LED ZEPPELIN guitarist Jimmy Page has dismissed as "ridiculous" a copyright infringement claim against the band by a lawyer for the defunct 1960s group SPIRIT. The attorney recently said SPIRIT plans to file a lawsuit against LED ZEPPELIN arguing that the opening notes of its iconic song "Stairway To Heaven" are too similar to a few notes from SPIRIT's 1968 song "Taurus". "The idea behind this is to make sure that [deceased SPIRIT guitarist] Randy California is given a writing credit on 'Stairway To Heaven'. It's been a long time coming," SPIRIT attorney Francis Malofiy told BloombergBusinessweek.
After being asked about the potential lawsuit by the French publication Liberation, Page called it "ridiculous" and added that he had no further comment on the matter.
"Stairway To Heaven" appears on the album "Led Zeppelin IV", which is due to be reissued in early June as an expanded edition.
In 1997, California told Listener magazine that he thought the song "was a ripoff" of his composition. California died later that year.
"Stairway To Heaven" is said to be one of the most covered rock songs and its worth is estimated to be more than $560 million.
Page recently spoke to The New York Times that LED ZEPPELIN credited Willie Dixon for another of the band's classic songs, "Whole Lotta Love", because "Within the lyrics of it, there's [Dixons's] 'You Need Love,' and there are similarities within the lyrics. Now I'm not pointing a finger at anybody, but I'm just saying that's what happened, and Willie Dixon got credit. Fair enough."
Dr. Charles Fairchild, an American author and senior lecturer in popular music who is part Sydney, Australia's Conservatorium of Music, explained to Fairfax Media that he heard a similarity between "Stairway To Heaven" and "Taurus" in "about 10 seconds" of music. But Fairchild added that he thought the claim was "unlikely to succeed."
"The obvious and only similarity between them is the finger-picked guitar passage that starts off the guitar playing in both songs," Fairchild said. "In the [SPIRIT] version, it starts at 0:43 and in LED ZEPPELIN's it starts off the track. It is that easy, slow descending figure that sounds like a few slow steps down to a nice resting point. This constitutes three measures of music in both songs, which in both cases takes up about 10 seconds or so. However, the two songs go off in completely different directions after this."
He continued: "It seems to me that anyone claiming to have been the first person to have ever written this passage is making quite an ambitious claim. This passage is little more than a stock standard chord progression whose origins would be very difficult to determine. It also happens to be a very easy and satisfying thing to play on any guitar in standard tuning. There are probably a lot of other versions of it out there that would be equally similar."
LED ZEPPELIN and SPIRIT reportedly shared the bill at four concerts in 1968 and 1969.