All in the Family featured the curmudgeonly Archie Bunker. Archie was television’s most famous grouch, blunt, blustering, straightforward and untouched by the PC crowd. He was the archetype of the conservative male. Michael desprately tried to reeducate him, but he persisted in his breviloquence.



Looking back at the last 40 years, we realize: ARCHIE WAS RIGHT!

5/20/2014

A Rip Off?

OK I know this confession doesn't bode well with the last post.  So be it.  My favorite rock band of all time is Led Zeppelin.  I say this, because they are the greatest rock band of all time.  I like ever single song they ever did.  I had all of them.  Every one.  As a teen I even had the 45 (you do know what a 45 is don't you?) of the Immigrant Song just so I could listen to "Hey Hey What can I Do?".

It seems that an old controversy is raising its ugly head. 

Here is a link to an article about the lawsuit.

The "controversy" is all about the biggest grossing, and most famous 8 minutes of rock and roll, "Stairway to Heaven".  Who really wrote "Stairway to Heaven"?  Short answer: Led Zeppelin did.  BUT the intro sounds like a riff from Spirit's "Taurus".  BUT Led Zeppelin had Spirit open for them.  BUT Jimmy Page probably heard "Taurus", more than once even.  Zeppelin ripped off other artists.

All of that is true.  None of it matters.  IF "Stairway" had never become a big hit you would have never even known that "Taurus" existed.  No you wouldn't.  Nobody is that big a fan of Classic Rock or of Spirit. 

I have no doubt that Jimmy Page heard parts, if not all of "Taurus" at one time or another. 

Here's the deal people.  The first rift of "Stairway" is the easiest thing that can be played on a guitar.  Anyone can do it.  Here's a vid of how to do it. The vid is less than 7 minutes long.  The vid is that long because there is more to "Stairway" than the first rift.  Incidentally ONLY the first rift, and then only part of that sounds like "Taurus".

There is a reason that most guitar shops have sings on the wall that say "NO STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN".  The reason is that every kid, teen and perpetual adolescent of any age comes in and starts picking out those notes.  Anyone can do it because its just a matter of walking your pick across the fret board.  "Stairway to Heaven" has been the reason millions of dollars have been spent buying kids guitar lessons.  Every kid who thinks he wants to play can pick up the first rift in less than 10 minutes, and mom and dad are stuck shelling out cash for lessons because the kid comes home able to pick out notes that are recognizable as a song.

Did Jimmy Page rip off those 8 notes and build a rock anthem at Spirit's expense?  Probably not.  The rift is based on a natural progression of notes.  "Stairway" takes those notes and builds into a rock power house that sounds nothing like "Taurus".  You can make a better case for Page and Plant channeling Aleister Crowley  for source material. 

Is Led Zed going to have to pay out some cash over this?  Maybe.  If they do its just going to leave Jimmy singing "Nobody's Fault but Mine".   At least nobody has claimed that they helped write that too.  If Zeppelin has to pay out for Stairway, how much should Spirit have to pay them for the making them a foot note in Rock history?

6 comments:

WaterBoy said...

Always loved Zeppelin, especially Stairway.

When the Prom committee was looking for prom themes, somebody offered Stairway To Heaven/Highway To Hell. The administration nixed the second part, so the set remained a stairway to the stars only. Can you imagine the scene if they had allowed the original proposal?

ajw308 said...

I followed the links to the Spirit video yesterday. I could hear it and was left assuming they'd lose the suit. That they had, in fact, stolen the riffs.

Last night I showed my wife the video on YouTube (on the tv) and that video was followed by a "Songs Led Zepplin has stolen" video. They ranged from folk songs to songs by the Yard Birds and in all cases, Zepplin did it so much better and in the case of the Yard Birds, it was just a natural evolution as Pages skills developed. They could have listed some people on songs credits and in some cases, people dissapeared from credits over time, but Zepplin made the songs into things of their own creation, things that the other bands couldn't have. that's my opinion after watching a video that was designed to leave me with the opposite opinion, I think.

Res Ipsa said...

People don't remember what Jimmy Page did for a living before Zeppelin. He was a very sought after studio guitarist. Which means he sat around for hours on end being asked to, "play it again but this time make it sound more like...". That is what he did. He did hundreds if not thousands of different variations on different peoples music trying to develop a "sound" for a producer.

Then he started his own band. He always said he enjoyed American blues. He always claimed it as his main influence. To some degree every rock band out there is in the same boat. Somebody has picked out that riff in their best song on an old acoustic long before they played it through an amp.

If you listen to the first three albums you get lots of blues influence and style. To me the word "influence" means we kinda sound like these other guys. I think they were always honest about that and I don't think they were trying to make it big by stealing other bands licks.

ajw308 said...

I watched a Garth Brooks special a few months ago. Caught 3/4 of it by accident. He'd tell a story about a song, then would play the significant chunk of the song that was relevant. A lot of the intro's were tributes to an artist (Seeger, Joel, etc) that influenced him, and many times a song in particular.

Garth is such a good story teller. He has a knack that carries over into music. He was pretty humble and and gave a lot of credit to musicians who came before him. It's gotta be like that for just about everyone, I'd think.

WaterBoy said...

To me, the rhythm and pacing of the chords are similar, but the melody is not, with Zeppelin's version going upscale, then down sharply, while the Spirit version only goes down and very slowly.

It's not like the similarities between Queen/Bowie's Under Pressure and Vanilla Ice's Ice Ice Baby

I think there's no legal difference between "borrowing" from a relatively unknown song and a very popular one...but it should be kept in mind when damages are awarded. Zeppelin -- if they did indeed "borrow" the riff -- "took" far less monetarily than Vanilla Ice did.

Res Ipsa said...

WB,

I think that is a good point. When I was a kid I tried to play guitar. That's as far as it got, I tried. Even I can play the intro to Stairway, because all you are doing is picking, as apposed to strumming a cord. All Spirit did was pick the cord one way. Page did the same cord with different change ups, and a whole different arrangement. There was nothing uniquely Spirits in Stairway.