Taurus was an instrumental song recorded by sixties, Psychedelic, Pop/Rock band, Spirit in 1967. It’s also the source from which Jimmy Page allegedly ‘appropriated ‘ the idea for Stairway To Heaven. Before I go any further with this, I have a theory: Page didn’t feel he had to credit downward progressions or Blues patterns – it’s as if he considered them Public Domain. Okay so I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt here, but so many songs have used the 12 bar pattern, the melodies are so similar and even the words deal with the same subjects. With downward progressions the same musical rules should apply, shouldn’t they? One might ask how many original songs descend in a familiar pattern? How similar are they to each other? If a song follows a descending chord progression, is that chord progrssion the property of the person who thought of it first? Of course Page might have at least had the forethought to call Dazed and Confused, Stunned and Puzzled. One might also ask how is it even possible all these decades later for songwriters to be writing original songs at all?
So, perhaps it isn’t actually about the chords and the melodies, it’s more about selling the personality of the writer as someone that is unique and consequently original. That’s what determines the difference between, influence and originality. Far fetched? Maybe but who might be a truly original songwriter today? A songwriter that has avoided all influences, created new melodies, put chords together in different ways and it’s not just who but how many are there like this?
When I heard Noel Gallagher’s latest record I simply couldn’t believe that the first lyric on the first song, Riverman was “There’ s something in the way she moves me to distraction”. Surely he can do better than that, be a little more original in the light of his obvious and well-known love of The Beatles? (Plus- Riverman? Really? Don’t we all know that Riverman is a well known Nick Drake song that immediately comes to mind when we hear that title? Does it not matter? It’s a loving tribute, it’s a nod in the direction of George – and guess what? George took the title from Apple artist James Taylor. Recorded at the same time as The White album in the same studio, Taylor’s debut features the song, Something In The Way She Moves but Taylor only decided to give the song this title, because he felt the title that he wanted to use (and here’s the irony of it all) was already taken – that song was, I Feel Fine and when you listen to his song you might agree that it would have been more appropriate.
So listen to Taurus by Spirit make up your own mind. Unlike Jake Holmes, Randy California the songwriter never got any kind of royalty or acknowlegement from Page and Plant the writers of Stairway To Heaven, plus the connection isn’t widely known or accepted as another example of Page plagiarism.
Wikipedia quotes the late Randy California: ” People always ask me why “Stairway to Heaven” sounds exactly like “Taurus”, which was released two years earlier. I know Led Zeppelin also played “Fresh Garbage” (a Spirit song) in their live set. They opened up for us on their first American tour”.