Zep Trial Day 3: Mary Poppins + Song Structures

Share This:
Screen cap from Mary Poppins' "Chim Chim Cher-ee"

Screen cap from Mary Poppins’ “Chim Chim Cher-ee”

The lawsuit against “Stairway to Heaven” co-writers Jimmy Page and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin accusing them of copying part of the Spirit song “Taurus” continued to have its Spinal Tap on Trial moments on Thursday (6/16) in Los Angeles.

Related: BCB’s background reports on the plagiarism suit

The plaintiff’s lawyer Francis Malofiy played a recording of the Dick Van Dyke-sung number “Chim Chim Cher-ee” from the 1964 Walt Disney film Mary Poppins to set up a line of questioning about its influence on the composition of “Stairway to Heaven.” Page acknowledged that the two songs shared the same descending musical pattern. But it was yet another moment in the lawyer’s “examination” of Page that played like a fanboy giddy over being able to spar with a classic rock superstar. The moment begged the all-too-frequent admonishment from Judge R. Gary Klausner to Malofiy: “You’re wasting a lot of time.”

We’ll never be able to hear this family favorite the same way again…

Related: “Stairway…” trial day one

Where’s the meat? The most substantive testimony came after Page left the stand and Malofiy called on his panel of  experts in an attempt to – pardon the painful pun – build a stairway from “Taurus” to the Zep song that proves plagiarism. Doing so involves a complex cluster of inexact factors. One key point: a similar/same chord progression recurring in similar/same fashion.

Malofiy called – as Billboard paraphrased how the overly eager attorney introduced him – a “friend… from the days before the attorney started wearing a suit” – Kevin Hanson, who is a professional guitar player (and has worked with The Roots, Isley Brothers, Jay Z and other name acts) as one musical witness. And Dr. Alexander Stewart, music professor at the University of Vermont and a professional sax player. They discussed the chords and structure of the two songs and how they resembled each other.

Related: “Stairway…’ trial day two

Bottom line: A trial is a performance, like a rock concert. Page is a man who has gotten millions (from millions) to perform. His equally entertaining bandmates Plant and now Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones will be called for the defense, as well as its musical experts. And there’s that guitar case Pagey carried into court.

Possible points of order: Malofiy has presented pieces of evidence during the trial that the defense says it was previously unaware of. This could bolster an appeal if Zep loses or even a motion for a mistrial. Billboard also notes: “There’s a chance [that Zeppelin’s attorney Peter] Anderson could move for a directed verdict and ask the judge to rule on the case instead of the jury, which happened last fall in the copyright fight over Jay Z’s “Big Pimpin’.”

For those of us keeping score and stats on the case,  Entertainment Weekly provides a smart and succinct overview.

Our take: The Zep boys have settled cases when previously caught red-handed with their fingers in the cookie jars of other songwriters’ compositions (cue “Dazed & Confused”). They’re fighting this one because in spite of all the near-damning circumstantial evidence, Page and Plant are sure they did not copy “Taurus” (at least not consciously; cue “My Sweet Lord;” Google: “unconscious plagiarism.”)

Never miss a post! Sign up for Best Classic Bands‘ Newsletter; form is on every page.

Best Classic Bands Staff

No Comments so far

Jump into a conversation

No Comments Yet!

You can be the one to start a conversation.

Your data will be safe!Your e-mail address will not be published. Also other data will not be shared with third person.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.