A 1992 Australian
compilation album of nothing but covers of Led Zeppelin
's Stairway to Heaven
. The band listing, and a brief explanation of each artist...
The liner notes are too funny not to put here...
THE STAIRWAY PROJECT commenced in the winter of 1989. It was an attempt to capture the words of musical director Chris Harriott, "every facet of the greatest song ever written. We were trying to look at the same song twenty different ways at once. It was, if you will, musical Cubism.
When word got out about The Project, the musical world beat a path to Harriott's door. By the start of the first recording session, he and producer Keith Walker had listened to over 2,000 demo tapes, many of them from the world's leading artists.
"What amazed me most was the extraordinary range - for instance one version of Stairway, that sounded for all the world like a whale being tortured with a drum machine. It took me weeks to find out it was Yoko Ono. Vanilla Ice sampled the entire original version, added a rhythm track and screamed "Ice" in the quiet bits. Andrew Ridgeley just sent a photo of himself and said he'd be happy to appear in the clip."
Says Harriott; "Every time we rejected someone it was like killing a very ugly baby - unpleasant, but something that had to be done."
Some of the rejections make a veritable Who's Who of rock & roll. Explains Harriott: "David Bowie and Mick Jagger couldn't remember the words. Shane McGowan of The Pogues couldn't remember his name! Prince did the song so well he actually made the original sound passe, so he was rejected, as was Weird Al Yankovic for similar reasons."
Others, attempting to climb Plant's mountain of metaphors, simply perished in the rarefied atmosphere: Peter Gabriel gave up after spending almost a year trying to teach it to the hill tribes of Southern Yemen. Midnight Oil refused to sing Stairway because they felt it represented vested U.S. interests in the Caribbean.
Others still, according to Harriott, failed the taste test. "Bruce Springsteen, somehow, made the song longer. Cher did an OK demo, but her idea for a clip made people physically ill."
In the end, after months of painstaking, brain-deadening labour, Harriott and Walker settled on "what were the best of the best" says Harriott, "the artists most capable of being true to Plant's original intentions."
"Even so," he admits, "when we walked into the studio that first morning to put down Rolf Harris, I'm sure all of us wondered if we were doing the right thing. But when that opening wobbleboard solo lit up the mixing desk, Keith and I just looked at each other. We didn't need to say anything... we just knew... we were going to make this song history."
And so they have.