Led Zep Plagiarism Trial Heats Up: Day 2

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Robert Plant Jimmy Page Atlantic PR PhotoJimmy Page took the stand on Wednesday (6/15) to assert that he didn’t copy a song by the band Spirit when he wrote the melody to “Stairway to Heaven.” And didn’t even hear “Taurus,” the song in question, before two years ago.

Overview: The day in the Los Angeles courtroom was all about establishing and at the same time clarifying and disputing connections. Spirit’s Jay Ferguson (keyboards) and Mark Andes (bass) testified how their group and Led Zeppelin crossed paths during the late 1960s and early ’70s. Andes – well known as one of classic rock’s truly nicest guys over a career that includes time in Jo Jo Gunne, Firefall and Heart – recalled how Robert Plant came to a 1970 Spirit show in Birmingham, England, and the two hung out afterwards. “I played snooker with Robert Plant and we were definitely drinking,” he recalled.

Related: Day 3 of the trial is about “Mary Poppins”

Then the headliner took the stage when the plaintiff’s lawyer, Francis Malofiy, called Page to the stand. The attorney’s strategy was to hopefully establish that Page had heard “Taurus” prior to becoming – as Malofly zinged the rock guitar icon – the “alleged songwriter” of “Stairway….”

What we and the eight-person jury deciding the case learned is that Page owned Spirit’s 1969 albums The Family That Plays Together (LP two) and third release Clear (as many music fans did back then) – but, key point, not the band’s first LP with “Taurus” on it – among what he says is a collection of “4,329 LPs and 5,882 CDs,” Pagey specified. Zeppelin even played Spirit’s signature song “Fresh-Garbage” live.

Related: Day one report

Malofiy tried to seal the connection to “Taurus” by asking Page about a 1969 concert in Denver where Zep opened for Spirit and Vanilla Fudge. But Zeppelin says they left the hall as soon as their set ended.

Observers agree that Malofiy came across as combative, and Judge R. Gary Klausner had to rope him back in a number of times. Page as well as Plant were the charming and good-natured British gents millions of fans love.

What’s at stake? CNN Money notes how Condé Nast Portfolio estimated in 2008 that “Stairway to Heaven” had earned more than $562 million in publishing royalties and record sales since it’s 1971 release.

Page said he’d never heard “Taurus” until it was brought to his attention a few years ago that some people heard a similarity. And bottom line: Similarities and plagiarism are two distinct and different things.

Best Classic Bands Staff

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