October 30th, 2007 - Tone Of The Day on Monday...
Here's my pick for the day:
LED ZEPPELIN - Stairway To Heaven
ATTENTION - One very loooooong post...
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# Album - (Led Zeppelin IV)
# Released - November 8, 1971
# Recorded - December 1970 – March 1971
# Genre - Hard rock, Folk rock
# Length - 8:02
# Label - Atlantic Records
# Writer - Page/Plant
# Producer - Jimmy PageSong construction and release
The song's instrumentals were written by Page "over a long period, the first part coming at Bron-Yr-Aur one night". Page always kept a cassette recorder around, and the idea for "Stairway" came together from bits of taped music. The opening guitar cadence took influence from a song called 'Taurus' by the band 'Spirit' with whom Led Zeppelin were acquainted in their opening days.
The first attempts at lyrics, written by Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant next to an evening log fire at Headley Grange, were partly spontaneously improvised and Page claimed, "a huge percentage of the lyrics were written there and then". Jimmy Page was strumming the chords and Robert Plant had a pencil and paper. Plant later said that suddenly, "my hand was writing out the words, 'There's a lady who's sure, all that glitters is gold, and she's buying a stairway to heaven'. I just sat there and looked at them and almost leapt out of my seat." Plant's own explanation of the lyrics was that it "was some cynical aside about a woman getting everything she wanted all the time without giving back any thought or consideration. The first line begins with that cynical sweep of the hand ... and it softened up after that."
The recording of "Stairway to Heaven" started in December 1970 at Island Records' new Basing Street Studios in London. The song was completed by the addition of lyrics by Plant during the sessions for Led Zeppelin IV at Headley Grange, Hampshire, in 1971. The complete studio recording was released on Led Zeppelin IV in November 1971.Live performances
The inaugural public performance of the song took place at Belfast's Ulster Hall on 1971-03-05. Bassist John Paul Jones recalls that the crowd was unimpressed: "They were all bored to tears waiting to hear something they knew". Bootleg recordings of this show, however, indicate that the Irish crowd gave a loud and long applause as soon as the last words were sung. Page stated about an early performance at the LA Forum that:
“ I'm not saying the whole audience gave us a standing ovation - but there was this sizable standing ovation there. And I thought, 'This is incredible because no one's heard this number yet. This is the first time hearing it!' It obviously touched them, so I knew there was something with that one."
Following the first performance, "Stairway to Heaven" was performed at almost every Led Zeppelin concert until the band's breakup after drummer John Bonham's death in 1980. Some sources state that the song was performed at every single show from its debut the Ulster Hall, but this is incorrect. In their later concert tours, the band chose to perform the song as their final number (before encores), and on rare occasions their concerts were cut short before they could perform the song (as for example at Tampa Stadium in 1977, when a thunderstorm caused the band to leave the stage early). The band's final performance of the song was at Berlin on July 7, 1980, which was also their final concert.
Live, filmed versions of the song are preserved on the band's concert film The Song Remains the Same, featuring a performance from Madison Square Garden in 1973, and on the Led Zeppelin DVD, featuring a performance from Earls Court Exhibition Centre in 1975. Official audio versions are also available on The Song Remains the Same's accompanying soundtrack, on Led Zeppelin BBC Sessions (a performance from London's Paris Theatre in 1971) and on How the West Was Won (a performance from the Long Beach Arena in 1972). There are also countless audio versions which can be found on unofficial Led Zeppelin bootleg recordings. When played live, the band would often extend the song to over ten minutes in length, with Page playing a lengthy guitar solo and Plant adding a number of lyrical ad-libs, such as "Does anybody remember laughter?" and "I hope so". For performing this song live, Page used a custom built Gibson EDS-1275 double-neck guitar so he would not have to pause when switching from a six to a twelve string guitar (although the studio version had been recorded on a Fender Telecaster).
By 1975, the song was installed at the finale of every Led Zeppelin concert. However, after their concert tour of the United States in 1977, Plant began to tire of "Stairway To Heaven":
“ There's only so many times you can sing it and mean it ... It just became sanctimonious.”
The song was played again by the surviving members of Led Zeppelin at the Live Aid concert in 1985; at the Atlantic Records 40th anniversary party in 1988, with Jason Bonham on drums; and by Jimmy Page as an instrumental version on his solo tours. Teasingly, the first few bars were played alone during Page and Plant tours, in lieu of the final notes of "Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You." However, in November 1994 Page and Plant performed an acoustic version of the song at a Tokyo news station for Japanese television.
Plant cites the Live Aid performance as the most unusual performance of the song ever, "with two drummers while Duran Duran cried at the side of the stage - there was something quite surreal about that."Success and influence
"Stairway to Heaven" continues to top radio lists of the greatest rock songs, as well as topping a recent Guitar World poll. As at 2000, the song had been broadcast on radio over three million times. It is also the biggest-selling single piece of sheet music clocking up an average of 15,000 copies yearly. In total, over one million copies have been sold.
The song's length precluded its release in full form as a single. Despite pressure from Atlantic Records the band would not authorize the editing of the song for single release, making "Stairway to Heaven" one of the most well-known and popular rock songs never to have been released as a single. It did, however, appear as a promotional disc in the United States, on an Australian acoustic EP, and in the 1990s as a 20th anniversary promo book.
In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine put it at #31 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.Music
The song is a multi-movement suite. A quiet introduction featuring acoustic guitar and three recorders (ending at-2:15) gradually moves into to a slow electric middle section (2:16-5:33), before the faster hard rock final section (5:34-end). Page stated that the song "speeds up like an adrenaline flow".
Written in the key of A minor and mainly in common time the song opens with an arpeggiated, hybrid-picked guitar chord progression with a chromatic descending bassline A-G#-G-F#-F. John Paul Jones contributed overdubbed wooden bass recorders in the opening section (he used a Mellotron, and later, a Yamaha CP70B Grand Piano and Yamaha GX1 to synthesize this arrangement in live performances) and a Hohner Electra-Piano electric piano in the middle section.
The sections build with more guitar layers, each complementary to the intro with the drums entering at 4:17. The extended Jimmy Page guitar solo in the song's final section was played for the recording on a 1958 Fender Telecaster (an instrument he used extensively with the Yardbirds) plugged into a Supro amplifier although in a Guitar World interview Page also claims, "It could have been a Marshall, but I can't remember". Three different solos were recorded with Page agonizing about deciding which to keep. The other guitar parts were played using a Harmony acoustic guitar and Fender Electric XII (12-string); both can be heard on the left and right recording channels respectively. For live versions, Page switched to using a Heritage Cherry Gibson EDS-1275 6/12 Doubleneck guitar. The final progression is a i-VII-VI (natural minor) progression (Am G F), a mainstay of rock music.
The opening chord progression and verse in "Stairway to Heaven" are nearly identical to the 1968 instrumental "Taurus" by the group Spirit. In the liner notes to the reissue of Spirit's 1968 eponymous debut, songwriter Randy California mentions the fact that Jimmy Page took special interest in "Taurus". Prior to his death in 1997, Randy California was often asked about it in interviews, to which he typically responded that he did not consider the "Stairway" intro to be a rip-off, but simply a "reworking" of his song.
Led Zeppelin was the opening act for Spirit's 1968 tour. While nobody in Led Zeppelin has ever cited influence from the track, the band was known to incorporate bits of the Spirit song Fresh Garbage into their early concert medleys, and Jimmy Page has said that his use of a theremin was inspired by seeing Randy California use one.Other versionsCovers
A few attempts at a straightforward cover have been made over the years, notably by glam metal band Great White. The supergroup Far Corporation was the first act to chart with a single release of the song, barely making the charts in the U.S., while becoming a top-10 hit in the UK in October 1985. Tiny Tim has a recorded version of the song, on his album Girl, where he is accompanied by the band Brave Combo, and it is played very jazzy and lounge, which is one of three times the song will be played as a lounge song. Frank Zappa recorded an original version of the song during his 1988 world tour, and it appeared on the 1991 live album The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life. In 1993, the band Leningrad Cowboys collaborated with the Red Army Choir to perform a cover of the song. Jewish rock musician Dan Torres recorded an acoustic version on Dan Torres's Greatest Hits clocking in at 8:21, featuring louder, longer verses.
The band Heart regularly performed this song in 1976 and a live version of this song by Heart appears as a bonus track on the CD release of 1976's Little Queen album
Singer Dolly Parton recorded a country-bluegrass version on her 2002 album Halos & Horns. Parton also used the intro chord progression from the song in her own 1976 single "We Used To," which reached the Top 10 on the Billboard country charts. Pop singer Pat Boone chose it to close out his 1997 album of heavy metal covers In a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy.
Punk rock cover band Me First and the Gimme Gimmes covered this song on their 2004 album Ruin Jonny's Bar Mitzvah. Their version, which includes only the first three verses of the song, begins with a straightforward rendition and then kicks into an energetic pop 'punk' style.
Native American singer Jana recorded an electronic cover of Stairway to Heaven which won the Native American Music Award (Nammy) for Best Song in 2002.
The London Philharmonic Orchestra, under the direction of Peter Scholes, recorded an instrumental version of the song on the album Kashmir: The Symphonic Led Zeppelin. Jazz guitarist Stanley Jordan recorded an instrumental cover of Stairway to Heaven where he simultaneously played two independent parts on one guitar with no overdubs. Rodrigo y Gabriela recently recorded an instrumental cover of Stairway to Heaven for their self-titled album in 2006. An instrumental version has also appeared on the bluegrass album "Pickin' on Zeppelin: A Tribute".
"The Money or the Gun" "Stairways to Heaven" video tape (25 versions of the song includes the well-known version by Rolf Harris)
"The Money or the Gun"
"Stairways to Heaven" video tape
(25 versions of the song includes the well-known version by Rolf Harris)
Many other covers are ironic or intentionally humorous, notably Dread Zeppelin's reggae/Elvis-inspired version, Pat Boone's and Richard Cheese's lounge takes, and Rolf Harris's didgeridoo-and-wobble board interpretation (which reached number 7 in the UK charts in 1993). Rolf Harris's version was one of 25 different versions of the song that were performed live by guest stars on the early 1990s Australian chat show The Money or the Gun - each being a unique version of the song in the usually idiosyncratic style of performance of each guest star, following which the best 25 performances of the song were released on video tape for posterity (Rolf Harris' version would appear to be the only version that people are aware of). A compilation of these versions, titled Stairways to Heaven, was put out on the Atlantic label, featuring versions of the song by The Australian Doors Show, The Beatnix, John Paul Young, Kate Ceberano, Leonard Teale, Sandra Hahn and Michael Turkic (Grand Opera), The Ministry of Fun, Neil Pepper, Pardon Me Boys, Robyne Dunn, The Rock Lobsters, Rolf Harris, Vegimite Reggae, The Doug Anthony Allstars with Barry Crocker and others.
Harris is said to have received death threats from fans of the song for his version of this iconic rock anthem. The Foo Fighters's lead singer Dave Grohl also performed a humorous version of the song on The Late Late Show With Craig Kilborn, where he pretended to forget the lyrics (Grohl is an avid Led Zeppelin fan and has numerous tattoos representing the band across his body) and proceeded to improvise the electric guitar solo vocally.
A novelty song featuring the music and arrangement of the song combined with the lyrics to the "Theme from Gilligan's Island" (which has a similar chord progression) was recorded by the San Francisco band Little Roger and the Goosebumps and often featured on the Dr. Demento radio program. Singer Robert Plant has described this as his favorite cover "version" of the song.
The Tsindos experience had once performed their own version of the song, which was a WoW parody depicting a troll trying to get an item in the game.
In Guitar Hero II, a loading screen with a message states "Remember, NO STAIRWAY!" as a reference to fans who've demanded this song to be in the game, and to a scene in Wayne's World. It is said[attribution needed] that Harmonix wanted to acquire the rights to this song for the game but was unable to.Parodies
A parody of "Stairway to Heaven" was recorded by the ApologetiX, a Christian parody band. "Narrow Way to Heaven" depicts their interpretation of the Christian path to Heaven.
Another parody by lampoonist Brockeim, "Stairway to Amazon," describes two book reviewers vying for the top spot at the popular online book retailer.
Also popular on Dr. Demento's program was "7-Eleven", a parody based on the title of the store, by Led Slurpee, a one-time-only pseudonym of the duo Icemark composed of Rob "Iceman" Izenberg and former KZZP disk jockey Mark Jonathan Davis.
Another interesting parody was 'Stairway to Gilligan's Island," that pairs the music of Stairway to Heaven to the lyrics of the theme song to the tv show 'Gilligan's island'
Perhaps more pun than parody, the Butthole Surfers' 1988 release was entitled Hairway to Steven.
In 2007, Andrew Hansen from the Australian comedy show The Chasers War On Everything wrote and performed a parody of the song entited "Stairway to Kevin" based around the upcoming Australian national election in which opposition leader Kevin Rudd will be contesting for Prime Minister.Live performances
During live performances of their song Tribute, Tenacious D often plays the song with bits and pieces of guitar riffs and chord progressions from Stairway to Heaven. Also, they often sing the last few words of the song similarly to how the end of Stairway to Heaven is sung. On their HBO series version of Tribute, large chunks of the song use chord progressions and vocals reminiscent of Stairway to Heaven.Backmasking controversy
Critics of rock and roll songs (and of Led Zeppelin in particular) have alleged that a backmasked message is recorded into "Stairway to Heaven." The message, which allegedly occurs during the middle section of the song ("If there's a bustle in your hedgerow, don't be alarmed now..."), is purported to contain Satanic references:
Oh here's to my sweet Satan.
The one whose little path would make me sad, whose power is Satan.
He will give those with him 666.
There was a little toolshed where he made us suffer, sad Satan.
– Most popular version of the lyrics to Stairway to Heaven played backwards
The controversy originated from a prominent Baptist, who, in 1982, preached on the radio that "Stairway to Heaven" contained subliminal backward messages. This theory was later primarily advanced by Michael Mills, Jacob Aranza, and Jeff Godwin, who offered detailed analyses of the hidden meanings of both the "backwards" and actual lyrics. In 1982, the Consumer Protection and Toxic Materials Committee of the California State Assembly held a hearing on backmasking in popular music, during which "Stairway to Heaven" was played backwards. William Yarroll, a self-identified neuroscientist, claimed that "Stairway to Heaven," when played backward, contains a similar message: "I sing because I live with Satan. The Lord turns me off — there's no escaping it. Here's to my sweet Satan, whose power is Satan. He will give you 666. I live for Satan." Other versions of the alleged message include "Here's to my sweet Satan, no other made a path. For it makes me sad. Whose power is Satan? Oh, my number, 666", and "Oh, here's to my sweet Satan. The One whose little path has made me sad. Whose power is Satan? Oh, my number, 666".
Led Zeppelin has for the most part ignored such claims; for years the only comment came from Swan Song Records which issued the statement: "Our turntables only play in one direction—forwards". Zeppelin producer Eddie Kramer confirmed this, calling the allegations "totally and utterly ridiculous. Why would they want to spend so much studio time doing something so dumb?" Robert Plant expressed frustration with the accusations in an interview: "To me it's very sad, because 'Stairway to Heaven' was written with every best intention, and as far as reversing tapes and putting messages on the end, that's not my idea of making music."
An informal experiment by scientist Simon Singh suggested that listeners only hear the message after prompting.