“Strairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin: Facts you don’t know

starirway to heavenStairway to Heaven. One of the most acclaimed classic rock songs of all time, despite it never being released as a single in the US charts. This didn’t chart because it was never released as a single to the general public. Radio stations received promotional singles which quickly became collector’s items.

So hit play on the video below and jam out to this great live version of Stairway while you read:

 

  • Stairway to Heaven remains the biggest-selling sheet music in the history of rock. An average hit sells 10,000 to 15,000 copies of sheet music. Stairway to Heaven has sold well over one million copies.
  • The lyrics came to Robert Plant in a flash of inspiration when he and Jimmy Page were sitting by the fireplace at Headley Grange with Page strumming the intro chords. Said Plant:

“I was holding a pencil and paper, and for some reason I was in a very bad mood. Then all of a sudden my hand was writing out the words, ‘There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold/And she’s buying a stairway to heaven.’ I just sat there and looked at the words and then I almost leapt out of my seat.”

 

  • This runs 8:03, but still became one of the most-played songs on American radio, proving that people wouldn’t tune out just because a song was long. It was a perfect fit for FM radio, which was a newer format challenging the established AM with better sound quality and more variety. “Stairway” fit nicely into what was called the “Album Oriented Rock” (AOR) format, and later became a staple of Classic Rock. By most measures, it is the most-played song in the history of American FM radio. It has also sold more sheet music than any other rock song – about 10,000 to 15,000 copies a year, and more than one million total.

 

  • This was the only song whose lyrics were printed on the album’s inner sleeve.

 

  • Backmasking – This is rumored to contain backward satanic messages, as if Led Zeppelin sold their souls to the devil in exchange for “Stairway To Heaven.” Supporting this theory is the fact that Jimmy Page bought Aleister Crowley’s house in Scotland, known as Boleskine House. In his books, Crowley advocated that his followers learn to read and speak backwards.
  • Forward:’If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now, it’s just a spring clean for the May queen. Yes there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run there’s still time to change the road you’re on.’
  • Reverse: ‘Oh here’s to my sweet Satan. The one whose little path would make me sad, whose power is satan. He’ll give those with him 666, there was a little toolshed where he made us suffer, sad Satan.’

  • The acoustic, fingerpicking intro is very similar to the song “Taurus” from the band Spirit, who toured with Led Zeppelin when they first played the US. Regarding the composition of the track, Jimmy Page told Rolling Stone: “I was trying things at home, shunting this piece up with that piece. I had the idea of the verses, the link into the solo and the last part. It was this idea of something that would keep building and building.”

 

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  • Many critics trashed this song when it came out: Lester Bangs described it as “a thicket of misbegotten mush, and the British music magazine Sounds said it induced “first boredom and then catatonia.”
  • Zeppelin’s longest ever performance of this song was their last gig in Berlin in 1980. It clocked in around 15 minutes long.
  • The ending of this song is distinctive in that is closes out with just Robert Plant’s voice. According to Jimmy Page, he wrote a guitar part to end the song, but decided to leave it off since the vocal at the end had such an impact.

There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold
And she’s buying a stairway to heaven.
When she gets there she knows, if the stars are all close
With a word she can get what she came for.
Ooh, ooh, and she’s buying a stairway to heaven.
There’s a sign on the wall but she wants to be sure
‘Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings.
In a tree by the brook, there’s a songbird who sings,
Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiven.
Ooh, it makes me wonder,
Ooh, it makes me wonder.
There’s a feeling I get when I look to the west,
And my spirit is crying for leaving.
In my thoughts I have seen rings of smoke through the trees,
And the voices of those who stand looking.
Ooh, it makes me wonder,
Ooh, it really makes me wonder.
And it’s whispered that soon if we all call the tune
Then the piper will lead us to reason.
And a new day will dawn for those who stand long
And the forests will echo with laughter.
If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now,
It’s just a spring clean for the May queen.
Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
There’s still time to change the road you’re on.
And it makes me wonder.
Your head is humming and it won’t go, in case you don’t know,
The piper’s calling you to join him,
Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow, and did you know
Your stairway lies on the whispering wind.
And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our soul.
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold.
And if you listen very hard
The tune will come to you at last.
When all is one and one is all
To be a rock and not to roll.
And she’s buying a stairway to heaven.

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