Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” is Explained by Jimmy Page in How the Most Played Rock Song was Created
Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, one of the most culturally rich areas in the world, and arguably, the location of the birth of the Rock’n’Roll Music Scene, I was an avid listener of Rock’n’Roll Radio Music. As a young kid, and after receiving my first single (45 rpm record) from my cousin Mario, the Rolling Stones Satisfaction, I was hooked. I must of played that record 1000 times and enjoyed it more each and every time it took a spin on my small square record player – you know, the one with a plastic arm and solo speaker in the box below the actual turn table. I was proud to be a cool kid in the Bay Area in the 70’s, we had it all. There was Winterland, The Fillmore West, the Avalon Ballroom, Carlos Santana, Journey, Big Brother with Janis Joplin, the Jefferson Airplane and so many more, and of course the man who kept it all moving forward, Bill Graham.
Bill brought bands from all over the world to San Francisco. He was a visionary that nobody in the industry could keep up with, I personally believe that was a big part of Bill’s early success. He took his company (BGP – Bill Graham Presents) and the industry by storm and rolled over it like a giant bat out of hell. After all, it was a vicious business and Bill had the persona built into him to naturally be a tough leader in a crazy industry and do what he had to do, not only to survive but to thrive. BGP brought Led Zeppelin to San Francisco a day after Bill’s birthday in 1969. They played 8 shows from January 9th through the 12th, and fans who experienced at least one of those shows say it was some of the bands best playing ever!
Three days after my 10th birthday Led Zeppelin played their very first concert in the United States, a show in the Denver Auditorium Arena – what’s now part of the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. The band played a short unannounced set and floored everyone in arena. It didn’t take a genius to realize they were going to be a huge success. As time went by the band built up its music repertoire which included many classics, but none like the most played rock song ever, STAIRWAY To HEAVEN.
Stairway is a phenomenal piece of music, a genius in songwriting, with some incredible Celtic Folk undertones and an incredible array of orchestral crescendos. So have you ever wondered how did Zeppelin’s guitarist Jimmy Page come to create this great work? Listen to his story, from the man himself in the above video. Page refers to the use of recorders in the song’s intro to give it a “slightly medieval feel.” Page mentions how the Multi-instrumentalist, Led Zeppelin’s bass player, John Paul Jones had the idea for the recorders and played them himself. This is one of the best interviews I have seen of the legendary Jimmy Page.
As I previously mentioned, I was an avid fan of the Radio and listened constantly to all types of formats. It was rare to not hear Stairway to Heaven being played somewhere, if not on the radio. It became so prevalent to me that I would jokingly bet my friends a couple bucks here and there that this brilliant piece of music was probably the most played song on radio. Of course they always challenged me to this wager considering we couldn’t prove it either way. Then one day, in the presence of one of my gambling buddies, while listening to KSAN, Jive 95 Radio, the announcer made the claim while introducing his cued up song, “Unequivocally the most played song on the radio today, Led Zeppelin’s Stairway Heaven”. I stretched out my hand as he laid a 10 spot in it, I snatched it up and took my buddies for a Coney Dog to the local A&W. I’m sure you’ll never guess what song was playing on the Jukebox as we walked into the Root Beer palace? Yep, you guessed it, Stairway to Heaven! We laughed in sync, and I think that day we all probably had one of our best Coney’s ever.