An interesting note about the intro, the acoustic part - it was stolen material, note for note, from a song called Taurus by Spirit, released a couple of years earlier. They were pretty open about it - the lead singer of Spirit, Randy California, recalls: "When we did our first tour of Europe, in late '68 or maybe '69, all those guys used to come up and sit in the front row of all our shows, and we became friends. If they wanted to use that, that's fine. I'll let them have the beginning of 'Taurus' for their song." And such is rock and roll history made.

Stairway To Heaven is a bar/restaurant in Utrecht, The Netherlands. It is the property of Dutch musician and radio DJ Henk Westbroek, and is located in the centre of the city. The bar has tons of rock memorabilia, including gold records, guitars, and lots more. On the wall there is a very beautiful painting of heaven (with a stairway leading to it), with legendary deceased musicians, including Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison and Freddie Mercury.

The bar was named after Led Zeppelin's classic rock song. The music that is played in the bar is usually rock music, but other styles can be heard too. And occasionally there are bands playing live on stage.

The bar is located at Mariaplaats 11-12, Utrecht, The Netherlands, and is open from around noon until after midnight. Because it is also a restaurant, you can eat lunch and dinner there as well. A second Stairway To Heaven will be opened soon in Scheveningen, Den Haag.

Stairway - The Definitive Led Zeppelin Song

Stairway To Heaven is clearly the best known and most popular Led Zeppelin song. In fact, it's the best selling piece of sheet music of all time, having sold over one million copies. Most people consider it the quintessential classic rock song, and the song that typifies Led Zeppelin. The band disagrees.

Page and Plant both consider "Kashmir" to be the band's landmark song. Plant goes a step further, in fact, by claiming that he loathes Stairway. He used his creative control powers to veto Atlantic's planned release of a 20th anniversary Stairway single. He also references the song in one of his solo efforts, "Liar's Dance", in which he proclaims, "...leave it to the lady there who's sure, she won't back again, I know she won't be back again, I'm sure she won't be back again."

So What's The Song About?

That's a difficult question to answer. The band members gives cryptic responses when asked about it. "We were all high on the Moroccan dope at the time, so who knows?" joked Plant when asked the true meaning of the song. Page has said that it's about a woman that both he and Plant knew at the time. Another theory is that the inspiration for the song came from a mixture of Celtic myth and a book called "The Faerie Queen" by Edmund Spencer. Not too hard to believe, given that the song prior to it on the album, "The Battle Of Evermore", is based solely on the works on J.R.R. Tolkien.

Another theory, one that doesn't require much thought, is that the song is about a woman who thinks that material possessions are the only thing of value in this world. Depending on how you interpret the song, you discover that she's either right or wrong when 'the truth will come to you at last'.

A Guitar Magazine contest for the true meaning came up with the gem in the above writeup, namely that the 'bustle in the hedgerow' part is a reference to a woman's first period. When Plant was asked about it on Australian TV, he looked at Page, who gave him 'a strange look', and then replied with a smile, "What it is, it's the beginning of Spring, it's when the birds make their nests, when hope and the new year begins. And it's nothing to do with any of that weird stuff you read about in America!"

It's fruitless to think one explanation fits the song, as the band's not helping one way or the other. Given that the song was written in "about an hour", maybe the meaning isn't as deep as some people might think. I do doubt highly, however, that they were "trying to emulate Jethro Tull". For the record, Led Zeppelin HATED Jethro Tull, referring to them as Jethro Dull, and John Bonham suggesting that they release an album called "Bore 'Em At The Forum". It's hard to believe that the #1 rock band in the world (at the time) would try to emulate a band that they, by all accounts, hated.

Hey, This Song Sounds Like...

Given that Led Zeppelin borrowed heavily from older blues and folk artists (an act not uncommon among blues and folk artists themselves), one might wonder if Led Zeppelin was "influenced" while writing the music for Stairway To Heaven. The above write-up mentions that song "Taurus" by Spirit. Others have speculated that the opening riff is swiped from Johnny Rivers' "Summer Rain", Cartoone's "Ice Cream Dreams", or "And She's Lonely" by the Chocolate Watchband.

Personally, I think the "Summer Rain" and "Taurus" sound more like each other than they do Stairway, but the similarity is there nonetheless. This is hardly a difficult tune to think up and play, however, and given a large enough catalog, one could probably find twenty or thirty songs with a similar opening.

The solo in Stairway To Heaven contains similar chord progression to Jimi Hendrix' version of "All Along The Watchtower". Again, such chords are hardly uncommon. For the solo, Page recorded three different versions and selected the one he liked best.

Live Stairway

Stairway was first played live for a BBC audience on April 1, 1971 (this recording is available on the two-disc BBC Sessions). The song was NOT the centerpiece of the Led Zeppelin show ("Whole Lotta Love" or "Dazed And Confused" usually got that honor), but it did provide drummer John Bonham some occasional down time. In live shows, Plant nearly always followed up the line "And the forests will echo in laughter" by questioning the audience "Does anyone remember laughter?" The crowds soon anticipated his question, asking it in unison with him. This prompted him, on one memorable evening in 1977, to ask the crowd if anyone remembered... forests?

Backwards Messages In "Stairway"

After Judas Priest was put on trial for allegedly backmasking messages on their records, thousands of people with free time on their hands starting playing all sorts of records backwards. The alleged connection between Jimmy Page and Satanism put the thought in many heads that Led Zeppelin lyrics were riddled with Satanic messages. They weren't disappointed when, upon listening to "Stairway To Heaven", heard what they thought was Plant saying, "Here's to my sweet Satan."

Backmasking is extremely difficult to accomplish without radically altering the speech pattern of the forward-spoken words. Add to that the fact that it has yet to be proven that the brain can interpret backmasked speech, and that Page has said, "I do not worship the devil," and it's doubtful that Led Zeppelin did this intentionally. Robert Plant had perhaps the most lighthearted attitude to the whole phenomenon. "If it worked," he said, "every record would have the backward message 'BUY THIS RECORD' in it!"

Stairway Covers

"Stairway To Heaven" has been covered countless times. Dread Zeppelin has made a habit of it, putting cover versions on more than one of their albums. An album entirely of Stairway covers was released in the late 90's, consisting of Australian artists like Rolf Harris and The Australian Doors Show.

Both Jimmy Page and Robert Plant have attempted to dispel rumours that the song is about The Lord of the Rings since the song's release.

Those who insist that J.R.R. Tolkien's work of epic fantasy inspired the song generally do so on the following grounds:

Plant does not deny the connection between The Battle of Evermore and the final battle in The Return of the King but insists that no connection exists between the LOTR saga and Stairway to Heaven.

A popular interpretation claims that the song is about a prostitute.

In 1989 and 1990 the Australian Broadcasting Corporation ran a programme called the Money or the Gun, where presenter Andrew Denton would discuss a certain topic (boxing, flying, depression) in a tongue-in-cheek fashion.

Each show would also feature a guest musician or group performing Stairway to Heaven in a unique way. Some of the more interesting variants came from tribute artists.

Performers included:

As noted above, Led Zeppelin's seminal 1971 text 'Stairway to Heaven' is one of the cornerstones of the backmasking movement, if a movement could be said to have cornerstones. As a one-time audio touch typist - an extremely competent one, if anybody in America, Australia or Iceland is hiring - I hereby present a transcription of this song, played backwards. This transcription is a personal project, and other listeners might discern alternative phrases; it would be interesting to see an art gallery sponsor an exhibition of works derived from this most iconic of 1970s rock songs.

I present the text in paragraphs. As an extension of this project I have recorded myself delivering the following, a recording which I have subsequently reversed, thus creating a backwards recording of myself delivering a forwards recitation of lyrics transcribed backwards. The end result is essentially meaningless vocal noise, the utterances of a drunkard, with occasional bursts of clarity.

As noted above, the phrase 'here's to my sweet Satan' is surprisingly coherent, although the song is far more disrespectful of Krishna.

"nevaeH ot yawriatS"
derived from an original work by James Page and Bobby Plant
(possibly even trad. arr)
-
"Ah, flatbrush. Your wire heads hug me here, I beseech you not. I think I'll raise. Oh lord, give a riddle word. I love you now Krishna. I bear rent but still you beat me. Words drip my sneezy riddler, urge to snow but alley a snow shoe. But oh I believe the endless forename, the worst night! I've been once to one Krishna - over my body, my worst enemy.

Oh-ho. I've a mirror to see, because Alley awaits me. One wishing nets to love me whether he who is nets can be Hillary. Wish way to be the launcher of the Albert. One want to shell me, whoah-whoa, in agony moss today, oi. Lord, here's to my sweet Satan. The one in the middle had forty-eight weeks left with which to lower into Satan. You give, you're weak, you're insects, you.

Head was in a bush, washday. I need a soap, I's ready, see? Oooh, whoa-whoa-whoa. Found me white hat, oil they often met, oil-ed suits who are the... I'll be the queen of may. 'Cause spirits of evil bloke, they often met, I wish the lord, lord if we goosefeather hooks, the hooks did met. No-one's give me the ro-ooooom, and on-one's can do.

Oooh, the red suits zoo was this they often met. See harsh manoeuvres, folks fasten your knees. Buy an ox-stove? Not me. He moved me out, strictly reams well met, sail manoeuvres, how the fuck would I know? I cannae leave persuading. And no-one's came too. Pizza box, stove have a Lord's atmosphere to herb mosses and over the apple trees, candy. Him-him, man's stove's mass muscle on reject, how is she with snow bee-stop? Oh, we mock me as she's laden.

In wireheads stuck we are, I beseech nut. Oooh. Eagle snow. Make naked snow wasn't, do I look my eyes aren't sickening? Why, m'shed's snake issue. Hey, gear wet-sung in your all bees each net, what is this urge been, Bin Laden?

Push me, the elves are it."

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