1971 – Led Zeppelin releases Stairway to Heaven

Despite being one of the best known songs of all time – and one of the most frequently requested on radio – Led Zeppelin’s eight minute opus was not released as a single until years after its legend was well established. It was the fourth track of Led Zeppelin’s fourth album, and its length precluded its release in single form in the 45rpm vinyl format.

It at once sums up everything that’s right and everything that’s wrong with seventies rock in one song: it is pretentious and wanky, with lyrics that make little or no sense; but on the other hand, it rocks damned hard, has one of the greatest guitar solos ever, and is completely made of awesome.

Referenced in:

No More Fun — Roger Taylor
That Says It All — Duncan Sheik

Led Zeppelin’s Heaven

Heaven, as conceived of by Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Bonham and John Paul Jones (although only the former pair are listed as writers), is in many ways not particularly heavenly:

  • It is not wheelchair accessible (the only way there is to climb a stairway)
  • Its entrance may not be structurally sound (the foundation of the stairway is on a whispering wind)
  • It does not feature 24 hour shopping (or there’s no way that the stores would all be closed)
  • It appears to be biased in favour the wealthy (a woman who can afford a stairway to heaven can get what she wants with a simple word, even if the stores all are closed)
  • Its hedgerows are the site of mysterious (and potentially alarming) bustling
  • It is more suited to passive contemplation (being a rock) than energetic activity (rolling)
  • It features unclear and confusing signage (which may have two meanings)

In short, it is less a heaven designed by a benevolent omnipotence, and more one imagined after too much dope and Tolkien.