Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page told a court Wednesday he hadn’t heard a song he is accused of plagiarizing for the iconic “Stairway to Heaven” until a few years ago.
Page and bandmate Robert Plant are accused of stealing the rock epic’s opening bars from “Taurus,” an instrumental track from the first album of long-defunct psychedelic Los Angeles rock band Spirit.
The 72-year-old, who was wearing a tailored black suit and his white hair tied back in a ponytail, said he had three Spirit albums among a collection of around 10,000 vinyls and CDs.
But he told the court on the second day of the trial he only realized Spirit’s first record was among them when he searched for it after his son-in-law played an internet posting in which the tracks were compared side by side.
“I knew I’d never heard it before,” Page said, adding that the concept of comparing the two songs “was just totally alien to me.”
Spirit, who enjoyed a niche following but never attained the superstardom of Zeppelin, claim the melancholic guitar that opens “Stairway” was taken from the riff that builds after the first 45 seconds of “Taurus.”
Spirit’s guitarist Randy Wolfe—who went by the nickname Randy California—never took legal action and drowned in Hawaii in 1997, but a lawsuit was filed by his trustee and friend Michael Skidmore.
Zeppelin argue that the opening of “Stairway”—a descending sequence mostly in A-minor—has been used in music for centuries and that the lawsuit ignores the rest of their song.
Zeppelin opened for Spirit when the hard British rockers—Plant, Page, John Paul Jones and the since deceased John Bonham—made their US debut on December 26, 1968 in Denver.
But surviving members of Led Zeppelin have submitted testimony that they never had substantive interaction with Spirit or listened to 1967’s “Taurus” before recording “Stairway” in December 1970 and January 1971.
Page told the court he could not recall ever having seen a Spirit performance or having met any of its members backstage. The lawsuit lists disputes over 16 other Led Zeppelin songs, many of which were settled by giving the complainant a songwriting credit and royalties, including classics “Whole Lotta Love” and “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You.”
The trial is expected to last about five days, reports AFP, Los Angeles.