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Led Zeppelin - Stairway to heaven

Stairway to Heaven songfacts
Led Zeppelin IV
From the album Led Zeppelin IV
(AKA Led Zeppelin IV, Zoso.
 It didn't actually have a title)
Album released November 8 1971
Recorded December 1970
Genre Hard Rock
Song Length 8:02
Record label Atlantic
Producer Jimmy Page

"Stairway to Heaven" is a song by the British rock group Led Zeppelin released in 1971 on their fourth studio album, Zoso, sometimes called Led Zeppelin IV. It is widely accepted as one of the greatest of all rock songs and is the most frequently requested song on FM radio stations in the United States, despite never being 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 issue.

The band began to write the song during the sessions for Led Zeppelin III at Bron-Yr-Aur, Wales, but it was completed at Headley Grange, Hampshire, and finally recorded at Island Studios, London, in December 1970. It is not entirely clear whether a movie title was an inspiration for the song or the title.

The first time the song was played live was during the recording of the Led Zeppelin BBC Sessions.

The song was first played live at Belfast's Ulster Hall on March 5, 1971 and it was performed at every subsequent Led Zeppelin concert from 1975 to 1980, usually as part of a final encore. "Stairway" was also played at Live Aid in 1985 and the 40th anniversary celebration of Atlantic Records in 1988, and by Jimmy Page as an instrumental version on his solo tours.

"Stairway to Heaven" is one of the biggest-selling sheet music publications in rock history. Since 1971, it has sold more than 1.2 million copies.

The lyrics, written by Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant next to an evening log fire, were inspired by his search for spiritual perfection. A seminal influence was the book Magic Arts in Celtic Britain by Lewis Spence, which Plant had recently read; it contained references to May Queens, pipers, and "bustling hedgerows."

Jimmy Page with his double-necked guitarThe song is a multi-movement suite. A quiet introduction featuring acoustic guitar and recorder gradually moves into to a slow electric middle section, before the faster hard rock final section. This style is found in many Zeppelin songs recorded after Stairway to Heaven's release.

The guitar introduction is one of the most famous pieces ever played on the guitar, but was in fact borrowed from the song Taurus by Spirit, who were touring with Led Zeppelin at the time. They have been interviewed about this and apparently do not mind. It opens with an Am-Fmaj7 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 an organ, and later, a mellotron to synthesize this arrangement in live performances) and a Rhodes electric piano in the middle section. The extended Jimmy Page guitar solo in the song's final section was played for the recording on a 1958 Fender Telecaster plugged into a Supro amplifier. Three different solos were recorded with Page deciding to keep the one which he felt best suited the theme of the song. 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 later live versions Page switched to using a double-necked 6/12 1968 Gibson EDS-1275, which was custom-built by Roger Giffin of Gibson's West Coast Custom Shop.

Critics of rock and roll songs (and of Led Zeppelin in particular) have alleged that a backward message is recorded into "Stairway to Heaven." If a portion of the song is played backwards, then supposedly words beginning with "Oh, here's to my sweet Satan" can be heard [1]. Christian fundamentalists and others have interpreted different lyrics from the allegedly-backmasked portion, which most agree to be the lines beginning with "If there's a bustle in your hedgerow...". The theory was primarily advanced by Michael Mills, Jacob Aranza, and Jeff Godwin, sometimes offering detailed analyses of the hidden meanings of both the "backwards" and actual lyrics.

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"[2]. Robert Plant expressed frustration with the accusations in an interview [3]: "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."


The opening chord progression in "Stairway to Heaven" is similar to that of the 1968 instrumental "Taurus" by the group Spirit. The group opened for Spirit on a 1968 tour. While nobody in the group has ever cited influence from the track, the band was known to cover the Spirit song Fresh Garbage during their early days, and Jimmy Page has said that his use of a theremin was inspired by seeing Randy California use one. It is also quite similar to a very slowed-down version of the opening to the Irish traditional song "The Irish Rover".

The tendency for many aspiring guitar players to learn to play the introduction to the song was spoofed in the 1992 Mike Myers movie Wayne's World, when a "No Stairway to Heaven" regulation is enforced at a music store visited by the title character. The intro was replaced with a more generic, non-"Stairway" riff in later releases of the movie, making the joke incomprehensible. Plant himself referenced the scene's "No Stairway? Denied!" line during a concert appearance with Page in 1995.

In the early 1990s, each episode of the Australian chat show The Money or the Gun ended with a different group performing an idiosyncratic cover version of "Stairway to Heaven". From a diverse range that included an Elvis impersonator, Kate Ceberano, and the Doug Anthony All Stars, the best remembered is Rolf Harris's version (complete with didgeridoo and wobble board), which reached the Top 10 on the UK singles charts. Harris is said to have received death threats from fans of the song for his version of this iconic rock anthem.

A compilation album, 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, Michael Turkic, The Ministry of Fun, Neil Pepper, Pardon Me Boys, Robyne Dunn, The Rock Lobsters, Rolf Harris, Sandra Hahn, Vegimite Reggae and others.

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 Plant has described this as his favorite cover version of the song.

A heavy metal band Down named their second album A Bustle in Your Hedgerow, which is a quotation from this song.

The Butthole Surfers, in an act of parody and/or tribute, released an album in 1988 called Hairway to Steven.
On original versions of the song "Tribute" by Tenacious D (as well as on the Tenacious D TV show) one can hear Kyle Gass play the opening to "Stairway to Heaven", and, commonly, during live performances after the song is completed, harmoniously sing "And they're playing the best song in the world", in a manner identical to the ending lyrics of "Stairway to Heaven" ("And she's buy-y-ying a stair-r-way to heav-en").

Robert Plant sings the phrase "Stairway to Heaven" only three times in the entire length of the song.
In 1991 an Albuquerque, New Mexico radio station kicked off its Classic Rock format by playing "Stairway to Heaven" for 24 hours straight.

In 1998 ApologetiX recorded a parody called "Narrow Way to Heaven" on the album Jesus Christ Morningstar.
On an episode of South Park, Stan, Kyle, and Cartman hold a contest. The winner will replace Kenny as the fourth member of the group. Towlie performs the intro to Stairway To Heaven but messes up after the first few chords.

More Led Zeppelin - Stairway to Heaven information, songfacts and lyric meanings at

Stairway to heaven songfacts | Stairway to heaven tab | Stairway to heaven live tab | Stairway to heaven Lyric

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