Your head is humming and it won't go, in case you don't know
November 8, 2021 9:42 PM   Subscribe

Fifty years of Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven — the epic all epics are measured against. Atlantic Records sent promo copies of Stairway to Heaven to American radio stations, which lapped up the track despite its monumental length...It's all the more remarkable when you consider the song's contents — it has no conventional chorus, it opens with a medieval-sounding combination of recorders and acoustic guitar, the vocals don't start until almost one minute into the song, the drums don't join in until more than four minutes in, and the last two and a half minutes feel like a completely different song...But radio DJs loved it, and so did the listeners. posted by Lyme Drop (91 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
 
The 1990s Australian comedy show Money or the Gun ended each of its episodes with a different band covering the song—A B-52s tribute band, the Australian Doors, an Elvis impersonator, a Beatles act, the actual John Paul Young, Bob Downe, Kate Ceberano, the Sydney Philharmonic Choir...
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 9:56 PM on November 8, 2021 [6 favorites]


I often said in my later adolescence that your adolescence ends when you realize Stairway to Heaven is stupid. But I think now that was a very adolescent thing to say about a great song.
posted by kerf at 10:00 PM on November 8, 2021 [28 favorites]


i love zep unapologetically. however, from my bar band days I'll never forget the green room signs

ALL BANDS
STAIRWAY OR MUSTANG SALLY
$100 PENALTY
posted by j_curiouser at 10:20 PM on November 8, 2021 [29 favorites]


God-tier radio organism WFMU collected 101 STH covers way back in 2006, for those of you still listening to MP3s.
posted by Ten Cold Hot Dogs at 12:03 AM on November 9, 2021 [5 favorites]


From the article…

Led Zeppelin's rock epic was only 21 years old when this scene from the 1992 hit comedy Wayne's World was released….

What? Wayne‘s World came out almost 30 years ago? That can’t possibly be true.

*Does math in head, shrivels up, falls to dust, then blows away.*
posted by chillmost at 12:23 AM on November 9, 2021 [32 favorites]


So many lost opportunities in my youth. The time I spent learning a bad rendition of Stairwat to Heaven, I could have learned an adequate rendition of Cortez the Killer.
posted by sjswitzer at 12:35 AM on November 9, 2021 [13 favorites]


Back in the day, it was always the last song at the high school dance.
posted by fairmettle at 12:36 AM on November 9, 2021 [8 favorites]


Dread Zeppelin
posted by mbo at 12:48 AM on November 9, 2021 [8 favorites]


Here's to my sweet satan
posted by chavenet at 1:12 AM on November 9, 2021 [1 favorite]


(also a wee reminder that Rolf Harris is a convicted pedophile, so his version can fuck reet offfffff)
posted by Ten Cold Hot Dogs at 1:43 AM on November 9, 2021 [6 favorites]


“Medieval sounding?” Lol.

Anyway my favorite cover is Billy C. Wirtz’s “Stairway to Freebird.”
posted by spitbull at 2:28 AM on November 9, 2021 [3 favorites]


There's a huge number of covers thanks to The Money Or The Gun project, but I'll pick out the cover by The Doug Anthony All Stars ft Barry 'Neighbours' Crocker.
posted by ewan at 4:01 AM on November 9, 2021 [3 favorites]


I often said in my later adolescence that your adolescence ends when you realize Stairway to Heaven is stupid. But I think now that was a very adolescent thing to say about a great song.

No, no. Your adolescent self is right. It is a stupid song. That is to say, the lyrics are pretty stupid. But, goddamn, the song a fucking monster. Turn. It. Up.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:03 AM on November 9, 2021 [9 favorites]


A major milestone in the progrock/AOR trend of the time. Your Move/All Good People by Yes was in the air just before, Roundabout by Yes just after.
posted by gimonca at 4:13 AM on November 9, 2021 [7 favorites]


....when they found the car in the wooded ravine and cut him out, three days later, "Lark's Tongues In Aspic Part 2" was still playing on the stereo......
posted by thelonius at 4:17 AM on November 9, 2021 [10 favorites]


"Stupid" and "great" can co-exist perfectly happily in a rock song. Many of the genre's greatest songs have a strong strand of stupid running through them, and are all the better for it.
posted by Paul Slade at 4:30 AM on November 9, 2021 [25 favorites]


When I was a younger lad, a friend and I were lounging, smoking weed, as you do, and listening to Hüsker Dü's Zen Arcade. He says, "This is our generation's Stairway to Heaven." And you know what? We listened to that album so damn much that it was *our* Stairway to Heaven.
posted by NoMich at 4:31 AM on November 9, 2021 [6 favorites]


Don't forget "Stairways to Heaven".
posted by remembrancer at 4:53 AM on November 9, 2021 [2 favorites]


"Stupid" and "great" can co-exist perfectly happily in a rock song.

Or, to put it another way, There's such a fine line between stupid and clever.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:05 AM on November 9, 2021 [7 favorites]


Back in the day, it was always the last song at the high school dance.

The Barenakedladies reference this in their song "Grade 9":

I've got a red leather tie and pair of rugger pants
I put them on and I went to the high school dance
Dad says I have to be home by eleven
Oh man I'm gonna miss "Stairway to Heaven"!


For me the ultimate version of this song is the Heart Kennedy Center performance. I'd rather listen to that than the original.
posted by orange swan at 5:13 AM on November 9, 2021 [9 favorites]


No, no. Your adolescent self is right. It is a stupid song. That is to say, the lyrics are pretty stupid. But, goddamn, the song a fucking monster. Turn. It. Up.

That's the thing with all of Zeppelin's oeuvre, for me. Robert Plant is delivering all these dumb-as-shit lyrics about a) his shvantz; b) witchy shit; or c) Middle Earth; as if they are the absolute sexiest words anyone has ever sung. And ... I guess it worked? For him?

I always thought I hated Zep, but it turns out I just can't stand Plant. The band rocked super hard. Bonham and JPJ were on another level together.
posted by uncleozzy at 5:21 AM on November 9, 2021 [4 favorites]


I never heard this song until middle school, where it became the song to slow dance to, until halfway through when it rocks out and now you have to decide , as a group, whether you abandon the “hug and rock back and forth” style of dancing or just….. keep doing that for the entirety of the song. We hugged it out. All of us.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 5:24 AM on November 9, 2021 [5 favorites]


The crazy arc of this song made it an incredible grade 7 dance tune. Safely slow enough to get us boys peeled off the gym wall, a long steady build, that fast bit where the girls took the boys by their shoulders and pitched them left and right, the wind down… I remember feeling different and wobbly when it ended.
posted by brachiopod at 5:26 AM on November 9, 2021 [1 favorite]


STAIRWAY OR MUSTANG SALLY
$100 PENALTY


There's a lady who rides
A nineteen sixty five
And she's driving a Mustang
Named Sally
posted by credulous at 5:30 AM on November 9, 2021 [57 favorites]


Bonham and JPJ

There is an excellent old Youtube video of Jones demonstrating some Zeppelin bass lines, and a couple of cool secrets (like the octaves in "Whole Lotta Love"), with no amp but really new bass strings, here (part two).
posted by thelonius at 5:45 AM on November 9, 2021 [6 favorites]




I hated Zep and this song in high-school in the 70s because it was so stupid and such a favorite of meat-head boys but over the years I've come to realize how smart their stupidity was and damn their stuff still sounds great cranked up on a car stereo in the summer.
posted by octothorpe at 5:54 AM on November 9, 2021


This song always cracks me up because yes, it was always the last song at the high school dance, and freshman year I went with the boy I had a big crush on. This song comes on, we’re slow dancing, he leans down to kiss me, and he just sort of puts his tongue in my mouth. And that’s it. His tongue is just lying lifeless in my mouth. Nothing is happening. By that point in my young life I had already done plenty of kissing so I was sort of confusedly trying, with my own tongue, to inquire if it was alive. Hello? Are you okay? Then mercifully the middle of the song arrived and this strange experience was over.

Some time later I heard his older brother’s friend use the expression “slip her the tongue” and suddenly I realized that the poor lad had taken it literally.
posted by HotToddy at 6:29 AM on November 9, 2021 [16 favorites]


Growing up, my older sisters had four albums that they would play ad nauseum: Billy Joel’s The Stranger, Supertramp’s Breakfast In America, Queen’s News of the World, and Led Zeppelin IV. But the only track they would ever play from IV was Stairway. Over and over.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 6:51 AM on November 9, 2021 [2 favorites]


I have never heard of the idea that Stairway would be a last dance song. That is fascinating.
posted by dismas at 6:52 AM on November 9, 2021 [6 favorites]


The only time I recall this being played at a high school
dance at all was at grad. It was the last song of the evening and my gf and I left halfway through because we wanted to get to the afterparty. The floor was pretty empty by then.
posted by nubs at 6:56 AM on November 9, 2021


(also a wee reminder that Rolf Harris is a convicted pedophile, so his version can fuck reet offfffff)

Sorry, wouldn't have included that link had I known that.
posted by Lyme Drop at 6:58 AM on November 9, 2021 [2 favorites]


I fascinated that, on the album, "Stairway" is right in the middle of two songs about Lord of the Rings.
posted by riruro at 6:59 AM on November 9, 2021 [4 favorites]


I was the stoner kid in the 80s arguing that side 2 was the better half of the album. I’ll still stand by When the Levee Breaks.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 7:02 AM on November 9, 2021 [16 favorites]


Did they still sometimes have bands at high school dances, after the 80's? It was kind of on the way out, in favor of DJs, even then. Around where I grew up, you could still find stickers from some of the local bands who used to work that circuit in the 70's - Phenix[sic] Rising, The Balls Brothers Band - until almost 2000 or so, fading away on the back of stop signs and the like.
posted by thelonius at 7:03 AM on November 9, 2021


I fascinated that, on the album, "Stairway" is right in the middle of two songs about Lord of the Rings.

"This next song is a Hobbits' Skate......hobbits skate only....."
posted by thelonius at 7:11 AM on November 9, 2021 [16 favorites]


I know it's a a cliche to pull out a guitar at a party and play this song but the hill I will die on is that this song is the MOST FUN song to play on guitar. A nice fingerpicking part to start, some fun strumming in the "makes me wonder" part, that cool DUH DUH DUH part before the solo, a solo based on the one scale everyone learns first with an additional note thrown in, and then the rocking part at the end that allows for a little embellishment.

And now that you know how it's done, don't do it.
posted by bondcliff at 7:22 AM on November 9, 2021 [5 favorites]


Metafilter: Now that you know how it's done, don't do it.
posted by Paul Slade at 7:24 AM on November 9, 2021 [10 favorites]


despite its monumental length
"If Stairway to Heaven (or Purple Rain) is on the turntable, the DJ is in the bathroom."
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 7:25 AM on November 9, 2021 [7 favorites]


ALL BANDS
STAIRWAY OR MUSTANG SALLY
$100 PENALTY


Once, someone said that all you needed to know to play Beale Street in Memphis was "Mustang Sally" and some other song that's driving me nuts because I don't remember it. I think that I remember "Mustang Sally" because of that scene in The Commitments where their manager is yelling at them because the response isn't supposed to be "royde, Sally, royde."

Anyway, "Stairway." Perfect song to include in Wayne's World, along with "Bohemian Rhapsody", another allegedly-too-long-for-radio-but-they'll-play-it-anyway-because-of-public-demand song with an unconventional structure and instrumentation. (Wayne's World also had Tia Carrere covering "Ballroom Blitz", which is kind of the polar opposite of those two songs and maybe the perfect garage band song even though The Sweet wasn't really a garage band when they did it.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:27 AM on November 9, 2021 [3 favorites]


Wait, Heaven? Stairway to Heaven??

Holy hell! All these years, I would have sworn it was Stairway to Denver! Whoa!

That does make more sense, I guess.

Stairway to Heaven. I'll be damned.

Wait! Oh my God! That's why that radio station request line guy called me an asshole and hung up on me when I was 15! I never called in again, for anything. I didn't win the Steve Miller tickets. Sherry Kontrabecki went with Danny Martin instead of me.

It was a formative moment in my life. I was traumatized.
posted by Naberius at 7:28 AM on November 9, 2021 [9 favorites]


"If Stairway to Heaven (or Purple Rain) is on the turntable, the DJ is in the bathroom."

Or, slightly more recently, The Stone Roses' Fool's Gold.

In the trade, that is known as a “toilet track”.
posted by acb at 7:32 AM on November 9, 2021 [6 favorites]



a personal Stairway to Heaven timeline:

- twelve years old, grade seven, end of 1971. Word starts to spread of a new Led Zeppelin song that everybody MUST hear. I know who Led Zeppelin are having heard Immigrant Song on the radio, which is a rocker. So I'm officially on notice whenever I'm listening to the radio, waiting for a ROCKER.

- maybe a week later, I'm in my room doing homework and there's a song playing (AM pop radio) that doesn't really fit with everything else. It's mellow, acoustic, slow, just sort of floating along. I'm not even paying attention really until THE DRUMS CRASH IN. Which sounds killer even on my shitty little radio. And the song just keeps going on and on, eventually speeding up and getting properly rocking by which point I've got it figured out. This has to be it. And then, the final line confirms it. I have never heard anything like this song. I have a new all time favourite.

- a few weeks later, it's the end of 1971 and CKLG (my radio station of choice) lists Stairway to Heaven as the #1 song of the year. Which I agree with, of course, but it also amazes me. I thought #1 songs of the year were supposed to sound nice like the Beatles or Simon and Garfunkel, not be actually completely AMAZING.

- 1974. I finally buy Led Zeppelin IV (or whatever you want to call it). Things moved more slowly in those days, particularly if you had almost zero cash. Though I'm pretty sure I already had Stairway to Heaven on tape, ripped from the radio, likely with a DJ talking over the lead in.

- At some point not long after buying the album, I find I'm listening to side two (the one without Stairway) the most. Not that I don't still LOVE Stairway, I'm just finding less to explore there than the rest of the album.

- Same basic time period, we discuss the lyrics in English class, the teacher knowing it was a good way to get us taking poetry seriously (see also Beatles A Day In The Life, various Jethro Tull and Bob Dylan options). I believe he (the teacher) concluded that it didn't really add up. The lyrics were good at engaging one with their imagery, but without the music, they felt incomplete on the page. Which was no crime, because it was a song, the lyrics weren't supposed to be able to stand on their own.

- 1974 and onward. Stairway to Heaven becomes essential at all school dances, of course.

- 1974 (or maybe 1975) the band known as Heart (then a local Vancouver bar band notable for having a woman singer and being really damned good) play Stairway live at a school dance. They nail it. By far the best band to ever play a school dance in my time.

- the rest of high school. Stairway continues to be essential at all dances, parties etc

- 1977. High school ends. University begins. I start meeting new people, exploring new possibilities. One of these possibilities is punk-new-wave music and culture. I'm not exactly an immediate fan but the parties are always good ... and it's a sure bet you're never going to hear ANY Led Zeppelin at them. And I don't miss it. At All.

- 1977-87. Stairway to Heaven slides more or less completely out of my life. And Led Zeppelin. I don't hate them. I just don't need them. At All. Whatever the zeitgeist is, they're the opposite. Rather like pretty much all of what's known as classic rock. Even the Beatles sound mostly out of place through the 80s.

- 1988. Something strange is happening zeitgeist wise. Some of that old 70s rawk is starting to sound pretty darned relevant again. It starts for me with a friend's AC/DC mixtape, a band I never really cared for back in the day, but suddenly I do. "They just cut the mix," says the friend.

- Led Zeppelin are next for revision. A different friend picks up their first four albums dead cheap (it being the dawn of the CD age, people dumping their vinyl en masse) and they sound fucking great! The rhythm section is both precise and bigger than King Kong, the guitar is never remotely predictable (even if it's a song you've heard a thousand times). Even the singer is pretty solid. He definitely cuts the mix. Except for one song. Stairway To Heaven just feels wrong. I don't know why but I need to leave any room that contains it. At some point, somebody refers to it as a musical allergy. "We've been overexposed to it. Now it's poisonous to us." I have the same reaction to Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall ... and a few notable others. All albums, songs that I once loved but then overplayed. I know them too well, every note, every inflection. And ultimately who cares? It's not as if there isn't an entire world of other options out there.

- 1988 through 2012, I do a pretty good job of avoiding Stairway To Heaven. I don't miss it. At all. It doesn't need me. My world remains full of wondrous and magical options without it.

- 2012. I happen to catch Heart's performance of Stairway at the Kennedy Center, the Obamas in the audience, and (more important) the three surviving members of the band. I love it. It's not a perfect version (but it's pretty damned close). What I love is watching the band members watch their song being so epically nailed, and clearly loving it. And I guess I love that it's Heart doing it, the same band I saw nail it way back when in Grade Nine (or was it ten?). Everything has changed since then, of course. Nancy Wilson's the only one who was in the band back in 1974-75. But there's still something magical-mystical about it.

- 2012 and onward. I kind of like Stairway to Heaven again. But only really that live Heart performance. Thanks, Obama.
posted by philip-random at 7:39 AM on November 9, 2021 [23 favorites]


For me the ultimate version of this song is the Heart Kennedy Center performance.

That performance here. With John Bonham's son on drums as well, and a backing choir all wearing derby hats in their own John Bonham tribute. (I've been meaning to do a FPP someday about the Kennedy Center performance events because dang there is some fun stuff in there.)

I have never heard of the idea that Stairway would be a last dance song. That is fascinating.

This was a very 1980s thing at high school and jr. high dances. I think the thinking behind that was "it is long and it starts out slow so we will play it as the last song to let all the couples have their last dance be nice and long".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:42 AM on November 9, 2021 [3 favorites]


I never heard this song until middle school, where it became the song to slow dance to, until halfway through when it rocks out

This is why the classic slow dance song of my youth was "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" by Elton John. 6 minutes and 44 seconds, all slow.
posted by tallmiddleagedgeek at 7:43 AM on November 9, 2021 [1 favorite]


the teacher knowing it was a good way to get us taking poetry seriously (see also Beatles A Day In The Life, various Jethro Tull and Bob Dylan options)

Musically, Stairway to Heaven begat a lot of imitators (Dream On, Hotel California, Freebird, etc.) but I like to trace its lineage back to A Day In the Life.

Both of them:

- Start out relatively slow and soft with simple chord movements
- Have multiple sections
- Build in intensity through the sections
- End in a grand finale

They are both epic in very different ways, but they share some common structures.
posted by swift at 7:44 AM on November 9, 2021 [3 favorites]


great post. The Dolly Parton version with a violin and banjo seems like it would be blasphemy but it's surprisingly good!
posted by bluesky43 at 7:45 AM on November 9, 2021 [2 favorites]


I've yet to come across Kevin Schmidt's Long Beach Led Zep (2002) since I saw it on.. Zed TV? In 2002? I expected to quickly tire of a guy setting up amps and stuff on Long Beach and proceeding to play through the song in its entirety, but you know.. it worked. Can anyone find his performance out there?
posted by elkevelvet at 8:11 AM on November 9, 2021 [1 favorite]


Stairway to Gilligan's Island, anyone?
posted by neilbert at 8:16 AM on November 9, 2021 [5 favorites]


"Stupid" and "great" can co-exist perfectly happily in a rock song.

Ramones made a HOF career out of living that truth.

And they coulda done Stairway in 2:37.

'77 Led Zep was my first concert - small town kid comes to Cincinnati to witness total bedlam two years before the Who tragedy - crowds of kids pushing dumpsters through the glass gates of the Coliseum while cops beat the outer ring with billy clubs. Everywhere you look stoners and cops either in conflict or considering it. Four guys push a cop's Harley over the mezzanine wall and two others walk over to piss on the mangled remains three stories below. Bloodied dude flies over our seats fleeing cops after running through some partially smashed window. Utter insanity the likes of which I'd never even contemplated in my 16+ years. And then the show - mind. blown. - and by God the black tour tee to prove it which was without doubt the baddest ass thing you could possibly wear to your last month of high school in 1977 Indiana.
posted by thecincinnatikid at 8:18 AM on November 9, 2021 [11 favorites]


I became aware of Led Zeppelin when I was 13, in 1984, via the previously mentioned vector of the last song at the school dance. I went to the record store to get the album the next day. Before that I had been listening to whatever was on the radio - the airwaves were awash with synthesizers and gated reverb - and that Led Zeppelin album blew. my. mind. I listened to nothing else the whole summer after my 8th grade year. I spent the next years going all the way down the classic-rock rabbit hole, emerging in my senior year of high school as a fully-formed Deadhead. I didn't really start appreciating the music of the 80s until I was well out of college.
posted by Daily Alice at 8:19 AM on November 9, 2021 [3 favorites]


And now that I am belatedly seeing that the Kennedy Center video was already linked above (oops) I will add another bonus thing which NPR discussed this morning, about a different song from the same album - they did a whole segment on how the opening drums from "When The Levee Breaks" got to be so iconic and how it got sampled all over the damn place.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:19 AM on November 9, 2021


"..Mustang Sally" and some other song that's driving me nuts because I don't remember it...

Midnight Hour?
posted by mule98J at 8:20 AM on November 9, 2021 [1 favorite]


I once heard Stairway played on a lute in a coffee shop in New Orleans.
posted by a Rrose by any other name at 8:22 AM on November 9, 2021 [3 favorites]


Thanks, mbo. I was watching the Elvis impersonator cover listed and thought to myself 'Man, Tortelvis would pay Charlie Hodge to punch that guy in the throat.'
posted by davelog at 8:26 AM on November 9, 2021 [2 favorites]


I too am an old who saw them live. '77 tour at the old Met Center in Bloomington MN. There was a storm so the plane landed late and they had to trim two songs off the set list. Page was famously straight n' sober due to "cough, cough" illness in Chicago a few days before. We were in the tenth row and it felt like 3 hours in the face of an angry god. "Stairway" was transcendent and a good three minutes longer than on record. Zep always considered the records blueprints and they'd damn well extend anything (see Immigrant Song on How the West was Won). But the real moment of "OMFG" was "Kashmir" with that trance rhythm, those vast crescendos of sound, and Plant stalking the stage with the mike stand waving over his head. I still remember Plant pointing at the Northstar's scoreboard and saying, "Minneapolis, it is now tomorrow. Good night." It was 12:30 and they had taken the stage at 9:15.

The trouble with bar bands and prom bands playing "Stairway" was that they usually skipped that epic solo. It's a lot of blues lines with some call and response but everything that Page usually made look easy was far more difficult to reproduce for anyone but advanced players.
posted by Ber at 8:36 AM on November 9, 2021 [7 favorites]


Midnight Hour?

Sounds right!
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:40 AM on November 9, 2021


everything that Page usually made look easy was far more difficult to reproduce for anyone but advanced players.

It's funny how guitar technique advances, like the mile running record after 4 minutes was broken. There's probably video of preschoolers playing "Eruption" on Youtube (there is definitely video of elementary school age kids doing so) .
posted by thelonius at 8:48 AM on November 9, 2021


Spitbull, you must be from NC. I used to regularly see Rev.Wirtz at the Skylight Exchange in Chapel Hill in the late 80s/early 90s.

Zep is one of my all time fave bands despite years trekking through 80s rock, metal, indie, alt country, etc. I don’t listen to Stairway much anymore because it’s fused into my brain part by part. But when it comes on it’s the perfect song for rocking or mocking depending on your mood. A lot of the old rock/prog stuff is dear to me BECAUSE of the lyrics and grandiosity. By comparison a lot of more recent music, even good stuff, seems to have very few onion layers to peel away. Yes is singing about the heart of the sunrise; shit, even the Eagles are laying on the metaphors about the decadence of the California scene. All that plus the great arrangements and playing on those old chestnuts keep me coming back.
posted by freecellwizard at 8:51 AM on November 9, 2021 [2 favorites]


Never saw Led Zeppelin (older self chides younger self). What I recall most clearly when they came to play in NYC (Physical Graffiti tour) was that the real buzz amongst my friends was for the opening band, Bad Company. Seemed like everyone was playing out ‘Feel Like Making Love’ around then.
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 9:10 AM on November 9, 2021


Stairway is on my list of absolutely amazing unique songs I once worshipped but by now I’ve heard way more than enough for one lifetime.

(I’ll second bondcliff regarding the guitar solo: it’s the perfect almost-but-not-too-difficult skill level for a middling, probably college-age wannabe guitar hero to play and sometimes sound not half bad. A step above Comfortably Numb, a step below Bohemian Rhapsody.)
posted by gottabefunky at 9:11 AM on November 9, 2021


One of the most tentative/scary moments in a concert was Dread Zeppelin got to the Stairway part of their set. Something was going on in that concert (Masonic Temple in Toronto?) and it seemed like it was just about to go off. But it was a damn good version of the song.
posted by stevil at 9:53 AM on November 9, 2021 [1 favorite]


Does anybody remember laughter? yt

I am reminded that there was intended to be a scene in Almost Famous where the skeptical mother (Frances McDormand) sits down with her son and some of his friends to listen critically to the song, but the filmmakers could not negotiate the music rights. The scene was filmed but left out of the theatrical release. It was included in the DVD as an extra but again sans music for the same reasons.

The DVD scene is glorious. It has an onscreen prompt to get the viewer to start the song on another device. However, if you don't do so, the scene just shows four or five people sitting mostly in silence for six and a half minutes, with a bit of air drumming toward the end. I'd link to a YouTube clip of it, but it seems every version I can find has had the song dubbed in, so no go.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:03 AM on November 9, 2021 [3 favorites]


I once heard Stairway played on a lute in a coffee shop in New Orleans.

I read this sentence an hour ago and I am still chuckling over it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:15 AM on November 9, 2021


Another song in this category of epics is Shangri-La by the Kinks. Maybe I don’t get out much, but I’ve only ever heard one person mention it, and that was the person who introduced me to it. I honestly don’t understand why it’s not played on classic rock stations.

Oh, I just thought of another, better known, epic: Roundabout by Yes. (Ooops, gimonca beat me to it!)
posted by pickles_have_souls at 10:16 AM on November 9, 2021 [2 favorites]


I always thought I hated Zep, but it turns out I just can't stand Plant. The band rocked super hard. Bonham and JPJ were on another level together.

Some years ago there was a documentary called It Might Get Loud, where all they did was take Jimmy Page, Jack White and The Edge and put them in a room together and let them talk shop. One of my absolute favorite moments from that movie is when Jimmy Page starts playing the opening riff to "Whole Lotta Love" and both Jack White and the Edge are completely unable to hide their fanboy "whoa shit this is so cool" grins.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:25 AM on November 9, 2021 [9 favorites]


I was the stoner kid in the 80s arguing that side 2 was the better half of the album. I’ll still stand by When the Levee Breaks.

EmpressCallypygos beat me to pointing out that NPR apparently agrees, so I’ll just add that “The Battle of Evermore” has the only guest vocals on a Led Zeppelin album, by the incomparable Sandy Denny. Definitely check out her work with Fairport Convention. What a great album from start to finish.
posted by TedW at 10:36 AM on November 9, 2021 [7 favorites]


my fave zep cover is evermore by heart off the bridge school concerts record.
posted by j_curiouser at 10:47 AM on November 9, 2021


Some years ago there was a documentary called It Might Get Loud, where all they did was take Jimmy Page, Jack White and The Edge...

One of the best comments on the clip where Page demonstrates 'Kashmir' for White and the Edge is "Mozart teaches a vampire and a homeless man how to busk for a living."
posted by logicpunk at 10:48 AM on November 9, 2021 [12 favorites]


Today's super-rich think they can buy anything that matters too. Let's rewrite Stairway's lyrics for some of them, shall we?

There's a tech-bro I know,
With a bald shiny dome,
And he's building a rocket,
To heaven.

When he gets there he knows,
If the stores are all closed,
It was his online retail,
That closed them.

There's a quota to meet,
So his workers are beat,
And he gives them no time for,
The bathroom.

... and soon.
posted by Paul Slade at 10:53 AM on November 9, 2021 [8 favorites]


I am reminded that there was intended to be a scene in Almost Famous where the skeptical mother (Frances McDormand) sits down with her son and some of his friends to listen critically to the song

previously
... and with the song in its entirety

Almost Famous - Stairway to Heaven - Deleted Scene
posted by philip-random at 11:15 AM on November 9, 2021


ALL BANDS
STAIRWAY OR MUSTANG SALLY
$100 PENALTY


No Stairway! Denied!!
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:20 AM on November 9, 2021 [1 favorite]


That epic riff/chord change -- the one that kicks it into high gear -- is one of the most majestic things I've ever heard. Goosebumps every time. There are few pieces of music that do that to me and all of the other ones are classical.

I've heard good sex described (IIRC from an AskMe) as "sexy sex is so sexy and it's so sexy that we're having sexy sex"... or something to that effect. That riff is the same for rock. Rocky rock. So much rocky rock distilled into that pure, perfect, transcendent moment.
posted by treepour at 11:33 AM on November 9, 2021 [3 favorites]


Hairway to Steven by the Butthole Surfers
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 12:08 PM on November 9, 2021 [5 favorites]


And with that, this thread is complets.
posted by sjswitzer at 12:17 PM on November 9, 2021 [1 favorite]


@logicpunk that video made my day. My week even.
posted by SNACKeR at 1:29 PM on November 9, 2021 [1 favorite]


I got really sick of Stairway during the 80s when radio stations would play the 100 greatest (rock) songs of all time at New Year's. Sometimes A Day In The Life would beat it out for #1, but that piece also is too much for repeated listening.

Some people have mentioned serious discussion of the song's lyrics. You know, like "If there's a bustle in your hedgerow/don't be alarméd". I do not understand these people.

And neilbert is right: the best cover is by Little Roger and the Goosebumps.
posted by CCBC at 3:25 PM on November 9, 2021 [2 favorites]


I first heard this song on FM radio late at night when I was a moody alienated 12 year old, and listening to it for the first time was a profound spiritual experience. Led Zeppelin was my official religion for much of my adolescence, until the punk years changed everything.

This song is like a rare & precious elixir that can only be tasted once freshly brewed in a particular time and place, for full effect. It can't quite be bottled and doesn't really keep well over time.
posted by ovvl at 4:10 PM on November 9, 2021 [4 favorites]


1983 me: "Oh come on, haven't we heard enough Zep for one lifetime?!?"

2012 me: "Gather around, children, and behold the majesty of John Bonham."

To summarize, Zeppelin rules.
posted by whuppy at 4:45 PM on November 9, 2021 [7 favorites]


and because this just popped up on my Youtube. Led Zeppelin's actual best song. They didn't rip anyone off here, except maybe God.
posted by philip-random at 4:51 PM on November 9, 2021 [3 favorites]


I thought it was a "sprinkling of the May Queen" over there in my hedgerow for quite some years, btw
posted by thelonius at 4:54 PM on November 9, 2021 [1 favorite]


Looking back to those days, I mostly liked their stolen songs, including SW2H, and noped out when they finally started to create their own stuff. I respect Kashmir, but never actually liked it.
posted by sjswitzer at 5:58 PM on November 9, 2021 [1 favorite]


I thought it was a "sprinkling of the May Queen" over there in my hedgerow

Well where else is she gonna go wee-wee?
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:02 PM on November 9, 2021 [1 favorite]


Have just rewatched the "Heart doing STH at the Kennedy center" clip yet again, and have been charmed anew by 3 things -

* The whole choir of singers all decked out in John Bonham derby hats towards the end.

* There are two clips where they cut to the audience and you can see Yo Yo Ma sitting there with eyes closed and completely blissed out and vibing to the song.

* At the very end, as Ann Wilson is singing that last "And she's buuuuuuying the Staaaaaaairway...." bit, Jason Bonham sort of swallows hard, then looks up heavenward, presumably towards his dad, before doing the last drum riff.

There's a couple similar fun moments from when Lenny Kravitz did "Whole Lotta Love" at the same concert - I especially get a kick out of the Obamas getting unusually cuddly.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:18 PM on November 9, 2021 [3 favorites]


"If Stairway to Heaven (or Purple Rain) is on the turntable, the DJ is in the bathroom."

Same goes for drum solos - though in that case it's usually the rest of the band taking a break.

Once, someone said that all you needed to know to play Beale Street in Memphis was "Mustang Sally" and some other song that's driving me nuts because I don't remember it.


The one time I visited Beale Street, every band there seemed to be playing an insipid version of Stormy Monday.
posted by Paul Slade at 12:17 AM on November 10, 2021 [1 favorite]


Just watched the Kennedy Center vid and it brought me to tears. I’ve never seen it before. Watching Page, Plant and Jones grooving out was fantastic. Thanks for this post!
posted by sundrop at 3:45 AM on November 10, 2021 [2 favorites]


In a slightly different world, the band we are talking about stuck to its roots as The New Yardbirds, and this FPP is about “For Your Love.”
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:48 AM on November 10, 2021 [1 favorite]


Paraphrasing here, but I remember an interview with Robert Plant where he said the song was fine and all, but as an example of a slow, delicate intro transitioning into a big rocker Ten Tears Gone was much better. I have to agree, and the guitar solo is probably my favorite ever by Jimmy Page.
posted by aquanaut at 8:53 AM on November 10, 2021 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: perfect for rocking or mocking depending upon your mood.
posted by blue shadows at 12:32 PM on November 10, 2021


If the studio tracks sound a little stale, try to catch a Lez Zeppelin tribute show. They will rock your face. (At least they did when I saw them 15 years ago)
posted by credulous at 12:47 PM on November 10, 2021 [2 favorites]


Led Zeppelin's actual best song.

How does it feel to be wrong?
posted by juv3nal at 1:51 AM on November 11, 2021 [1 favorite]


« Older House passes bipartisan infrastructure bill   |   "You're going to have the wackos" Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments