Judge Gary Klausner of the Central District of California has put Led Zeppelin on trial for copying “Stairway to Heaven” from the much lesser known song “Taurus”, by the 60s American band Spirit. “Enough similar protectable expression is here that the issue of substantial similarity should proceed to the jury” said the judge. A one-minute composition without lyrics and a psychedelic vibe, “Taurus” indeed features the unmistakable guitar riff underpinning Led Zeppelin’s most famous song—and was allegedly performed earlier at shows featuring both bands.
Not surprisingly, the sides can’t agree on what exactly happened at those shows. Spirit said that Led Zeppelin “used to come up and sit in the front row of all our shows and became friends”, a claim the other band flatly denies. Why bring it all up almost 50 years later? The surviving Spirits say that “this case, from our perspective, has always been about giving credit where credit was due”, reports the Chicago Tribune. It is the same reason given by another Chicago institution, blues man Howlin’ Wolf, for legal actions which forced Led Zeppelin’s to give him recognition for using his song “Killing Floor”. The lesson must have been lost on them, but we can give recognition by listening to these old songs now. Meantime, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, like their other song, are “Going to California”.