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Did Zeppelin steal the stairway...?


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BBC News - Copyright row over Led Zeppelin classic Stairway to Heaven

 

According to the estate of Randy California, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant stole the opening guitar riff of Stairway to Heaven from Sprit and their song Taurus (about 42 seconds in the video below). I'll let you decide...

[video=youtube_share;w9TGj2jrJk8]http://youtu.be/w9TGj2jrJk8

[video=youtube_share;xd8AVbwB_6E]

 

Personally I think if no one has done anything about this for 43 years it's a bit late to worry!

 

Eloise

 

PS. I've probably played into Taurus' hands there because of course this unknown band will get royalties from all the plays of Taurus on Youtube, etc that results from the publicity over the court case.

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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Unknown to some, perhaps, but Spirit was a huge band in the 1960's.

Led Zeppelin also stole from numerous others, and were sued for plagarism by both Howlin' Wolf and Willie Dixon (two unknown American blues singers), and settled out of court.

 

From Wikipedia:

"The group's first album, Spirit, was released in 1968. "Mechanical World" was released as a single (it lists the playing time merely as "very long"). The album was a hit, reaching No. 31 on The Billboard 200 and staying on the charts for over eight months. The album displayed jazz influences, as well as using elaborate string arrangements (not found on their subsequent recordings) and is the most overtly psychedelic of their albums.

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, 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".

After this success, the group was asked by French film director Jacques Demy to record the soundtrack to his film, Model Shop and they also made a brief appearance in the film.Their third album, Clear, released in 1969, reached No. 55 on the charts. Spirit were offered the spot right before Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock, but they were advised to turn it down and concentrate on a promotional tour for their third album. Record company managers felt that the festival would not be significant, as it did not seem so at that time, and so they missed out on the massive international exposure that the festival and the subsequent film documentary generated."

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Well, Spirit were quite a well known band in the late 60's and early 70's. The "rip-off" of Taurus for Stairway to Heaven didn't go unnoticed at the time, either.

 

BTW, take a listen to the first 4 "original" albums and you might be surprised how good some of the music was. Much of it holds up well till today: Spirit | Discography | AllMusic

 

BBC News - Copyright row over Led Zeppelin classic Stairway to Heaven

 

According to the estate of Randy California, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant stole the opening guitar riff of Stairway to Heaven from Sprit and their song Taurus (about 42 seconds in the video below). I'll let you decide...

 

 

Personally I think if no one has done anything about this for 43 years it's a bit late to worry!

 

Eloise

 

PS. I've probably played into Taurus' hands there because of course this unknown band will get royalties from all the plays of Taurus on Youtube, etc that results from the publicity over the court case.

Main listening (small home office):

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Well, Spirit were quite a well known band in the late 60's and early 70's. The "rip-off" of Taurus for Stairway to Heaven didn't go unnoticed at the time, either.

 

BTW, take a listen to the first 4 "original" albums and you might be surprised how good some of the music was. Much of it holds up well till today: Spirit | Discography | AllMusic

 

As others have already pointed out, Spirit was not an unknown band. Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus is a masterpiece.

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Well, Spirit were quite a well known band in the late 60's and early 70's. The "rip-off" of Taurus for Stairway to Heaven didn't go unnoticed at the time, either.

Okay okay ... I won't tell you how old I was in the late 60's and early 70's!!!!!!!!

 

I suppose I should have said ... does it matter if Zeppelin stole the start of Stairway ... it (appears) that the original artists never worried so why should their estates now be getting a slice of what they didn't care about. Its not like this is a new song which has suddenly been discovered!

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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Precisely, even though LZ deserves it from their other exploits!

Its not like this is a new song which has suddenly been discovered!

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Okay okay ... I won't tell you how old I was in the late 60's and early 70's!!!!!!!!

 

I suppose I should have said ... does it matter if Zeppelin stole the start of Stairway ... it (appears) that the original artists never worried so why should their estates now be getting a slice of what they didn't care about. Its not like this is a new song which has suddenly been discovered!

 

Well Randy California publicly objected to it years ago and said Spirit should have been given credit and compensation; he appeared to be most upset simply that LZ didn't ask if they could use the bit in their song before stealing it.

 

Zepplin are about to make oodles of money off the re-release of the song. I'm not sure why anyone would say the heirs to Taurus shouldn't get a cut of the new cash flow.

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All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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Spirit of '76 didn't sell, but is a personal favorite.

 

I do agree 43 years is a bit late.

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

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It is never too late for litigious revenge.........

 

I was all of thirteen years old and quite deeply entrenched the rock culture at the time.

 

And if I never hear SWTH or Free Bird for the rest of my natural life, it will still be too soon.......

Bill

 

Practicing Curmudgeon & Audio Snob

 

....just an "ON" switch, Please!

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There are so few notes that I find it difficult to consider this as plagiarism. Pop/rock operates in such a small corner of the melodic universe that repetitions are bound to happen, even if just by chance.

 

Exactly... indeed it's not THAT original a sequence of notes... just a riff of descending half steps down to the root.

 

Exhibit 1 for the defense, from 1959:

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It is never too late for litigious revenge.........

 

I was all of thirteen years old and quite deeply entrenched the rock culture at the time.

 

And if I never hear SWTH or Free Bird for the rest of my natural life, it will still be too soon.......

 

I remember once riding home from school during the mid 70's, just before LZ came to town. Most of the pop/rock stations had a master playlist that only allowed them to play SWTH, and not any other Zep song.

 

I remember turning the dial, and EVERY station that played rock/pop was playing SWTH - something like 6 or 7 stations simultaneously.

 

It's a great song, but it was so overexposed in my youth that I can't really listen to it or appreciate it today....Still like Free Bird, though :)

Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>Stack Audio Link II>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Listening: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)+Schiit Freya>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
Living Room/Kitchen: Ropieee (RPi3b+ with touchscreen) + Schiit Modi3E to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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There are so few notes that I find it difficult to consider this as plagiarism. Pop/rock operates in such a small corner of the melodic universe that repetitions are bound to happen, even if just by chance.

 

I think many folks would be surprised at the melodic inventiveness of some rock. Even back in their relatively straight-ahead days, Lennon-McCartney were doing some things differently, e.g., the chord on the final "yeah!" from "She Loves You." But I'm not going to say there isn't a great deal of melodic similarity among many examples of a genre that has such deep roots in blues and Appalachian traditional music. One other factor I think plays into this is the omnivorous music listening of so many people whose lives are, after all, all about music. I wouldn't be at all surprised if there is often quite a fine line when songwriting between an original melody line popping into one's head and a melody line heard years ago then forgotten at a conscious level. See, e.g., George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord" and the Ronnie Mack song "He's So Fine" for The Chiffons.

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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Except that your example is "similar"; the SWTH sounds like a direct copy from the Spirit song.

 

Exactly... indeed it's not THAT original a sequence of notes... just a riff of descending half steps down to the root.

 

Exhibit 1 for the defense, from 1959:

Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>Stack Audio Link II>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Listening: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)+Schiit Freya>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
Living Room/Kitchen: Ropieee (RPi3b+ with touchscreen) + Schiit Modi3E to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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Except that your example is "similar"; the SWTH sounds like a direct copy from the Spirit song.

 

Mmm, I disagree: I feel Taurus just barely sounds like stairway riff. I believe the one by Davy Graham is much closer. But you know what they say about opinions... ;)

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Mmm, I disagree: I feel Taurus just barely sounds like stairway riff. I believe the one by Davy Graham is much closer. But you know what they say about opinions... ;)

 

I think neither is so compellingly similar to Stairway as He's So Fine is to My Sweet Lord:

 

 

 

But your opinion may differ. :)

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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I think neither is so compellingly similar to Stairway as He's So Fine is to My Sweet Lord:

 

 

But your opinion may differ. :)

 

I seem to remember reading an interview with John Lennon once where he said that as soon as George played the song to the other Beatles (he demoed it while the Beatles were still together) they all said (paraphrase), "George, its just like 'He's So Fine'".

 

So I can believe Harrison didn't consciously rip it off, but apparently he was very well aware of the situation when he published the song and recorded it.

Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>Stack Audio Link II>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Listening: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)+Schiit Freya>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
Living Room/Kitchen: Ropieee (RPi3b+ with touchscreen) + Schiit Modi3E to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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  • 1 month later...

LZ certainly has been caught plagiarizing far more often than any other band I can think of.

They were forced to give writing credits on several songs on their first two albums. The Spirit allegation seems very convincing given the music and the historical circumstances. And how about the similarity between White Summer and Davy Graham's 1963 version of "She Moved Through The Fair", as discussed in the comments below this awesome YouTube? I just came across this.

 

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=76Yvw_ZztQk

 

I guess Bob Dylan also has been accused of stealing and plagiarizing on several occasions. He has written and released about seven times as much music as LZ, however. So on a percentage basis they are clearly the leading thiefs.

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I have a different take on all of this.

 

The Stones, Led Zep, Savoy Brown what have you, based a good portion of their music on the work of the early American Bluesmen.

 

In some cases credit was given. In some cases, sadly, credit was not given. However, lf the Stones had not "educated" me on Mr. Wolf's "Little Red Rooster", I doubt I would have developed a life long love of the Blues.

In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake ~ Sayre's Law

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I guess Bob Dylan also has been accused of stealing and plagiarizing on several occasions. He has written and released about seven times as much music as LZ, however. So on a percentage basis they are clearly the leading thiefs.

 

A couple who were friends of my parents when I was growing up in the 1960's insisted that their wannabe-folksinger nephew, Laurie Wyatt, actually wrote, "Blowin' In The Wind", and sold it to Dylan. No way to prove it, but I've always felt that song did not sound like the other stuff he was writing at the time. It is far too sappy, simplistic, and repititious. Ironically, it was also his biggest hit of all time, and covered by a lot of others, including Peter, Paul, and Mary.

 

Speaking of PPM, have you heard that "Puff The Magic Dragon" is not a child's dream/fantasy, but a song about smoking dope? This is 100% true. I know this because I lived in Berkeley in 1976 and smoked marijuana with the songwriter, Lenny Lipton, who was an instructor at the independent filmmaking workshop I was attending. So, I got that one straight from horse's mouth.

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Speaking of PPM, have you heard that "Puff The Magic Dragon" is not a child's dream/fantasy, but a song about smoking dope? This is 100% true. I know this because I lived in Berkeley in 1976 and smoked marijuana with the songwriter, Lenny Lipton, who was an instructor at the independent filmmaking workshop I was attending. So, I got that one straight from horse's mouth.

 

Is it possible that Lenny was pulling your leg?

 

Has anyone watched this? https://www.ted.com/talks/kirby_ferguson_embrace_the_remix

 

Kirby basically says that nothing comes from nothing.

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  • 2 weeks later...

One of the most blatant note-for-note rip-offs must be Deep Purple's Child In Time. Have a listen to "Bombay Calling" by "It's A Beautiful Day". However, I believe credit was eventually given, and IABD didn't bother with litigation as they were in a dispute with their record company at the time.

Peter

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