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!

6/22/2016

Stairway to Spirit

This isn't going to be an esoteric essay on meta physical meanings.  It's much more important than that.

Led Zeppelin ask judge to throw out 'Stairway to Heaven' copyright case

We've been hearing about how Jimmy Page ripped off some guy when he wrote Stairway to Heaven back in December of 1970, since at least the late 70's.  "And it makes you wonder..."

Did he?

Fans of Page often boast that he is one of the best guitarists of all time.  What they don't say, or possible don't know, is how he got that way.  Back in the 1960's prior to the formation of Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Page was a highly sought out studio musician.  That's how he made his living, playing other peoples music in a recording studio to assist them in putting together their musical vision.  Apparently he was good at.

One kind of music that Page said he particularly liked was American Negro Blues.  He said that he enjoyed copying and reproducing that musical form with modern instruments and techniques.  Incidentally you now have a fairly complete understanding of the writing process behind nearly every song on the first three albums and singles.  Take a sound/style/method and reproduce it with variations and alternations that you find interesting and repackage it.

Repackaging worked!  Thanks to a unique combination of musical talent Led Zep became a huge success.  When they started writing Led Zeppelin IV they were already established as a band.  So when they sat down to write the songs for the album, they felt they had an opportunity to experiment.

Stairway to Heaven was one of those experiments.  They intentionally wanted to write a longer song with multiple time and tempo changes.  At the time, longer songs and tempo changes where not common in pop music.  In Gadda Da Vida (1968) was never that big a hit.  America Pie was released in 1971, the same year as Stairway and Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald wasn't released until 1976.  Pop music's tendency to favor shorter songs over longer ones still holds true today.

Page explains in his own words.



The studio had enough traditionally solid Zeppelin fair on the fourth album to let the boys take a shot with Stairway without endangering sales. Personally I think after having a listen they thought it was a good song.  Even so, Stairway to Heaven wasn't released as a single in the United States in 1971.  Fan requests for radio play what pushed the songs popularity in the US.

Back in December of 1970, when collaborating on writing the song, nobody knew that all that glitters was gold.  It was something they wanted to try.  Which brings us back to the question, "Did Randy California write the song?".

Here is Spirit's song Taurus



There are 4 notes that are exactly the same as Stairway to Heaven.  I bet you can pick them out.  Now compare that to this:



The notes that are the same, are what's known as a cord progression.  Anyone picking the single notes, in order, will achieve the same results, because that's what a cord is.  Musicians have been picking this cord for as long as we have had stringed instruments.  Which is why you can hear the same four notes in each song, as well as in other songs that use the same cord.

Spirit used that cord to produce a nice mellow instrumental.  It's not a bad bit of music in its own rite.  Zeppelin used that cord as the basis of building a fast paced, up tempo, piece that crescendos into a hard rock power house.  Sure 4 notes are the same, but nothing else about the music is.

It's time for Randy California's lawyers to ramble on.

16 comments:

  1. WaterBoy on 6/22/20164:57 PM

    Been following this case in the news, and I'm not sure whether Stairway To Heaven is infringing on Taurus or not.

    If you look at the Queen/Bowie song Under Pressure that was the basis for the lawsuit against Vanilla Ice (which they won), it was based on a progression of 7 or so notes; the similarity there was stark, but this case is less so.

    What I do know is that continuously shortening the length of note progression that can be protected by copyright will result in every single note combination of that length being registered such that no new songs can ever be written...until all those copyrights expire.

    I don't think that should happen, and would probably deny the claim if I were on the jury on that basis alone.

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    1. Plus those seven notes were not a cord on an instrument. Making it harder to deny that they were sampling without credit.

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  2. Susan5:43 PM

    In a Gadda Da Vida was a bunch of artists recording late at night stoned out of their socks on everything from hard drugs to booze to smoking their gym socks.
    It is supposed to be In a Garden of Eden, but as wasted as they all were, that was all the singer could say. He could not control his mouth. I find that amusing actually.

    But the reason why it is a favorite of DJ's to play on the radio, is at almost 20 or so minutes long it allows them to step away from the console for a break for whatever reason.

    Iron Butterfly did this originally, but some very diverse groups did covers of it. Like Boney M and the Incredible Bongo Band. Now THAT is a version I would like to hear.

    I haven't been following this case at all, but given how much of the music we hear is lifted from very old tunes that have no copyright protection, I just cannot get too worked up about this.

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  3. I've got no problem with the fact that Jimmy Page admitted that he "borrowed" most of his inspiration from "Negro Blues" and by borrowed we mean took the dang song and basically redid it in a white boys from England electric style. He was very open about that.

    It gives him a little more credibility with me when he says that he didn't copy Spirit. Plus, its four notes, the same four notes that anyone picking the strings in order would produce. From there the entire songs are radically different.

    I don't think they stole anything.

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    1. I totally agree with you. But weasel lawyers will use that 4 note chord to prove that "oh yes he did steal it", when the reality is just what you said. Anyone who understand the HOW of playing music gets it. The lawyers are depending on the judges who DON'T.

      Even Pat Boone in his heyday covered a lot of the black music of the time. He is credited in fact with making the whole black music scene more palatable to the white mainstream market. Then Elvis hit the scene and finished the selling job.

      I enjoy the BB King's and others from that segment of music. I don't like to label it like the Left does. To me, it is just MUSIC that I happen to enjoy.

      If I gave the impression that I found fault with Page, I have none. I totally agree with what you are saying here. Somebody from England borrowed on it and made a big hit for his group. If the original artist didn't get royalties for that work, then that is the fault of the record label. They have a huge history of screwing over the black artists practically from the beginning.

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    2. S,

      I wasn't reading anything into what you said.

      There has been no end of white boys copying the sounds and style of black musicians over the years. In the beginning they (either side) didn't think of it as wrong. Somebody was always free to take somebody else's old song and make it their own.

      It wasn't until large sums of money became involved that this changed. I guarantee that if Stairway wasn't one of the top selling rock songs of all time, nobody would care about Taurus.

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    3. WaterBoy1:16 PM

      Res Ipsa: "I guarantee that if Stairway wasn't one of the top selling rock songs of all time, nobody would care about Taurus."

      Absolutely. You don't hear about this kind of copyright lawsuit very often, but when you do it's typically against songs and/or artists that hit it big.

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    4. WaterBoy1:28 PM

      Here's an even bigger list of cases. Note how many big names there are in the "defending author" column; I never knew that composer John Williams was accused of ripping off the theme from E.T., for instance.

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  4. In keeping with the music theme, I happened upon a YouTube video of a Military Montage done to AC/DC's live performance of Thunderstruck. Just our military blowing stuff to kingdom come in total cranky cobweb clearing awesomeness, no shots of the band. It made me tap my toes and bounce my head like an actual headbanger. Proud to be an American watching that video.

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  5. Replies
    1. And justice is served.

      I just noticed in that link that the people suing Zeppelin lacked proper standing to do so. Incredible.

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    2. WaterBoy12:46 PM

      Well, apparently the judge thought they did. Or at least he didn't take the issue into consideration, possibly leaving it for the jury to decide.

      In either case, one wonders why the publisher (Hollenbeck) didn't sue the trustee (Skidmore) if they actually owned the copyright. The only thing I can think of is that they would let Skidmore fight the copyright infringement case, spending the trust fund money to finance it, then swoop in and claim the money as the rightful copyright owner only if the lawsuit was successful.

      Either that, or they thought they couldn't make a case in court for ownership.

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    3. Both of your points are probably in their decision making process.

      Good analysis.

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    4. Susan8:53 AM

      Very nice update. Gonna be an interesting day now that the UK has chosen to kick Brussels out of the house.

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  6. Heard this outcome mentioned on the radio the other day and thought of your earlier post on the topic.

    The news story I heard made it sound like Zepplin won on a technicality, that the copyright only covered the sheet music.

    Netflix has a Keith Richards documentary. Keith tells of his meeting Mick in a train where one of them had some blues albums under his arm and the other comments to him that he thought he was the only Brit who enjoyed the blues. Keith then goes on to tell that in the blues he can hear Celtic folk tunes and that the melodies have gone full circle. You can really hear the blues on some of the stones songs, especially this one.


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