Hey fellas, have ya heard the news - there's a potential lawsuit brewing, by guitarist Randy California's trust seeking writer credit, over Led Zeppelin's most iconic opening from the bestest rock song ever: "Stairway To Heaven!" The trust alleges there is an uncredited appropriation of one of California's songs.
In 1968 a Los Angeles area band called Spirit put out its first album, the self-titled Spirit. Among the songs was an instrumental piece, "Taurus," written by the band’s guitarist, Randy California. Mark Andes, Spirit’s founding bassist, says he believes the members of Led Zeppelin heard "Taurus" that day, beginning a process that would lead to its appropriation for "Stairway." Within four days of its inaugural U.S. gig, Led Zeppelin had already assimilated some of Spirit’s other music into its act. At Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., the band played a medley that included Spirit’s "Fresh Garbage." The song, with its grinding bass line, shares side one of Spirit with "Taurus." Even if Page hadn’t heard "Taurus" at that first gig, he would have had other chances to hear it live as the bands crossed paths through 1969.
To assure Page perhaps appropriated ANYTHING ought NOT come as a shock. Anyone who knows much about Led Zeppelin knows Page rightfully earned his nickname: the "thieving magpie." In fact, noted writer Will Shade has a fantastic piece at Perfect Sound Forever called "THE THIEVING MAGPIES: Jimmy Page's Dubious Recording Legacy" which covers his appropriations quite well. And Page wasn't alone, natch, I'd be a fool if I didn't note Robert Plant's wholesale appropriation of Steve Marriott's vocal stylings. However, I dunno why the California's trust waited till NOW? California even "told journalist Jeff McLaughlin in the winter 1997 issue of Listener magazine that Led Zeppelin had filched his song. 'I’d say it was a ripoff,' California said. 'And the guys made millions of bucks on it and never said ‘Thank you,’ never said, ‘Can we pay you some money for it?’ It’s kind of a sore point with me. Maybe someday their conscience will make them do something about it.'" While Andes says, "he was so wrapped up in his music back then that he only recently noticed how similar Stairway was to California’s song." It'll be too late for California tho', he died in '97.
Also, California may not be the only writer to claim credit for "Stairway." Minneapolis band, Crow, could get in on this business too as their song, "Thoughts," has a real similar motif. "Thoughts" was on their first album, Crow Music, which was issued in 1969. Even if Page hadn't heard the Crow LP the band would have been playing concurrent shows. Perhaps Crow even played some shows with Zeppelin; maybe they shared a bill in Minneapolis on May 18, 1969!? So, chances Page heard EITHER of these songs is not unreasonable and given his appropriation history, well... it's up to the lawyers to fight it out.