By Shannon Carlin
Led Zeppelin’s 1971 song “Stairway to Heaven” sounds very similar to an instrumental track called “Taurus” from the English band, Spirit. Fans of that band have been saying it for the last four decades, but it seems now, 43 years later, the members of Spirit are finally taking action.
“It’s been a long time coming,” attorney Francis Alexander Malofiy, who represents a trust for Randy California, the deceased Spirit guitarist and writer of the song “Taurus,” told Bloomberg Businessweek.
Malofiy claims that the opening notes of “Stairway to Heaven” – one of the most iconic riffs of all time – mimic the same chord progression of Spirit’s song, which appeared on their 1968 debut.
Spirit opened for Zeppelin for a few U.S. show in 1969 and the band’s bassist Mark Andes says they played “Taurus” during those sets. Jimmy Page has said he wrote “Stairway” in 1970.
The claims that Zeppelin lifted the riff were originally made by California in 1997 during an interview for Listener magazine, in which California, who passed away in 2012, said “Stairway” was “a ripoff.”
“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,” California explained.
A suit was never filed though according to Spirit’s manager Mick Skidmore because “nobody had any money, and they thought the statute of limitations was done.”
But, with Led Zeppelin preparing to release the remastered deluxe version of their original albums, including Led Zeppelin IV, which features “Stairway to Heaven,” California’s trust is filing a copyright-infringement suit. They are also fining an injunction that would block the reissue of Led Zeppelin IV.
Malofiy told Businessweek that the idea behind the suit is to make sure Randy California receives a writing credit on “Stairway to Heaven,” but the paper says the band is also looking for monetary reparations as well. Businessweek gave an estimate that by 2008, “Stairway to Heaven” had earned at least $562 million.
Led Zeppelin has yet to comment on the suit. They are planning to release remastered editions of their first three albums on June 3. No date has been given as of now for the release of the remastered edition of Led Zeppelin IV.