LED ZEPPELIN guitarist Jimmy Page says that he “never heard” the SPIRIT song which he has been accused of stealing for his band’s iconic track “Stairway To Heaven” until two years ago.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Page gave a declaration in court last week relating to lawsuit brought by the trust of the late SPIRIT guitarist Randy California which argues that the opening notes of “Stairway To Heaven” are too similar to a few notes from a 2-minute, 37-second instrumental titled “Taurus” from SPIRIT‘s 1968 album.
Page stated in the declaration: “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.”
The guitarist went on to admit that ZEPPELIN shared the stage several times with SPIRIT. However, in the declaration, Jimmy stressed: “I do not recall ever seeing SPIRIT perform live. Again, though, I am absolutely certain I never heard them, or anyone else, perform ‘Taurus’.”
In his declaration, Page claimed that the beginning of “Stairway To Heaven” “includes a descending chromatic line chord progression and arpeggios, over which played an ascending line. 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 went on to say that he composed the music for “Stairway To Heaven” with “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.”
Page also admitted to discovering a copy of SPIRIT‘s first album in his record collection but claimed he did “not know how or when it got there,” suggesting it “may well have been left by a guest. I doubt it was there for long, since I never noticed it before. But, again, I know I did not hear ‘Taurus’ until 2014.”
In 1997, California told Listener magazine that he thought the song “was a ripoff” of his composition. California died later that year.
“Stairway To Heaven” is said to be one of the most covered rock songs and its worth is estimated to be more than $560 million.
Dr. Charles Fairchild, an American author and senior lecturer in popular music who is part Sydney, Australia’s Conservatorium of Music, explained to Fairfax Media that he heard a similarity between “Stairway To Heaven” and “Taurus” in “about 10 seconds” of music. But Fairchild added that he thought the claim was “unlikely to succeed.”
“The obvious and only similarity between them is the finger-picked guitar passage that starts off the guitar playing in both songs,” Fairchild said. “In the [SPIRIT] version, it starts at 0:43 and in LED ZEPPELIN‘s it starts off the track. It is that easy, slow descending figure that sounds like a few slow steps down to a nice resting point. This constitutes three measures of music in both songs, which in both cases takes up about 10 seconds or so. However, the two songs go off in completely different directions after this.”
He continued: “It seems to me that anyone claiming to have been the first person to have ever written this passage is making quite an ambitious claim. This passage is little more than a stock standard chord progression whose origins would be very difficult to determine. It also happens to be a very easy and satisfying thing to play on any guitar in standard tuning. There are probably a lot of other versions of it out there that would be equally similar.”