Patterico's Pontifications

5/31/2015

Led Zeppelin Agrees That They Are Indeed Amazingly Awesome!

Filed under: General — Dana @ 6:45 pm

[guest post by Dana]

Remember when the heirs of Randy California, guitarist, singer and songwriter for the band Spirit, filed a complaint against Led Zeppelin for allegedly stealing the introduction to their classic anthem “Stairway To Heaven” from California’s instrumental song “Taurus”? (Unless you have lived under a rock for the past 40+ years, it’s impossible to not recognize Stairway’s iconic guitar arpeggio (yeah, that’s six years of classical piano lessons talking there…see Mom, they didn’t go to waste…) at the beginning of the 8 minute song that every high school boy in America has annoyingly tried to master on an out-of-tune guitar believing they were destined to become the world’s next greatest rock ‘n roll guitarist. Oh my God, what high school girls have to endure…)

Last week, Led Zeppelin responded to the complaint, and not surprisingly, they denied the allegations. Well, except for one on which they most heartily agreed with…

From Paragraph 11 of the complaint:

11. Led Zeppelin is undeniably one of the greatest bands in history, and their musical talent is boundless. However, what happened to Randy California and Spirit is wrong. Led Zeppelin needs to do the right thing and give credit where credit is due. Randy California deserves writing credit for “Stairway to Heaven” and to take his place as an author of Rock’s greatest song.

In response:

“Answering paragraph 11 of the First Amended Complaint, including the First Amended Complaint’s footnote 1, Defendants admit that Led Zeppelin has been called one of the greatest bands in history and its members were and are exceptionally talented,” the group’s answer reads, “but otherwise deny each and every allegation contained in paragraph 11 of the First Amended Complaint.”

Here is the complaint with its humorous use of the classic “Kashmir” font.

When I was young, I saw Led Zeppelin and Spirit in concert a number of times. They were both thrilling to see perform live. Great bands. Hot guys. Ah, youth.

Here are a couple of classics:

–Dana

UPDATE BY PATTERICO: The acoustic arpeggios are clearly lifted from Taurus; astute readers will remember that I noted the striking similarity back in 2013, before the lawsuit was ever filed. Zeppelin opened for Spirit before “Stairway” was written, and Spirit played Taurus during that tour. No sensible person could deny that Taurus was the germ of “Stairway.”

But I also think Led Zeppelin — although they are notorious music thieves — transformed the song into something different. As I said in 2014 after the suit was filed:

I have mixed feelings about this one. On one hand, if you listen to the piece, it’s pretty clear they ripped off part of California’s piece — and the fact that they were touring with Spirit at the time just solidifies the conclusion that you would have come to anyway regarding the similarities. It would have been nice for them to credit California and give him a piece of the royalties. And, as I say, I pointed out the similarities last year, long before the lawsuit — so it’s clearly not a made-up claim. (Do any of the lawyers read this blog?)

That being said, California himself never filed suit. And in “Stairway to Heaven,” while Zeppelin took some of California’s music, the more famous band also transformed the germ of that idea into something quite different, taken as a whole. Patterico reluctantly hereby enters judgment for defendant in the court of public opinion, but awards no costs — and encourages Led Zeppelin to give California his writing credit anyway.

I was front row for a Spirit concert at the West End Marketplace in Dallas many moons ago, back when Randy California and Ed Cassidy were still around. It was one of the greatest rock shows I have seen; very memorable.

41 Responses to “Led Zeppelin Agrees That They Are Indeed Amazingly Awesome!”

  1. Hello.

    Dana (86e864)

  2. Here is Jimmy Page explaining how he and Robert Plant came to write “Stairway to Heaven”.

    Dana (86e864)

  3. OMG. Carlitos was in Led Zepp?!!! I recognize the hair and Aqua Net.

    elissa (1486dc)

  4. There’s a bit of it in the background of Taurus, but really not. Totally different songs. Go away.

    Kevin M (25bbee)

  5. Hello! I saw Spirit open for Cream in Spring of ’68, my buddy and I agreed Spirit was a little better. Saw Led Zep in ’71 in Long Beach and my most vivid memory is seeing another buddy get yanked by the hair right out of his seat by the LB PoPos mid joint in the middle of “Dazed and Confused”. Good times!

    Colonel Haiku (519254)

  6. And Randy California thought he was the re-incarnation of Jimi Hendrix, so the dude was a bit out there.

    Colonel Haiku (519254)

  7. As I said back then;

    Thieving bastiges!
    Gazzer (1b70d8) — 6/8/2013 @ 11:27 pm

    Gazzer (d90d8d)

  8. Harrison and the Chiffons.
    Ray Parker Jr. and Huey Lewis.
    Rod Stewart and Dylan.
    Robin Thicke and Marvin Gaye.

    And that’s just off the top of my head.

    Gazzer (d90d8d)

  9. And he’s just now bringing suit? 40+ years after the fact? Sorry Randy, but I think your claim to songwriting credit is about as moldy as your catalog.

    Bill H (2a858c)

  10. There’s a bit of it in the background of Taurus, but really not. Totally different songs. Go away.

    Kevin M (25bbee) — 5/31/2015 @ 7:32 pm

    I seem to remember seeing somewhere (don’t ask me where- it’s been one hella long time) that just 16 notes covers pretty much all music. That some riffs are similar shouldn’t be much of a surprise.

    Bill H (2a858c)

  11. Bill H: It’s the heirs of Mr. California who is suing, he died in 1997.

    Sam P (24cfc4)

  12. Since I’m old enough to remember both Spirit and Led Zeppelin back in the day, let me tell you this: No one cared. Spirit was not that important and Led Zeppelin stole everything. Why harsh the mellow?

    Ag80 (eb6ffa)

  13. Variously described as ‘Beethoven’s Tenth Symphony’ (Bülow) and ‘the greatest First Symphony in the history of music’, this masterpiece was written when Brahms was in his mid-forties, finally confident in his ability to handle symphonic form. It is a work of intensity and epic proportions, which is why Brahms came to be hailed as Beethoven’s successor in this genre. Indeed, the most famous theme of the work (the second subject of the finale) has a striking and celebrated similarity to the Ode to Joy in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. ‘Any fool can see that,’ snapped Brahms when someone pointed it out.
    A famous story regarding Brahms First Symphony
    There are 12 notes in the octave, the base of EuroAmerican music for the last 700 years are so. Some music is bound to sound similar to another piece.

    kishnevi (91d5c6)

  14. Seriously, “I Got a Line on You,” is a variation of “Get Ready” by the Temptations. Just listen to Rare Earth’s version.

    Ag80 (eb6ffa)

  15. Let Vanilla Ice explain.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HW_Rduet230

    Gazzer (d90d8d)

  16. The intro of Taurus has a bit of Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies mixed with the theme to the Pink Panther.

    Shall we counter sue in Disney font?

    papertiger (c2d6da)

  17. Note that they did deny that Stairway to Heaven is Rock’s greatest song.

    NickM (22278f)

  18. Oh my God, what high school girls have to endure…

    Wow, sexism. 😀

    To paraphrase George Elliot:

    “I’m not denyin’ the boys are foolish: God Almighty made ’em to match the girls!”

    Proof? Here and here

    Quod Erat Demonstrandum.

    ..______..
    ./………… \.
    /…I rest….\
    |.my . case.|
    |… R.I.P. …|
    |________|

    IGotBupkis, "Si tacuisses, philosophus mansisses." (225d0d)

  19. Bill H: It’s the heirs of Mr. California who is suing, he died in 1997.

    Thereby showing just how preposterously stupid modern IP laws are.

    You might be able to justify — not well, but SOME — a lawsuit by the original creator. But to claim it 20 years after the DEATH of the original — you shouldn’t even be getting INCOME from anything that’s 40+ years old, much less suing anyone for something you weren’t even a part of making 40+ years ago.

    IGotBupkis, "Si tacuisses, philosophus mansisses." (225d0d)

  20. That’s not Kashmir. It’s Carouselambra. https://www.myfonts.com/fonts/typodermic/carouselambra/

    Ffrog (81445d)

  21. Bill H: It’s the heirs of Mr. California who is suing, he died in 1997.

    Sam P (24cfc4) — 5/31/2015 @ 8:15 pm

    Thanks for setting me straight, but the heirs? That’s even moldier than I thought. I’m seriously doubting there’s much of a fight here.

    Bill H (2a858c)

  22. I seem to remember seeing somewhere (don’t ask me where- it’s been one hella long time) that just 16 notes covers pretty much all music. That some riffs are similar shouldn’t be much of a surprise.

    Bill H (2a858c) — 5/31/2015 @ 8:14 pm

    There are 12 notes in the octave, the base of EuroAmerican music for the last 700 years are so. Some music is bound to sound similar to another piece.

    kishnevi (91d5c6) — 5/31/2015 @ 8:34 pm

    I thought I remembered something along that vein.

    Bill H (2a858c)

  23. There’s a bit of it in the background of Taurus, but really not. Totally different songs. Go away.

    No, that’s totally wrong. Here is the update I am now moved to add:

    UPDATE BY PATTERICO: The acoustic arpeggios are clearly lifted from Taurus; astute readers will remember that I noted the striking similarity back in 2013, before the lawsuit was ever filed. Zeppelin opened for Spirit before “Stairway” was written, and Spirit played Taurus during that tour. No sensible person could deny that Taurus was the germ of “Stairway.”

    But I also think Led Zeppelin — although they are notorious music thieves — transformed the song into something different. As I said in 2014 after the suit was filed:

    I have mixed feelings about this one. On one hand, if you listen to the piece, it’s pretty clear they ripped off part of California’s piece — and the fact that they were touring with Spirit at the time just solidifies the conclusion that you would have come to anyway regarding the similarities. It would have been nice for them to credit California and give him a piece of the royalties. And, as I say, I pointed out the similarities last year, long before the lawsuit — so it’s clearly not a made-up claim. (Do any of the lawyers read this blog?)

    That being said, California himself never filed suit. And in “Stairway to Heaven,” while Zeppelin took some of California’s music, the more famous band also transformed the germ of that idea into something quite different, taken as a whole. Patterico reluctantly hereby enters judgment for defendant in the court of public opinion, but awards no costs — and encourages Led Zeppelin to give California his writing credit anyway.

    I was front row for a Spirit concert at the West End Marketplace in Dallas many moons ago, back when Randy California and Ed Cassidy were still around. It was one of the greatest rock shows I have seen; very memorable.

    Patterico (3cc0c1)

  24. Page is a great guitar player. Stairway to heaven is seriously over rated as a great rock and roll song.
    Innagadadavida Iron Butterfly

    mg (31009b)

  25. Heard it too many times. sorry.

    mg (31009b)

  26. 24. “Overrated”

    I agree, the third album is better by a bunch and IMHO in the conversation of ‘best ever’.

    DNF (208255)

  27. Chalk it up to Picasso’s point that mediocre artists borrow, while great ones steal. LZ also ripped off Whole Lotta Love from Small Faces (who ripped off the Muddy Waters version) and Dazed and Confused. There are internet pages listing many more examples.

    Bud Norton (29550d)

  28. I’m not a Zep fan, but my morning was brightened one day in the ’70s by Little Roger and the Goosebumps. “Stairway to Gilligan’s Island” was hilarious, a note-for-note knockoff/parody of the “original”, and was quickly sued into oblivion by Led Zep’s lawyers. (It’s out once more, though it’s too early in the morning to play it. Search for the song title.) As best as I can tell, they could have kept it as a parody, but their legal resources were insufficient.

    I’m seeing the Taurus lawsuit as some well-deserved, long-delayed karmic rebalancing. [grin]

    Red County Pete (56fa8e)

  29. In some ways, it’s a Mechanical World, but we’ll always have Uncle Jack to take out the Fresh Garbage.

    Colonel Haiku (519254)

  30. …and Jimmy Page is no Jeff Beck.

    Colonel Haiku (519254)

  31. Actually Jeff Beck is no Jimmy Page.

    I’ve discovered the hard way by trying to learn Going to California which is a continuing struggle, versus learning to play Tears in Heaven, which took about 40 minutes to get the jist, and an afternoon to polish up the tempo.

    papertiger (c2d6da)

  32. Imagine if LZ had a nickle for everytime someone covered Stairway to Heaven.

    papertiger (c2d6da)

  33. Pretty clear the guy deserves a writing credit.

    Robert Plant, who right now has an ambivalent to hostile relationship with Page, depending on the day of the week, has come to despise “Stairway…” calling it at times “that damn wedding song.”

    Plant has resisted offers of unprecedented gobs of money for a reunion tour. It’s his right to not do so. But to kind of a shame; it’s what these guys do for a living. Granted it must be odd to still be doing this for 40+ years. But it’s a living. Had occasion to see the Who twice in the past week as well as Billy Joel. Both put on great shows, even if they move a lot slower and don’t hit the high notes the way they once did.

    Bugg (bd9445)

  34. How does one listen to Taurus and not hear Stairway???

    Dana (86e864)

  35. Ag80 is right, and this needs to be send to the heirs of the Temptations.

    http://patterico.com/2015/05/31/led-zeppelin-agrees-that-they-are-indeed-amazingly-awesome-in-every-way/#comment-1766016

    sithkhan (d51509)

  36. Regarding this statement: “And Randy California thought he was the re-incarnation of Jimi Hendrix, so the dude was a bit out there.”

    Randy California was a teenage guitar prodigy…he played with Jimi Hendrix in New York City at age 15. Jimi was so impressed with his playing that he asked Randy to join him in England where he would form the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Randy’s parents refused to let him go, and the rest is history. Randy was a great player who died a tragic death successfully saving his son from a riptide off the coast of Molokai in 1997. See the link for his obituary.

    Alan (b316bb)

  37. That was a little overwrought.

    JD (3b5483)

  38. OMG. Carlitos was in Led Zepp?!!! I recognize the hair and Aqua Net.

    elissa (1486dc) — 5/31/2015 @ 7:05 pm

    Aqua Net purple or blue? Seriously, the trick was to let it air dry for a while first, then do the blow-drying upside down while finger-picking it to fullness.

    In one of the greatest practical jokes of which I have ever had the privilege of being the victim, some co-workers found my old PR photo online and made t-shirts of it. The reveal was awesome. One of them wore the shirt on a business trip last week. I was so pwned.

    carlitos (c24ed5)

  39. I just again listened to the Led Zep reunion show from the O2 centre in London, where Jason Bonham played drums. It gave me chills.

    I apparently tortured the teenaged girls more than most, by playing Stairway on piano instead of guitar.

    carlitos (c24ed5)

  40. How does one listen to Taurus and not hear Stairway???

    Well it’s an arpeggiated D Major drone chord supporting a descending half step bass line.

    How does one listen to the descending half step bass line of Taurus and not hear “Dazed and Confused”(*)???

    * Which Jimmy Page stole from Jake Holmes while touring with the Yardbirds.

    Oh for frack’s sake.

    Thieving bastiges!

    papertiger (c2d6da)


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