LED ZEPPELIN’S “STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN” MAY FACE PLAGIARISM SUIT
Kory Grow of Rolling Stone reports:
As Led Zeppelin promote the extravagant reissues of their first three albums for an early June release, a lawyer representing deceased Spirit guitarist Randy California is claiming the hard-rock legends stole the intro for their 1971 single Stairway to Heaven from Spirit’s 1968 song Taurus. Attorney Francis Alexander Molofiy wants to prevent the release of the Led Zeppelin IV reissue when the time comes, Bloomberg Businessweek reports. “The idea behind this is to make sure that Randy California is given a writing credit on Stairway to Heaven,” Malofiy said. “It’s been a long time coming.”
Led Zeppelin and Spirit, who had a hit with I Got a Line on You, played four shows together in 1968 and 1969, shows at which Businessweek claims Spirit played Taurus. It also alleges that Led Zeppelin played a medley of songs that included Spirit’s Fresh-Garbage – a song that appeared on the same LP side as Taurus – on their first U.S. tour.
In an interview with Listener magazine published the year of his death, California said he felt Stairway to Heaven was a “rip-off.” “The guys made millions of bucks on it and never said ‘Thank you,’ never said, ‘Can we pay you some money for it?'” he said. “It’s kind of a sore point with me. Maybe someday their conscience will make them do something about it.”
Spirit and California’s family have waited until now to challenge the song’s authorship because they did not have the means to pay attorneys. At the end of California’s life, he would play sitar at an Indian restaurant in exchange for food.
A rep for Led Zeppelin declined to comment for Businessweek‘s story, but Page discussed the band’s history with crediting songwriters after the fact in a recent interview with The New York Times. When asked why the group waited to credit Willie Dixon for bits of lyrics and melody that made their way into Whole Lotta Love, he acknowledged, “Within the lyrics of it, there’s [Dixons’s] You Need Love, and there are similarities within the lyrics. Now I’m not pointing a finger at anybody, but I’m just saying that’s what happened, and Willie Dixon got credit. Fair enough.”
Reissues of Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II and Led Zeppelin III are due in stores on June 3rd. Each is available in a deluxe edition that contains a full disc of never-before-released studio takes and live tracks.
What nobody is bringing up is that Page and Plant were huge SPIRIT fans. LED ZEPPELIN’s first ever US gig was Dec, 26, 1968 in Denver, opening for SPIRIT & VANILLA FUDGE. Days later, they have incorporated SPIRIT’s “Fresh Garbage” into their own set list, using it in a medley of “As Long As I Have You”. There are about 14 known concerts where they used “Fresh Garbage” in this medley. During SPIRIT’s late Jan. – early Feb. 1970 tour of England, Robert Plant attended a couple of their shows. After one, he crashed his car on the way home, resulting in the postponement of LED ZEPPELIN gigs. In a 1972 interview Page cited SPIRIT as one of his favorite bands, that he had seen them several times, and that they moved him on an “emotional level”. One writer defended Page saying that he had “taken wood from a garden shed and turned it into a cathedral”. True, but it was still somebody’s garden shed, and they ought to get credit. The fact that LED ZEPPELIN has been caught in at least four other plagiarism lawsuits speaks volumes. (Whole Lotta Love; The Lemon Song; Babe, I’m Going To Leave You; Dazed & Confused). Even his use of a violin bow wasn’t original. He took the concept from Eddie Phillips of THE CREATION. I could also argue that his use of Echoplex and Danelectro guitars also comes from Randy California.
Wait’ll Rita Coolidge goes after Clapton for the outro to “Layla”.
THIS is why Tony Iommi & Robert Scott WINO Weinrich is my favorite guitar player in heavy rock