B12 Solipsism

Spreading confusion over the internet since 1994

Archive for the ‘Led_Zeppelin’ tag

Did Led Zeppelin steal a riff for Stairway to Heaven

without comments

Led Zeppelin poster
 Led Zeppelin’s latest trial is going before a federal court.

The common ground between “Stairway to Heaven” and “Taurus” largely comes down to a 10-second musical theme that appears 45 seconds into “Taurus,” an instrumental from the band’s 1968 debut album, which is similar to the opening acoustic guitar pattern on “Stairway.” That song was released three years before “Stairway to Heaven” surfaced on Zeppelin’s untitled fourth album, commonly referred to as “Led Zeppelin IV.”

Zeppelin surviving members Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones and their legal team are expected to argue that the similarity is nothing more than coincidence between musicians working in a field rooted in commonly used and re-used musical ideas. Or they may attempt to cite earlier precursors to both songs from the public domain, which could render moot the Wolfe estate’s copyright claim.

“It’s a tough one to call,” says singer-songwriter Richard Thompson, whose 1960s band Fairport Convention helped pioneer the merger of traditional British folk music with the amplified energy of rock ’n’ roll that Led Zeppelin took to its apotheosis in the 1970s.

“They were on the same bill together before [Zeppelin guitarist] Jimmy Page wrote ‘Stairway,’ there’s that,” Thompson said, referring to the Wolfe estate’s claiming that because the two bands played shows together in the late 1960s, and that Spirit often included “Taurus” in those shows, Zeppelin’s members at least had the opportunity to have heard the song.

“On the other hand,” Thompson said, “it’s not an uncommon riff, and the melody not that unusual.”

Guitarist Laurence Juber, who used to play with Paul McCartney’s band Wings, noted that the opening progression can be heard in a 16th century sonata for guitar, violin and strings by Italian composer Giovanni Battista Granata.

“The reality is that to have a descending bass line with an A minor chord on top of it is a common musical device.”

Because of the statute of limitations, the Wolfe estate is only able to seek revenue produced by “Stairway” since 2011, or the three years before the latest remastered version was released in 2014. But going forward, any percentage of monies coming out of sales or airplay of the song could add up to a significant windfall for the estate of Wolfe, who drowned in Hawaii in 1997 while rescuing his son from a strong undertow.

 

(click here to continue reading Did Led Zeppelin steal a riff for ‘Stairway to Heaven’? A court will decide – LA Times.)

I am a fan of Led Zeppelin, enough so that I’ve purchased all their albums on multiple formats, or editions. That said, for a long time, I usually skip Stairway to Heaven – I’ve just heard it way too many times.

Zeppelin and Jimmy Page have borrowed heavily from previous artists, people like Willie Dixon, Memphis Minnie, etc. Did they borrow a bit of Spirit’s Taurus? The decending riff does sound similar, but it is not unique. In fact, the sonata for guitar by Granata, below, does sound quite similar too, and it’s from the 16th century.

Extremely similar to Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”; the arpeggio can be heard at 0:32 in this 17th Century Composition titled “Sonata di Chittarra, e Violino, con il suo Basso Continuo” by Giovanni Battista Granata.

Guitar performance by Stephen Stubbs.

Or this Davy Graham guitar from 1959’s “Cry Me A River”

Guitarist Davy Graham playing Cry Me A River, as captured in a 1959 BBC documentary directed by Ken Russell on the rise in popularity of the guitar in Britain.

And why did Randy Spirit not file a lawsuit while alive? Once he died, then his family’s estate went after Led Zeppelin. 

I guess we’ll see.

Written by Seth Anderson

June 13th, 2016 at 10:28 pm

Jimmy Page Digs Up Substantial Rarities for New Led Zeppelin Remasters

without comments


Exciting news for a die hard Led Zeppelin fan like myself.

 “It will be coming out, bit by bit,” Jimmy Page says with a tantalizing lilt in his voice. The Led Zeppelin guitarist is referring to his current labors in the band’s archive, preparing new deluxe editions of each of Zeppelin’s studio albums, from 1969’s Led Zeppelin to 1979’s In Through the Out Door, plus the 1982 post-breakup collection, Coda. Page says the reissues will include “added sonic and visual thrills,” and he expects to begin issuing the first albums in the series sometime next year.

“The catalog was last remastered 20 years ago,” Page said, referring to the 1990 release of the four-CD box set, Led Zeppelin. “That’s a long time. Everything is being transferred from analog to a higher-resolution digital format. That’s one of the problems with the Zeppelin stuff. It sounds ridiculous on MP3. You can’t hear what’s there properly.”

Based on the unreleased studio tracks that have circulated on bootlegs since Led Zeppelin split in 1980, following the death of drummer John Bonham, the group did not record a lot of additional songs for each LP. “But there was an overage of material – different versions of things, different approaches to the mixes,” Page explained. He mentioned experiments with equipment and sound on early alternative takes at Headley Grange, the English manor where Zeppelin recorded some of their most iconic work, particularly their 1971 untitled fourth album.

“The classic there was ‘When the Levee Breaks,'” Page said, “where the drums were set up in the hallway. You know what it sounded like – immense – from the recorded version. But we used the drums in the hall for a number of things, like ‘Kashmir’ [on 1975’s Physical Graffiti] – some with closer miking. So there were a lot of different approaches. It will be fascinating for people to witness the work in progress.”

Page is also looking at relevant live recordings and film to accompany the reissues. “There are concerts that were recorded – some that might have appeared on bootleg in some shape or form – and a certain amount of footage, though not a lot,” he said.

(click here to continue reading Jimmy Page Digs Up ‘Substantial’ Rarities for New Led Zeppelin Remasters | David Fricke | Rolling Stone.)


For some of the Led Zeppelin albums, this will be the fourth time I’ve purchased them. I originally had the entire Zep catalog on cassette tape, then I upgraded to vinyl – some records were purchased used from Waterloo, or the Record Exchange on The Drag, and thus not sonically pristine, like In Through The Out Door and the live The Song Remains the Same. I think initially, I wanted to see what the crazy Physical Graffiti artwork was all about, or I’m just a consumer. I also remember spending $20 on a bootleg album that had such crappy sound, I could barely listen to it. New LPs were in the neighborhood for $7 at the time, so this bootleg was a lot of money, and used in addition, I was crushed when the album quality sucked so bad. I forget where it was recorded, but it was probably from the 1973 tour.

After I reluctantly started buying CDs1, I picked up copies of all the albums again, plus the box set Led Zeppelin, and so on. That isn’t even counting converting CDs to MP3 files – and then re-ripping later at a higher bit rate, and even a third time, for some albums. 


I just finished reading Light and Shade2, Jimmy Page’s new biography/autobiography, and there is discussion of the process of finding all the original analog tapes, and cataloging them. Page takes this archival work very seriously, which is a boon for fans. I can’t wait until these are released, again! If I was in charge, I’d release them one at a time, every week, in order from oldest to newest. Let them stand alone for a moment.

 


Footnotes:
  1. one of the few times I wasn’t an early adopter for new technology []
  2. Light and Shade: Conversations with Jimmy Page by Brad Tolinski []

Written by Seth Anderson

November 27th, 2012 at 10:03 am

Posted in Music

Tagged with ,