Everything is a remix part 1 shows how Led Zeppelin unashamedly ripped off Taurus: a band whom they had toured with early on in their career.
“Stairway to Heaven”(1971), possesses almost the exact same guitar riff/chord sequence as “Taurus” (1968) by Spirit. This is not however the only similarity:
- The tempo of each song is almost identical – slow and dreamy.
- The instrumentation is very similar. “Stairway”’s intro features acoustic guitar playing the main riff + woodwind, “Spirit” also consists of acoustic guitar playing the main riff, + strings.
- The title/subject of each song is closely related. Led Zeppelin are basically singing about a spirit who is climbing the Stairway to Heaven.
- Both songs are designed to evoke spiritual and mystical imagery.
Led Zeppelin used “Spirit” as the blueprint for “Stairway”, not only emulating the mood and style of the song but copying musical passages note for note to the point where you could easily confuse both songs on listening to them.
I take the same view as fellow ReTechSocial blogger Anthony Minshull with regards to Led Zeppelin’s plagiarism. The fact that they went through their illustrious career copying the work of others note for note and lyric for lyric without referencing their sources is what makes their case quite astonishing. They profited hugely through ultimately stealing other peoples ideas and passing them off as their own. Their gains were not only financial: Led Zeppelin are consistently put on a pedestal and labelled as one of the best rock bands of all time, and I am sure this will continue to be the case. They didn’t just take influence and make something new from something old: they took, used and exploited the fact that their sources did not have the same high-profile.
There is another song to add to the mix. The verse of “Let It Grow” by Eric Clapton heavily features a guitar passage which closely resembles the main riffs heard in Spirit/Stairway to Heaven”. Check it out:
Clapton eventually confessed in his autobiography (2008) that “it was several years before I realized that I had totally ripped off ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ the famous Zeppelin anthem”.
He claims that he subconsciously copied Led Zeppelin. Whether this is true or not is hard to tell. What do you think? Ok, the feel and emotion in the song is a different in “Let It Grow, but the guitar riff is still in my opinion a little too close for comfort. I have no doubt that this affects my enjoyment of the song because it is so distinctive and a centre-piece of the song.
In my last blog I looked at Star Wars and its origins. Interestingly the obvious copying of other works without reference that George Lucas performed does not affect my enjoyment of Star Wars. By mimicking and remixing an incredible amount of different sources of inspiration and blending them, Lucas created a multi-layered film which retains a strong feeling of originality. It is also very easy to engage with. His approach to remixing is very interesting and innovative, particularly when compared to the songwriting methodology employed by Led Zeppelin in this instance.