ledzeppelin400 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.

source: rollingstone.com

42 Responses

  1. I read in GuitarWorld magazine that Randy California had given Randy Rhoads some formative guitar lessons which is interesting because parts of Taurus have some similarities to Dee. But I think this lawsuit is going to set a dangerous precedent. If you can start to copywrite chord progressions, then everyone in some way, shape or form is plagiarizing. I have been aware of the Stairway/Taurus similarities for years and the progressions have similar tonalities. There was a report on yahoo taken from theage.com in Austrailia that likened the progression to the Beatles A Taste of Honey to a song from Mary Poppins!

    Another song that borrows a great deal from Sprit (even more so than the Stairway/Taurus controversy would be Cheap Trick’s The Flame and how it borrows from the Sprit song Nature’s Way. But you could go on and on where you could hear other songs and pinpoint where the original inspiration came from. I always thought STP’s Interstate Love Song gave a tip of the hat to the Jim Croce song I Got a Name. Ian Anderson once remarked that Hotel California was inspired by a Tull song called We Used To Know. But I don’t think this case will get very far.

    1. Oh it is and I like both songs. I also like both Stairway To Heaven and Taurus. They are both unique, but not original songs. If anything this case could spark an interest in Spirit among open minded rock and metal fans to go buy their music and proof that there is no such thing as bad publicity. Spirit is a group that is worth rediscovering no different from a band like Angel or UFO. Just because a band didn’t get the success they deserved at the time doesn’t mean they aren’t worth listening to now.

      Besides most of the guys from Spirit didn’t all go into obscurity. Mark Andes not only played with Heart but also played with Jo Jo Gunne who had a hit called Run Run Run. Tesla did a smoking remake of that song on a single B-side and Jay Ferguson had some solo hits. Ferguson also wrote the theme song for the TV show The Office.

      But going back to that Stairway/Taurus progression, I had just realized the other day that Eric Clapton even used it for the coda of his song Let It Grow. It is in B-minor as apposed to A-minor. But again, everyone who commented on this story could come up with one song that seemed to have been inspired by another.

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