Led Zep’s Jones Joins Plant + Page in Court

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Dec. 12, 2012 "When I was in high school, I had a friend who had Bose 901 speakersÐat the time the best speakers on the planetÐand when his parents were gone, he would invite me and other friends over to blast Led Zeppelin songs so loud that the windows in the almost rattled. So when the President was chatting with the surviving members of Led ZeppelinÐJohn Paul Jones, Robert Plant and Jimmy PageÐduring intermission at the Kennedy Center Honors, those long ago memories came flooding back." (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

Jones, Page + Plant with POTUS; photo source: Wikipedia

Week one of the “Stairway to Heaven” plagiarism trial ended on Friday (6/17) with the closest we’re ever likely to get to another Celebration Day – the three living members of the arguably greatest hard-as-metal classic rock band together again in public. It’s something they’ve been offered many millions to do on stage.

And many millions are at stake as guitarist Jimmy Page and singer Robert Plant were joined by Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones in a Los Angeles U.S. District federal courtroom to defend the assets, honor and integrity of the arguably greatest and most popular hard-as-metal classic rock song ever.

Related: Read about the pretrial backstory to the suit

Just what “Stairway” is worth was one of the topics of testimony on Day Four of the civil hearing to determine under rule of law whether writers Page and Plant and their legendary band copped a key instrumental passage in the obviously complex eight-minute and three-second song (in its original 1970 recorded version) was stolen from the 1968 Spirit instrumental number “Taurus” written by the that band’s late guitarist Randy California.

Related: Page and Plant arrive in court on day one

The final witness for the plaintiffs was economist Michael Einhorn, who testified about his calculation that “Stairway” has earned more than $60 million. The defense challenged the figure.

Then the trial turned to the defense, and the star of the show was Jones, of course, who took the stand rather briefly to say he’d never heard Spirit even though he’d played the song “Fresh Garbage” with Zep. He said Page, who wrote the melody to “Stairway,” had never mentioned Spirit to him.

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The Los Angeles Times did a fine job of getting to the crux of what is the key issue at hand among all the testimony already given as a musical expert for the defense, countering the assertions of the plaintiff’s experts. “Lawrence Ferrara, who teaches musicology at New York University, moved from the witness stand to a seat at an electric piano to demonstrate various points he made about the two songs, testifying that their dissimilarities vastly outnumber the similarities.

Related: Page takes the stand on day two

“The debate over the two songs largely comes down to a 10-second musical theme that appears around the middle of the two-minute-long ‘Taurus’….

“Ferrara testified that… perceived similarities between the two songs are ‘absolutely meaningless,’ and only reflect ‘commonplace’ musical elements used for hundreds of years.”

As England’s Guardian noted, “Ferrara said that musical element was used 300 years ago, as well as in many pop songs since then.”

The L.A. Times continues: “He disputed the heavy emphasis an expert for Wolfe’s estate put on three pairs of notes that appear in both songs, saying it would be like plucking the words “and the” from successive sentences in a paragraph and suggesting they were copied.

Related: Mary Poppins cited on day three

“Ferrara acknowledged that ‘Taurus’ and ‘Stairway’ share the same downward progression of notes – referred to in court as a descending chromatic line – but said the sequence was a commonly deployed musical device.

“‘They are a musical building block that no one can possibly own,’ Ferrara said of the chromatic lines.

“To illustrate his point, Ferrara played parts of several well-known songs, including the Beatles’ “Michelle,” saying all have a similar structure. The similarity in sound between “Taurus” and some of the songs, he said, was far closer than “Taurus” and “Stairway.”

The trial resumes and BCB‘s coverage will continue next Tuesday (6/21).

Best Classic Bands Staff

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  1. Unknown
    #1 Unknown 18 June, 2016, 12:51

    The same sequence of the first chords are also on Summertime by Janis Joplin,and The Loving Spoonfuls Summer in the City just in different keys and many more .

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