Page and Plant to attend Stairway To Heaven trial
LED Zeppelin's Jimmy Page and Robert Plant will appear in court tomorrow to defend Stairway To Heaven, one of the most recognisable songs in rock history, from accusations of plagiarism.
Spirit, a psychedelic band from Los Angeles that enjoyed a niche following but never the stardom of Zeppelin, claims the iconic melancholic guitar that opens the song was lifted from its instrumental track Taurus.
Spirit's guitarist Randy Wolfe - also known as Randy California - never took legal action and died in 1997 but a lawsuit was filed by his trustee Michael Skidmore.
"Well, if you listen to the two songs, you can make your own judgment. It's an exact... I'd say it was a rip-off," California said in a magazine interview just before his death, and quoted in the lawsuit.
After two years of legal proceedings, a judge stopped short of agreeing that the song was copied but said there was enough for a jury trial.
The two sides had "vehemently contested" whether Led Zeppelin had access to 1967's Taurus before recording Stairway To Heaven in December 1970 and January 1971.
Led Zeppelin was the opening act for Spirit when the hard British rockers made their United States debut on Dec 26, 1968 in Denver.
But Led Zeppelin submitted testimony to the court that it never had substantive interaction with Spirit or listened to the band's music.
Guitarist Page and singer Plant have sat for filmed depositions and are expected to attend the opening of the trial in Los Angeles tomorrow.
Led Zeppelin argued that the opening of Stairway To Heaven - a descending sequence mostly in A-minor - had been used in music for centuries and that the lawsuit ignored the rest of the eight-minute song.
The judge disagreed, writing that the two songs had other similarities, including the bass line.
The lawsuit says Led Zeppelin has "a deep-rooted history of lifting composition from blues artists and other songwriters who they have repeatedly failed to credit".
It lists disputes over 16 other Led Zeppelin songs, many of which were settled by giving the complainant a songwriting credit and royalties, including classics Whole Lotta Love and Babe I'm Gonna Leave You.