister and I too was part of her entourage along with our dad, Roy Shirley. George is my ex-brother-in-law (he was married to Anne).

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    • I don’t know about witchy part, but Genevra was definitely a force of nature. It’s easy for me to imagine her playing the Chopin piece for Page on her fiddle.

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      • George or Paulie may have some. I remember Paulie taking a lot of them back then. I’m only a year older than Fred but thanks to him and my recenly departed best friend Bruce Millsap I was witness to a lot of the shenanigans back in those days.

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  7. This is a true story to my knowledge. Band. Members and relatives that were there that night have told me this story when I was growing up. My mom also appears in the Monterey pop video documentary right after Janis Joplin plays she wiping down the chairs. They show her briefly in the intro as well as at the beginning of the movie right after a hippy girl is blowing some bubbles she is there in the beginning lol anyway I know quite a few people that will back up this story to be true to whom it may concern lol

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  8. Pingback: **** 10 May ’16 Jimmy Page To Address “Staircase” **** | Pendo

      • Thank you, Steve. And thank god.

        Just reacting to what was published in the News Gazette, and read to me over the phone.

        I’m sure you have already, but, if it is not true, please, of course, immediately remove my post.

        Sherwin

        * – — — — — — — — — — — — — — — * Source: Gmail online web browser interface. Composed in monospaced font utilizing UTF-8. *_ _ . . . . . . _ _ _ _ . . . . . . _ _ *

        On Wed, Oct 19, 2016 at 11:48 AM, The Abakus Blog wrote:

        > Steven Hager commented: “Michael is fine Sherwin. You started a false > rumor today.” >

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