The Theiving Magpie: Jimmy Page's Dubious Recording Legacy
July 23, 2007 2:01 PM   Subscribe

The Theiving Magpie: Jimmy Page's Dubious Recording Legacy [more inside]
posted by anazgnos (92 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
[manual more-insidery]
MUSICIAN: I understand "Dazed and Confused" was originally a song by Jake Holmes. Is that true?
PAGE: [Sourly] I don't know. I don't know. [Inhaling] I don't know about all that.
MUSICIAN: Do you remember the process of writing that song?
PAGE: Well, I did that with the Yardbirds originally.... The Yardbirds were such a good band for a guitarist to play in that I came up with a lot of riffs and ideas out of that, and I employed quite a lot of those in the early Zeppelin stuff.
MUSICIAN: But Jake Holmes, a successful jingle writer in New York, claims (pdf) on his 1967 record that he wrote the original song.
PAGE: Hmm. Well, I don't know. I don't know about that. I'd rather not get into it because I don't know all the circumstances. What's he got, The riff or whatever? Because Robert wrote some of the lyrics for that on the album. But he was only listening to...we extended it from the one that we were playing with the Yardbirds.
MUSICIAN: Did you bring it into the Yardbirds?
PAGE: No, I think we played it 'round a sort of melody line or something that Keith [Relf] had. So I don't know. I haven't heard Jake Holmes so I don't know what it's all about anyway. Usually my riffs are pretty damn original [laughs] What can I say?
Hm, defensive much? Sure, by the time Zeppelin came along, the practice of 'borrowing' from obscure blues sources was well enshrined in British rock. (Though some were good enough to acknowledge their debt) But taking it a step further, and even apart from the above, Page was more than content to crib notes off of his immediate peers (bowed guitar at 1:40) , as well.
(grain of salt not included)

[end of manual more-insidery]
posted by cortex at 2:06 PM on July 23, 2007


[Way, way too much on the front page originally, anazgnos.]
posted by cortex at 2:12 PM on July 23, 2007


Wait a minute, a discussion of British Rockers using blues riffs without mention of Clapton. And with a Yardbirds reference, too!

DISGUSTED!

[not disgusted]
posted by absalom at 2:13 PM on July 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


1. It hardly takes a rocket scientist to deduce that many, many Zeppelin songs are ripped-off/mutated blues songs.
2. They should have been more open about this.
3. This does not diminish the fact that Page could play the guitar like a fucking chainsaw.

if you ask me, the best Zeppelin songs are the ones where they just ran with the British blues thing, rather than getting all mystical-Tolkien...
posted by COBRA! at 2:19 PM on July 23, 2007


3. This does not diminish the fact that Page could play the guitar like a fucking chainsaw.

or Bonham's monumental achievements behind the kit.
posted by jonmc at 2:20 PM on July 23, 2007


{pedantic} "borrowing" from uncredited sources was not a practice exclusive to British rock by any means, Elvis P himself earned a lot of enmity for this type of behavior{/pedantic}
posted by edgeways at 2:20 PM on July 23, 2007


the practice of 'borrowing' from obscure blues sources was well enshrined in British rock

Perhaps you should also have quotes around "obscure" as well as much of the borrowing came from pretty mainstream blues sources!

It isn't like blues tunes are original to the "original" artists though, so what's one more musician in the long chain of the song's history? Led Zeppelin did some pretty good renditions of songs plus they threw in Lord of the Rings freakyness (which is good for the high school potheads). That they don't acknowledge sources makes them assholes, but not bad at what they did.
posted by Pollomacho at 2:22 PM on July 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


There was a rumour last week (now discredited) that Page & Beck were going to get back with the Yardbirds, with Clapton nowhere in sight. It's not happening, but man, would we have been getting the best possible end of that deal if it had!

And cortex, just to understand, was it just too much text-volume in the original post? I didn't think it looked that much heavier than what I was used to seeing on the main page...no complaint, but it's my first post and I want to get it right in the future...
posted by anazgnos at 2:23 PM on July 23, 2007


There was a rumour last week (now discredited) that Page & Beck were going to get back with the Yardbirds, with Clapton nowhere in sight.

That would require divine intervention.

Also, you seem to have discovered that British hard rock bands often used blues songs as launching pads for their own musical ideas. Congratulations on your firm grasp of the obvious.
posted by jonmc at 2:26 PM on July 23, 2007


It isn't like blues tunes are original to the "original" artists though, so what's one more musician in the long chain of the song's history?

That's very true, but in some cases at least, it's the difference between the words under the song being "traditional, arranged by _" vs "written by Page/Plant"
posted by anazgnos at 2:26 PM on July 23, 2007


I hate to break it to blues musicians, but blues riffs are hardly complex melodies. The blues scale is five notes, and four of them in descending order make up the "Dazed and Confused" bass line.

How many songs rip off stupid Pachelbel's Canon? Here's one for you: the opening of the two-hand tapping guitar solo in Metallica's "One" cribs Randy Rhodes's solo in Ozzy's "Crazy Train", which in turn echoes the tapping section of Van Halen's "Eruption". How could such injustice be allowed to continue! Oh, wait, because all those solos tap a suspended fourth resolving to a dominant fifth or first

What Zeppelin did that Clapton, the Stones, et al. didn't do was to make it impossible for anyone coming after Zeppelin to crib those old blues musicians for risk of sounding like they copied Zeppelin.

In other words, Led Zeppelin distilled blues to its essence, then reformulated it and produced it for rock. Jimmy Page was in the Yardbirds when he was 16 for heaven's sake. A sixteen year old hasn't had time to develop their own voice, and thus can't help sounding like whatever music they like.
posted by Pastabagel at 2:27 PM on July 23, 2007 [3 favorites]


anazgnos, yeah, the problem was just the six or so inches of post. Nothing specifically wrong with a quote or a wealth of links in general, but it's generally best to keep the actual length of the front-page text down and avoid paragraph breaks. Composing a sort of "furthermore" comment ahead of time to post immediately is a decent compromise, if the post merits a long quote or such.
posted by cortex at 2:30 PM on July 23, 2007


There's always someone, somewhere
With a big nose, who knows
who trips you up and laughs
When you fall
posted by everichon at 2:30 PM on July 23, 2007



There was a rumour last week (now discredited) that Page & Beck were going to get back with the Yardbirds, with Clapton nowhere in sight.

That would require divine intervention.


Whether you consider it legitimate or not, McCarty & Dreja have been touring as the Yardbirds for years.

Also, you seem to have discovered that British hard rock bands often used blues songs as launching pads for their own musical ideas. Congratulations on your firm grasp of the obvious.

I didn't realize Jake Holmes, Bert Jansch and the Creation were considered blues.
posted by anazgnos at 2:31 PM on July 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


There was a rumour last week (now discredited) that Page & Beck were going to get back with the Yardbirds, with Clapton nowhere in sight. It's not happening, but man, would we have been getting the best possible end of that deal if it had!

That's what I love about these rock'n'rollers, man. I get older, they stay the same age.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 2:34 PM on July 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Everyone's stealing from someone
Burglars get burgled as well
There's nothing that's new under heaven
There's nothing unique over hell

Ok, I'm done now, fa real.
posted by everichon at 2:34 PM on July 23, 2007


I didn't realize Jake Holmes, Bert Jansch and the Creation were considered blues.

They aren't but the principle remains the same. Popular music (blues, rock, soul, country, etc) is derivative by nature (this is not a bad thing). People pick up tricks and ideas from other artists and screw around with them. That's the way it works. Very few ideas develop in a vacuum.
posted by jonmc at 2:34 PM on July 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


The Yardbirds' live take on "Dazed and Confused" certainly outshines Led Zeppelin's studio and live versions.

Although I have never heard the Yardbirds' version, I highly doubt this is true.

He's just hatin'
posted by chillmost at 2:41 PM on July 23, 2007


I don't disagree with any of that. My argument would be that Page's "borrowing" was maybe a bit more systematic and more self-conscious (and to a much greater financial benefit) than the average give/take/push/pull of influences in popular music. Maybe you disagree; that's for everyone to decide for themselves. I've always enjoyed discussions on this subject but I guess you consider it a non-starter.
posted by anazgnos at 2:42 PM on July 23, 2007


jonmc writes "People pick up tricks and ideas from other artists and screw around with them. That's the way it works."

That's true, but at least white boy blues groups like Cream and Canned Heat and their American contemporaries like Bonnie Raitt had the respect to acknowledge when they covered a song, and subsequently pay its royalties. Page had the annoying habit of lifting entire songs without credit, which was an old tradition, true, but not quite the same as borrowing or giving a nod. By not acknowledging his sources, Page was also depriving his audience of discovering those influences as directly as they could have if he had just named them and not been such a twat about it.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:46 PM on July 23, 2007


American contemporaries like Canned Heat and Bonnie Raitt, that was supposed to be ...
posted by krinklyfig at 2:47 PM on July 23, 2007


krinklyfig: that much is true, but that dosen't decrease the quality of their work any.
posted by jonmc at 2:48 PM on July 23, 2007


I thought "The Thieving Magpie" was a Marillion record.
posted by oats at 2:48 PM on July 23, 2007


(Actually, I knew it was a Marillion record, because my thesis office mate had a vinyl copy and played it like once a day in the office for quite some time.)
posted by oats at 2:50 PM on July 23, 2007


Back in my college days in Mississippi, a classmate came back from work with a story to tell. He claimed that during a shift at Applebees (I shit you not) out by the highway, his manager announced that the restaurant would be closed for a special event and that he needed one cook and one server to volunteer to work the event. All others would be given the lunch shift off. My friend volunteered to be the server.

At about noon the day of the "event" the Applebees was completely empty save the manager, my friend and the lone cook in the back. The place was shut and the closed sign hung on the door. A limo arrived on one side of the store, arriving from the South (towards New Orleans) and soon thereafter another arrived on the other side from the North (towards Memphis). Out of the one from the South stepped Robert Plant and from the other came John Lee Hooker.

Apparently the discussions did not go well and Plant left disappointed. Why Applebees? Was this a failed collaberation? Did it have anything to do with the No Quarter album that came out not long after? Did this meeting ever actually take place or was my friend full of shit? Only Robert Plant knows the answers to these mysteries.
posted by Pollomacho at 2:55 PM on July 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Page used a guitar part in Stairway to Heaven that was written by Randy California. It's disputed as to wether or not Page had Randy's permission.
posted by Sailormom at 3:03 PM on July 23, 2007


jonmc writes "that much is true, but that dosen't decrease the quality of their work any."

Well, sure, in that they were a monumental band. John Bonham was my first inspiration to play drums. But it did change the way I saw Jimmy Page. I can separate the art from the artist, but this is something that directly involves the art. It annoys me, because he is such a phenomenally talented player and writer that, if he had just given credit in the first place (without the courts forcing him to), this never would have been an issue. Everyone borrows, but everyone has to find their own voice (and Page did this, pretty quickly). You gotta be humble before those who came before you and pay proper respect for what they did.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:03 PM on July 23, 2007


How Many More Times is probably the most egregious example, but their version of it still fucking rocks.

I can't abide no Zep haters. I just can't.
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:09 PM on July 23, 2007


Why Applebees? Clearly Robert Plant was trying to renegotiate the terms of the sale of his soul, and John Lee Hooker is the devil. And the Applebees was built on the crossroads where they first met.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 3:11 PM on July 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


I can't abide no Zep haters. I just can't.

A-fucking-men, brother.

I agree that Zep not crediting and paying Willie Dixon, Bukka White, Howlin Wolf (and Jake Holmes) was a shitty move, but at the same time Zep got more young players interested in the blues than any band except the Rolling Stones.

As for the Creation, Page borrowed a move and a gimmick not a song. Pete Townshend lifted his trademark 'windmill' move from watching Keith Richards do a slashing move on stage. Everybody cops licks and moves and everything else.
posted by jonmc at 3:15 PM on July 23, 2007


The modern recording industry has made us all very aware of who owns things. Blues, and almost all roots music, was based on the idea of a shared cultural and musical legacy, a living and breathing organism that absorbed new ideas, mutated, and continued on. Early blues players freely borrowed from one another. That helped the style evolve and become the basis of a great deal of modern music.

If it weren't for money and the fighting over it, Willie Dixon wouldn't have had to sue Led Zeppelin, we wouldn't be seeing Page or Clapton or anyone who played/borrowed from the blues as a plagiarist. We'd be seeing them as a related thread in a rich tapestry.
posted by SaintCynr at 3:15 PM on July 23, 2007


Perhaps the question itself is moot.
Perhaps citing these songs is nothing but an exercise in semantics.
Perhaps it’s a waste of time to read pretentious drivel by someone who uses the phrase “nom de guerre” - with an exclaimation point even.
(because writing copy for an online music magazine with warped perspectives? Yeah, just like a f’ing war)

Elmore James took his trademark tune (Dust My Broom) from Robert Johnson, everyone borrowed from Johnson, but Johnson himself clipped it from Kokomo Arnold.
Far as I’m concerned Muddy Waters invented electricity, but he drew heavily from Son House (and Johnson).
The Yardbirds did take Sonny Boy Williamson with them on tour, but he stabbed a guy, so he had to split. These things happened. Meantime music became a business.

Maybe it’s about giving credit, but then would Led Zep still deserve... whatever the hell “prestige” is.. if they gave it?
Led Zep sounds good to me. I like the music. So for some reason I shouldn’t now?
(These boys is not white! They is not white! - O Brother)

You want to talk seriously, let’s talk Blind Lemon Jefferson. That guy was an artist unto himself, purely original.
But if we allow that musicians draw from each other, ok.
Then creditwise Paige & Led Zep didn’t give people credit, got sued for it and settled.
I think Dylan pretty much acknowleged “All Along the Watchtower” became Hendrix’s tune when he heard him cover it. Granted Dylan wrote it, but so what? Jimi blew the doors of that tune. He recreated it and made it his. Only difference is credit. And people listen to something and go to concerts because it sounds good, they don’t listen to music because of someone’s percieved accolades or ‘right’ to music or the name of their band or whatever....well, unpretentious people don’t anyway.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:39 PM on July 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Who cares!? Play Trampled Under Foot!!!!!
posted by Liquidwolf at 3:39 PM on July 23, 2007


As for the Creation, Page borrowed a move and a gimmick not a song. Pete Townshend lifted his trademark 'windmill' move from watching Keith Richards do a slashing move on stage. Everybody cops licks and moves and everything else.

Right...but Pete Townshend happily tells interviewers where he got his windmill from. Page, on the other hand, gets evasive when asked about Ed Phillips, and claims he got the bow idea from watching a session violinist. Really...it's not about borrowing itself...it's about being all shady about it and refusing to come clean when they get called on it.

For the record, though, by no stretch am I a Zep hater. Arguably they contributed a lot more to rock than people who were more "reverent" toward their sources. But still, no reason not to call them out on it.
posted by anazgnos at 3:43 PM on July 23, 2007


Sure, but you're not telling any serious rock fan anything they don't know. This isn't exactly news.
posted by jonmc at 3:49 PM on July 23, 2007


I really can't stand Led Zeppelin. They're basically an early version of Rush that got more pussy, or at least sang about getting more pussy.

Now the Yardbirds -- they rocked.
posted by bardic at 3:52 PM on July 23, 2007


If Jimi Hendrix had put his name on "Watchtower", everyone would recognize that as a shitty move. Being influenced is one thing, but outright theft of someone else's work makes you a grade-A asshole.
posted by InfidelZombie at 3:52 PM on July 23, 2007


Sure, but you're not telling any serious rock fan anything they don't know. This isn't exactly news.

And this isn't exactly a Serious Rock News blog.
posted by anazgnos at 3:56 PM on July 23, 2007


No, but there's a large contingent of serious rock fans here and most readers here are fairly knowlegeable about music and Led Zeppelin is a very well known band.
posted by jonmc at 3:59 PM on July 23, 2007


Well...I did not post this with the assumption that I was going to be blowing the doors off anybody's ideas about Zeppelin. I'm aware this is a well-trod subject...but I didn't see any previous posts about it, and thought it might stir up some discussion. And so it has.
posted by anazgnos at 4:04 PM on July 23, 2007


The post is fine anazgnos, don't fret.
posted by sciurus at 4:11 PM on July 23, 2007


Mrs Peel: He's lying!
Ruttling Orange Peel: I ain't lying!
Mrs Peel: He's always lying!
Ruttling Orange Peel: I ain't lying!
Mrs Peel: Everytime there's a documentary on white music around here he claims he started it all.
Ruttling Orange Peel: I did, I did, I did!
Mrs Peel: Last week he claimed he started Everly Brothers.
posted by jamaro at 4:16 PM on July 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


heh - I called Page a "thieving magpie" in this thread. Shouldn't I get a credit in the article?


"And you need some Jimmy Page links, cause he was a thieving magpie if there ever was one."
posted by vronsky at 4:20 PM on July 23, 2007


I'm with SaintCynr. This is a controversy that exists only because huge amounts of money entered into the equation. If we treated jazz the same way we treat this, there'd be mutiny at every show. We don't, because that's not how jazz works. That's not how blues works, either, but the fact is that Led Zep didn't represent that culture, they represented the culture of popular music backed by big bucks.

A culture conflict is all it is, really, with Led Zep being of particular focus because of their strong attachments to both.
posted by invitapriore at 4:23 PM on July 23, 2007


Is it just me, or is there a certain lack of a smoking gun in this piece?

The closest thing would be the part about "Dazed and Confused," and even then, apparently the original artist decided not to pursue legal action. I wonder why he would do that, considering that others sued Page on the same grounds and won. Perhaps he didn't have much of a case?

Looks like a lot of stuff was settled in and out of court, which would make this pretty much moot.

The rest? I can't imagine that what Page was doing was too different from what everyone else was doing at the time. I've heard that the main riff behind Cream's Sunshine of Your Love was actually being thrown around by many bands at the time, and that Cream was just the first one to use it in a popular song.
posted by Afroblanco at 4:24 PM on July 23, 2007


Perhaps he didn't have much of a case?

I don't think anyone could seriously claim that Zep's song is unrelated to Holmes'. The dude got rich off "Be All That You Can Be", so he doesn't need the money, and probably figured the costs of taking Page on would outweigh the benefits.

Plant can get credit for the new words, but I don't think we're talking about mere similarity here...lawsuits have been won for far, far less.
posted by anazgnos at 4:34 PM on July 23, 2007


the practice of 'borrowing' from obscure blues sources was well enshrined in the blues.

I mentioned that in my obscure comment about Jake Holmes in the "songs you didnt know were covers" thread like two weeks ago.
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:40 PM on July 23, 2007


The Theiving Magpie: Jimmy Page's Dubious Recording Legacy

"'i' before 'e' except after 'c'." ; )
posted by ericb at 4:46 PM on July 23, 2007


Plant can get credit for the new words, but I don't think we're talking about

I just listened to the track, and ok, you have a point. Had I not known who it was, I probably would have mistaken it for some acoustic Zep or something.

I guess I fall somewhere between the article's vilifying tone and the fawning praise that Page gets from many in this thread. I think that you could probably pick out any member of the rock guitar canon, especially one who is estimated to have played on 60% (!) of the music released in Britain during a three-year stretch, and do an "expose" like this article.

Seriously. Who would survive such a treatment? Hendrix? Lennon? Clapton?

It seems like this sort of thing was a lot easier to get away with back when the music industry and its IP apparatus were less sophisticated. Nowadays, they mostly just specialize in sticking it to the artists wholesale, regardless of whose names appear in the liner notes.
posted by Afroblanco at 5:37 PM on July 23, 2007


Fuck, man. ZZ Top.
posted by spitbull at 5:38 PM on July 23, 2007


The rest? I can't imagine that what Page was doing was too different from what everyone else was doing at the time. I've heard that the main riff behind Cream's Sunshine of Your Love was actually being thrown around by many bands at the time, and that Cream was just the first one to use it in a popular song.

I dunno about that, but I do know the first few bars of Clapton's solo in that tune directly quote the melody of "Blue Moon".
posted by arto at 5:43 PM on July 23, 2007


at least zz top made up their own words.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 5:56 PM on July 23, 2007


Who would survive such a treatment? Hendrix? Lennon? Clapton?

Yeah, they would all survive such a treatment. That's why you don't see websites like that about them.
posted by The World Famous at 6:11 PM on July 23, 2007


On the one hand, Led Zeppelin is awesome.

On the other hand, Jimmy Page seems to have not been very concerned about crediting other people for their influences on him.

What would actually bother me, though, is if Led Zeppelin had been litigious about other people biting their riffs or lyrics.. Have they been?

I mean, 99% of heavy metal is just riffs on Zeppelin.
posted by empath at 6:29 PM on July 23, 2007


I think this discussion is timely and topical - for 1973.

It's 2007. Why anyone is still flogging this dead horse is beyond me.
posted by ikkyu2 at 6:54 PM on July 23, 2007


LOLZOSO

(Sorry, couldn't resist.)
posted by Neilopolis at 7:17 PM on July 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


ikkyu2, yes, exactly. I do appreciate the post though, because as a guitar player (not musician) reading the article is kind of like reading a guitar bible. Yea, this came from there etc.

What really strikes a chord with me is the idea that back then, way pre-Led Zeppelin, nobody gave a shit about giving credit to some old black men from the Southern U.S. That was just a sign of the times. So get over it!

Big Zeppelin fan here, but hey man, we all know it was really Jimmy down there at the cross-roads. (Selling his soul and whatnot.)
posted by snsranch at 7:33 PM on July 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Page, on the other hand, gets evasive when asked about Ed Phillips, and claims he got the bow idea from watching a session violinist.

It's not necessarily evasiveness. Page did a lot of session work during the 1960s and, according to the account I've read, Page borrowed the guitar-bowing technique sometime during some sessions he did with the Larry Page Orchestra (no relation IIRC).
posted by jonp72 at 7:36 PM on July 23, 2007



Page used a guitar part in Stairway to Heaven that was written by Randy California. It's disputed as to wether or not Page had Randy's permission.
posted by Sailormom at 6:03 PM on July 23


Randy California was a guitar player in Spirit. The alleged duplication was based on the song "Taurus". Spirit's "Taurus" vs. Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven".

The chord sequence in one part is the same, but the arpeggio isn't exactly the same, and the structure diverges after than, with "Taurus" taking on a more conventional folk sound.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:46 PM on July 23, 2007


And while we're on the subject, this is awesome.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:56 PM on July 23, 2007


Nihil sub sole novum, indeed.

Ain't nobody cared about the "copyright" until someone else figured they could make money off it (and rarely is it the actual copyright holder who benefits most from the copyright process). Would we even have made it this far as a society if Homer had spent time running around suing people who recited the Iliad and the Odyssey? Would we even still have the bible if licensing fees were involved?

Does it make anyone feel any different to see Bob Dylan is apparently guilty, too: Here, here, and here? (third link PDF; all three in one PDF here).

I was raised on folk music and learned to play classical and jazz. I'm a firm believer in open-source software. And yet I tell my artist wife she should try to patent any ideas she has for "new" processes and copyright any distinctive work.

What has become of us all?
posted by tarnish at 8:17 PM on July 23, 2007


And while we're on the subject, this is awesome.

Man, I can't believe I made it through my stoned college years without hearing Stairway backwards. Devil's music, indeed.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:33 PM on July 23, 2007


krinklyfig: that much is true, but that dosen't decrease the quality of their work any.

Perhaps not, but it does mean that while bands like the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin are getting fat off their work, Muddy Waters is struggling to make a living painting ceilings for Marshall Chess.

At least the Stones had the good grace to try and support those artists whose earlier efforts had led to their fame. Jimmy Page was too busy scoffing down Cakes of Light to worry about such matters though.

Do what thou wilt, doncha know?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:49 PM on July 23, 2007


And while we're on the subject, this is awesome.

Wow, that IS awesome. If I were in a rock band I'd cover "Stairway" backwards, just like that... and nobody would know! Until they played us backwards, of course.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 10:01 PM on July 23, 2007


Who cares!? Play Trampled Under Foot!!!!!

you mean "superstition" by stevie wonder?
posted by pyramid termite at 1:06 AM on July 24, 2007


Spirit's "Taurus" vs. Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" .

The chord sequence in one part is the same, but the arpeggio isn't exactly the same


it also doesn't sound that hard to play ... and there are tons of similar descending riffs ... dear prudence, while my guitar gently weeps, december by collective soul, oh, yeah, dazed and confused

i'm acquitting jimmy page on this count ... of course, that's what happens when you get caught nicking riffs and songs ... people start thinking everything you play is ripped off
posted by pyramid termite at 1:20 AM on July 24, 2007


Does anyone remember laughter?
posted by psmealey at 2:57 AM on July 24, 2007 [3 favorites]


Strider!
posted by poppo at 4:23 AM on July 24, 2007


Whoa, the whole "Sure it kinda sounds like 'Taurus', but not exactly" thing ignores the fact proto-Zep was hanging around Spirit before they ever wrote Stairway to Heaven. They were definitely aware of it. And they had a funny way of making a "deliberate homage" with Bring It On Home. Or any of the other songs that use the riff and the lyrics and affect the same singing style. I loved Zep as a kid and still like them just fine, but there's no sense excusing them for being dicks just because they're Zep.

/weeps for the $20 he spent as a dumb kid on a Spirit two-disc set.
posted by yerfatma at 5:10 AM on July 24, 2007


Not much of this is news, at least to me (a longtime Yardbirds fan), but I think it's valid that Page and the rest of Zep should be outed for their plagiarism. If it could be found to the same extent in other artists, then the same should apply.

Incidentally, the Small Faces management which had "shady underworld connections" was Sharon Osbourne's father Don Arden, who died last Saturday.
posted by No Mutant Enemy at 5:10 AM on July 24, 2007


If half of what was written in Hammer of the Gods is true (and most of it, was corroborated in press accounts over the years), the fact that they stole tunes and didn't give sufficient credit to their composers is pretty minor in comparison to the low-life, abysmal, violent, abusive human beings they were at the height of their popularity.

Zeppelin still rocks, however.
posted by psmealey at 5:36 AM on July 24, 2007


Has anybody seen the bridge?
posted by jquinby at 6:51 AM on July 24, 2007


Peter McDermott's onto it; do what thou wilt / love is the law. Anyway these arguments seem based in pettiness and jealousy, not in the spirit of celebrating music. Zeppelin has 82 songs, give or take, on their studio recordings. Four are wholly credited to others (mainly Willie Dixon, known to have claimed authorship of traditional blues for himself, so he knew the drill); three include credit to other writers, acknowleging their source; two are listed as "trad." I'm aware that such honesty was not always the case, however, that's 9 out of 82, or a little over 1%, and a much larger percentage of Zeppelin's music than that rocks. Page is right, most of his riffs are nothing if not the most original on the planet. Early on, Plant stole alot of lyrics wholesale; but I think it was done in the correct spirit, that he genuinely loved the music and needed something to sing (maybe he got a little bad advice about it from his friend, the young Pagey, too). Anyway, that famous walking bass line from "Dazed" is an old musical form called a chaconne, hardly original to Jake Holmes; and I read a piece once (of course even Google can't find it for me now) that linked the main guitar part in "Stairway" to something written for lute in the 17th century. "Stairway" is literally the most played rock song in history, yet Randy California never sued... you'd have to be a Zep hater not to wonder why. Maybe he knew that's where it belongs in the bigger scheme of things?
posted by CathyK at 7:31 AM on July 24, 2007


“but outright theft of someone else's work makes you a grade-A asshole.”

And that detracts enjoying listening to their music - how?

Roman Polanski is a child raping peice of shit, he should be in jail, doesn’t change the fact that I like some of his movies.
posted by Smedleyman at 7:38 AM on July 24, 2007


It ought to be noted that just because a song has a descending bass line does NOT mean that it plagiarizes any one of the countless other songs that have descending bass lines... that'd be akin to claiming ownership of "subject-verb-object" sentence construction. IANAL, but I believe the burden of proof (legally and morally) is MUCH higher. Dear Prudence doesn't sound anything like Stairway to Heaven (which is your point, I think - right pyramid termite?).
posted by fingers_of_fire at 8:49 AM on July 24, 2007


I might be with you on that, Smed, if I was a fan. I never particularly cared for their music, but I had some respect for them creatively. After learning about this, that's gone.
posted by InfidelZombie at 9:25 AM on July 24, 2007


In that case InfidelZombie we’d be arguing a matter of taste, and that’s pointless. If you don’t like their music or listen to them it doesn’t really matter.
From my perspective, I do like their music and listen to them. What I think of them personally, whether I respect them as artists is, to me, irrelevent to that experiance. In a sense, that’s a cession to your point.
Sue them into the poorhouse for all I care, strip their names from the credits, but I’m still going to listen to Black Dog.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:32 AM on July 24, 2007


You can Hear for Yourself
posted by svenvog at 11:23 AM on July 24, 2007 [3 favorites]


As CathyK points out, it's only a small part of the Zeppelin canon here we're talking about, and nearly all of it from the first couple albums (Stairway excepted). Oh, and add "Rock n Roll" which was just a pastiche of classic 50s riffs but hell, they threw that song together in what, 15 minutes and it's still one of the best pure rock n roll songs ever. The majority of the music came straight out of Page and Jones's heads (and Jones contributions were quite significant). And live, only the Who could command as much muscle and grandeur as Zep could.

Oh, and in 1977, I sat in the tenth row of the old Met Center in Bloomington Minnesota and saw this song. And I have never seen anything like it since.
posted by Ber at 11:38 AM on July 24, 2007


For whatever it's worth, I had all but written off Led Zeppelin as an overhyped, suburban white boy infatuation until about 2 years ago when, on a lark, I bought that two DVD live set. It definitely turned this jaded geezer punk rocker back into a fan. The energy, range and power of those live shows (particularly the astonishing black and white footage from 1969) is, to use an overused but applicable term: awesome.
posted by psmealey at 11:45 AM on July 24, 2007


""And they had a funny way of making a "deliberate homage" with Bring It On Home. Or any of the other songs that use the riff and the lyrics and affect the same singing style."

Only the intro of the song is a homage. The actual song is totally different.
posted by I-baLL at 11:47 AM on July 24, 2007


Anyone who loved the Zepp before, then hears this crap, and then no longer likes the Zepp, is a douchebag. Any Zeppelin listener not previously aware that much of the music is derivative is simply not a very curious person and probably opens his mouth as he breathes. It doesn't matter, folks. It doesn't matter because I as a teenager used to wear headphones and air drum and wish I was John Bonham. No little pinhead with his foppish little folder of "evidence" that Led Zeppelin "stole" can take that away from me. Led Zeppelin didn't steal anything. They transcended into gods. And they rule.
posted by NedKoppel at 1:23 PM on July 24, 2007


bardic - an early version of Rush?

You do know that Rush started out as a Zeppelin tribute band, right? Because that's the best thing I can say about Rush. Geddy Lee may play the base like a mofo, but only dogs can hear him sing. His shrill voice grates on my nerves.

Page sounds like Page, no matter who he is ripping off. First time I heard a song from the Coverdale/Page album on the radio, I said to myself "No idea who's singing there, but that's for damn sure Jimmy Page on guitar". The fact that he borrowed without credit on a lot of early stuff, well, hell - it doesn't make me want to sell off my Led Zeppelin vinyl.

The fact that so much of rock is lifted straight from the blues is what got me interested in blues in the first place.
posted by caution live frogs at 2:19 PM on July 24, 2007


I can't believe that no one mentioned that Donovan song Sunshine Superman. When Page was a session player, he penned the hook for that tune, as well as a few others (that I'm forgetting at the moment).

The dark one giveth, the dark one taketh away.
posted by psmealey at 4:05 PM on July 24, 2007


Okay, I read to here:

Another Little Games album track, the modish "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor" opens with a guitar riff that Page would later use as the opening chords on Led Zeppelin's "The Rain Song." Yes, it is his music, but his proclivity for recycling his own and others work shows a distinct lack of originality.

How can you be accused of a lack or originality when some of the music you steal is your own stuff??
posted by Rashomon at 5:57 PM on July 24, 2007


Page rips himself off again in the first bridge part of Stairway, which he appropriated nearly directly from Tangerine.

Fucking bastard.

Honestly, if Page gets pilloried for that, why do the Kinks and ACDC get off so lightly, when they made (long) careers out of recycling their own hooks?
posted by psmealey at 6:38 PM on July 24, 2007


Rashomon, good point.

I'll back it by asking if ANY musician has ever not used other songs for seeds for their own songs. Every song is based on existing foundations.

To just continue to beat the dead horse, those blues guys were already done. Their music was picked out of history as reference peices. Most of those old blues guys were lucky to have recorded anything at all. Lucky for us that they did, and lucky for us the Zep paid attention and brought those thing to the forefront. I'm sure that many of those things would have just been lost to time had Jimmy, et al, not revived them in their time.

Side note: Page actually kinda sucks. His work is often choppy and malformed and usually all over the place: and THAT is why I love it!
posted by snsranch at 6:55 PM on July 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


snsranch - I agree with you if you mean after about 1974. But Jimmy's playing on II? Or IV? Untouchable.

And something else that bears mentioning that has been absent in this thread - not only did Pagey (somewhat dubiously) write the music (and I don't care what anyone says about how much he "borrowed", "stole", or whatever - he still employed tremendous amounts of inspiration and creativity to come up with all that shit, so consisitently, for 10+ years), not only is it his guitar playing that graces those compositions, but he also produced the fucking records! In other words, in the world of Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Page is George Martin.

This is truly a monumental talent. A complete freak, by all accounts, but nonetheless - a monumental talent.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 8:38 PM on July 24, 2007


Agreed 100% F_of_F. In the DVD set that I mentioned above, one thing that stood out clearly was that as sloppy as he could be - comes with the territory, as anyone who has ever been the sole guitarist (points to self) in a 4 or 3 piece rock band can you tell you, as you are having to play both rhythm and lead at once - is that his timing was razor sharp. He occasionally hit a few clams when he decided to switch up solos, but it all was right on time and it always sounded great.

I still think "Heartbreaker" contains the greatest wank guitar solo of all time. The way it builds and then resolves back into the break is electrifying. I just listened to it this morning, and it still sounds fresh, after several thousand listens (and almost 40 years). Well, at least much moreso than anything the VanHalen, Gambale, Vai, Satriani or Malmsteen ever did, which sounds dated today.
posted by psmealey at 5:42 AM on July 25, 2007


One Page quote that always stuck with me was something like, "Technique doesn't come into it. I deal in emotion." That idea- that an interesting, engaging guitar part with a couple of flubbed notes is better than a cold-but-flawless one- is the key to Page's awesomeness, and the one thing that I've tried to lift from him.
posted by COBRA! at 7:00 AM on July 25, 2007


COBRA! When are you gonna post on MeFi Music again? And- thanks, that was perfectly stated.
posted by snsranch at 4:17 PM on July 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


Just remember, COBRA!, that it's easy for someone with massive amounts of technique to relegate said technique to second position behind emotion. No doubt that Page was a very emotional player, but the man had (has?) MONSTER chops. Maybe not the chops of Yngwie or Satch, but he could still play his ass off.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 9:27 PM on July 25, 2007


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