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- Stairway to Heaven: the story of a song and its legacy
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There's a feeling I get when I look to the west, And my spirit is crying for leaving. In my thoughts I have seen rings of smoke through the trees, And the voices of those who stand looking.
Ooh, it makes me wonder, Ooh, it really makes me wonder. And it's whispered that soon, if we all call the tune, Then the piper will lead us to reason. And a new day will dawn for those who stand long, And the forests will echo with laughter. If there's a bustle in your hedgerow, don't be alarmed now, It's just a spring clean for the May queen. Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run There's still time to change the road you're on. And it makes me wonder. Your head is humming and it won't go, in case you don't know, The piper's calling you to join him, Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow, and did you know Your stairway lies on the whispering wind?
Page had decided he wanted an epic song for the fourth album more than 18 months before its eventual release in November Today, he talks about the song with unbridled enthusiasm, losing himself in his words. I knew that would be successful, because whenever he came in he made so much difference.forgottenfewmc.com/includes/14.php
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Page had worked out the sections of the song at his home in Pangbourne, near Reading, before bringing it to Headley Grange in Hampshire, where Zeppelin were recording their fourth album in late and early This, as far as I could see, was in league with the whole concept of classical writing where everything is moving, moving, moving. It was sufficiently complicated that there was no point in the four members sitting down together and working it through.
Instead, Plant and Bonham were sent away, possibly to the pub, while Page and Jones sat down at Headley and tackled the song together — there are bootlegs of the pair of them, Page on acoustic guitar and Jones on keyboards, deciding what goes where, how to transition between sections. Ah, yes, the lyrics. Asked about Stairway at a press conference to promote the concert film Celebration Day in , he responded: Maybe I was still trying to work out what I was talking about Every other fucker is. The cod mysticism is why Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers — a dedicated fan — reckons Stairway is the perfect entry point for Zeppelin, and why it tends to be kids rather than adults who obsess over it.
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Or at least if you grew up like I did, and became a punk rocker. It was the most requested song on FM radio stations in the United States in the s, despite never having been commercially released as a single there.
Stairway to Heaven: the story of a song and its legacy
According to Page, he wrote the music "over a long period, the first part coming at Bron-Yr-Aur one night". The first attempts at lyrics, written by Robert Plant next to an evening log fire at Headley Grange, were partly spontaneously improvised and Page claimed, "a huge percentage of the lyrics were written there and then". The band's record label, Atlantic Records was keen to issue this track as a single, but the band's manager Peter Grant refused requests to do so in both and This led many people to buy the fourth album as if it were the single.
Plant sings the opening, middle and epilogue sections in his mid vocal range, but sings the hard rock section in his higher range which borders on falsetto.
John Paul Jones contributed overdubbed wooden bass recorders in the opening section he used a Mellotron and, later, a Yamaha CP70B Grand Piano and Yamaha GX1 to synthesise this arrangement in live performances  and a Hohner Electra-Piano electric piano in the middle section. The sections build with more guitar layers, each complementary to the intro, with the drums entering at 4: The extended Jimmy Page guitar solo in the song's final section was played for the recording on a Fender Telecaster given to him by Jeff Beck an instrument he used extensively with the Yardbirds  plugged into a Supro amplifier ,  although in an interview he gave to Guitar World magazine, Page also claimed, "It could have been a Marshall , but I can't remember".
Page later revealed, "I did have the first phrase worked out, and then there was the link phrase. I did check them out beforehand before the tape ran. Another interesting aspect of the song is the timing of the lead-up to the famous guitar solo. This makes the rhythm figure challenging for some musicians, but adds a feeling of anticipation to the approaching guitar solo.
Jimmy Page has likened the song to a sonic orgasm. Over the years, some people have considered that the song's opening guitar arpeggios bear a close resemblance to the instrumental " Taurus " by the Los Angeles-based rock band Spirit , written by Spirit guitarist Randy California. I know Led Zeppelin also played "Fresh Garbage" in their live set.
They opened up for us on their first American tour. In May , Spirit bassist Mark Andes and a trust acting on behalf of California filed a copyright infringement suit against Led Zeppelin and injunction against the "release of the album containing the song" in an attempt to obtain a writing credit for California, who died in It will be nice if Randy got the credit. On 11 April , Los Angeles district judge Gary Klausner ruled that there were enough similarities between the song and the instrumental for a jury to decide the claim, and a trial was scheduled for 10 May.
The copyright infringement action was brought by Michael Skidmore, a trustee for the late guitarist, whose legal name was Randy Wolfe. District Court for the Central District of California for a new trial on several evidentiary and procedural issues. The inaugural public performance of the song took place at Belfast 's Ulster Hall on 5 March The world radio premiere of "Stairway to Heaven" was recorded at the Paris Cinema on 1 April , in front of a live studio audience, and broadcast three days later on the BBC.
The band's final performance of the song was in Berlin on 7 July , which was also their last concert until 10 December at London's O2 Arena; the version was the longest, lasting almost fifteen minutes, including a seven minute guitar solo. When playing the song live, the band would often extend it to over ten minutes, with Page playing an extended guitar solo and Plant adding a number of lyrical ad-libs, such as "Does anybody remember laughter? For performing this song live, Page used a Gibson EDS double neck guitar so he would not have to pause when switching from a six to a twelve-string guitar.
By , the song had a regular place as the finale of every Led Zeppelin concert.
However, after their concert tour of the United States in , Plant began to tire of "Stairway to Heaven": It just became sanctimonious. The song was played again by the surviving members of Led Zeppelin at the Live Aid concert in ;  at the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary concert in , with Jason Bonham on drums;  and by Jimmy Page as an instrumental version on his solo tours. The first few bars were played alone during Page and Plant tours in lieu of the final notes of " Babe I'm Gonna Leave You ", and in November Page and Plant performed an acoustic version of the song at a Tokyo news station for Japanese television.
Plant cites the most unusual performance of the song ever as being that performed at Live Aid: There are also hundreds of audio versions which can be found on unofficial Led Zeppelin bootleg recordings. But I knew it was the gem of the album, sure.
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Petersburg, Florida station kicked off its all-Led Zeppelin format by playing "Stairway to Heaven" for 24 hours straight. Jimmy Page told Rolling Stone in , "We were careful to never release it as a single ,"  which forced buyers to buy the entire album. It did, however, appear on two promotional discs in the United States, one of them featuring the 7: Other "single" appearances were on an Australian EP, and in as an added bonus with a 20th anniversary promo book.
The group's recording of this song also appeared as the sole Led Zeppelin track in the Atlantic Records two-LP promotional sampler album We've Got Your Music , marking the first time that Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" made its official debut appearance in an American-released various artists compilation collection. Plant was station-surfing in a rental car he was driving to the Oregon Coast after a solo performance in Portland and was impressed with the non-mainstream music the station presented.
In a January television program on the Trinity Broadcasting Network hosted by Paul Crouch , it was claimed that hidden messages were contained in many popular rock songs through a technique called backmasking. One example of such hidden messages that was prominently cited was in "Stairway to Heaven".
Following the claims made in the television program, California assemblyman Phil Wyman proposed a state law that would require warning labels on records containing backward masking.