Jimmy Page and Robert Plant appeared yesterday (June 14th) at Los Angeles federal court for what is officially known as “Michael Skidmore vs. Led Zeppelin et al” — but mainly referred to as the “Stairway To Heaven” case. As the writers of the 1971 Led Zeppelin classic, the pair is being sued by Michael Skidmore, the trustee of the Randy Craig Wolfe Trust, on behalf of the late Spirit guitarist who wrote “Taurus” and performed under the name Randy California. The trust is hoping to not only win a monetary judgment, but also secure a writing credit for California on “Stairway To Heaven.”
Rolling Stone reported day one of jury selection included one obvious fan who was dismissed and described as “the special effects expert who proclaimed without prompting from the jury box, ‘I’m very much a fan — my love for these guys (gesturing to Page and Plant) is very strong.'”
- The magazine went on to describe the scene, “Entering the court with a briefcase made to resemble a Fender tweed-covered amp, the (plaintiff’s’ attorneyFrancis) Malofiy has the cover of Houses Of The Holy ostentatiously glowing from his laptop and cracks his knuckles all through the day’s primary concern: jury selection. He’s a stark contrast to the patrician countenance of Zeppelin lawyer Peter Anderson and the seemingly bespoke suiting of his legal team. Indeed, as Malofiy fidgets, Page and Plant exude an almost Zen calm, staring straight ahead without chatting or visibly reacting through the process; only towards the end before the lunch break does Page allow a wry smile to crack the facade.”
- Among the witnesses listed by the plaintiffs were: Spirit members Mark Andes and Jay Ferguson — who were in the court room, rock producer/impresario Lou Adler and Guitar World editor Brad Tolinski, who wrote 2013’s Light And Shade: Conversations With Jimmy Page.
- Interestingly, although Page and Plant have far fewer expert witnesses set to appear on their behalf — John Paul Jones was definitely listed as one.
- Ironically, although Led Zeppelin is being attacked for presumably not being original enough when writing “Stairway To Heaven,” Robert Plant said a while back that he can’t help but hear hard rock bands co-opting all facets of Led Zeppelin’s sound in everyone’s work: [“Yeah, but it gets tiresome, as well. I guess to begin with, you’re clapping, but after a while, you go ‘Well, why don’t you take it a bit farther?’ Like, Page and I took it farther, and if people like Zeppelin because of ‘Stairway To Heaven,’ ‘Whole Lotta Love,’ and ‘Kashmir’ — they were all different songs. Radically different. Unless you had known, they shouldn’t have been by the same band.”] SOUNDCUE (:17 OC: . . . the same band)
- Robert Plant & The Sensational Space Shifters will next perform on June 19th at London, England’s Meltdown Festival.
INTERNET COMMENTS via RollingStone.com — agree or disagree???
jck747 wrote: “Shameful suit. The first few notes may be somewhat similar but the next 99% of the Stairway is nothing like Spirit.”
DANIEL CRAIG wrote: “I WOULD OF LIED TO BE ON THE JURY, LED ZEPPELIN NEVER HEARD OF THEM !…..THEN I WOULD OF VOTED NOT GUILTY………”
curiouserandcuriouser wrote: “The most memorable and recognizable part of Stairway. Play those notes, and You get kicked out of the guitar shop in Wayne’s World. Not the first time Led Zep lifted something. They’d cave like they caved to Willie Dixon’s estate if the stakes weren’t so big.”
Charles Shaffer wrote: “Are the words and melodies of the 2 songs the same? Since when can you copyright a riff? I’m a big Spirit fan and Zepplin fan, but I’m not sure what law has been broken. Artists of all kinds borrow. If Chuck Berry got a royalty every time somebody stole one of his riffs, he would be the richest man in the world.”
Claudia wrote: “Led Zeppelin are the biggest and most blatant rip off artists in rock. They’ve ripped off not only lyrics, but also blues riffs from blues artists. I side with the plaintiff. They are NOT the Beatles.”
blizzard789 wrote: “The whole thing basically makes no sense – just because both intros kind of sound alike. Trouble is, if Spirit wins this, it opens the floodgates to thousands and thousands of other potential nonsensical lawsuits. Complete rubbish !”
Really? wrote: “. . . Zep ripped off a lot of songs but STH isnt one of them.”
Dave53 wrote: “the whole thing is ridiculous. You can’t copyright a simple note progression up or down the chords.”
- Back in February, Jimmy Page denied that he had ever heard Spirit’s “Taurus” prior to writing the signature-opening riff to “Stairway To Heaven.” Page fought back in his official statement to the court, with TheWrap.com, posting selections from his testimony, including, “Prior to hearing a recording of ‘Taurus’ in 2014 in connection with this matter, I have never heard ‘Taurus’ or even heard of it. I am very good at remembering music and am absolutely certain that I never heard ‘Taurus’ until 2014.”
- Despite the fact that Spirit and Zeppelin shared the bill with each other on several occasions, Page went on to say: “I do not recall ever seeing Spirit perform live. Again, though, I am absolutely certain I never heard them, or anyone else, perform ‘Taurus.'”
- Regarding the similarities in the two songs, Page explained it to be the product of “basic skills leaned by any student of the guitar . . . I consider descending chromatic lines and arpeggiated chords basic skills learned by any student of the guitar. Certainly, as a guitarist, I was aware of descending chromatic lines and arpeggios long before 1968.”
- Page shed light on the creation of “Stairway To Heaven,” revealing, “the intention to create a long work, with multiple different parts, that would unfold with increasing complexity and speed culminating in a guitar solo that was preceded by a distinct fanfare, followed by the last verse concluding a climax to the song.”
- The guitarist went on to admit that he in fact realized that he had a copy of Spirit’s 1968 self-titled debut album featuring “Taurus” in his collection but that he did “not know how or when it got there,” suggesting, it “may well have been left by a guest. . . But, again, I know I did not hear ‘Taurus’ until 2014.”
CHECK IT OUT: A comparison between “Stairway To Heaven” and “Taurus”: