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Music

Jimmy Page explains the one song that “crystallized the essence” of Led Zeppelin

From the moment Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Bonham and John Paul Jones came together to form what would become Led Zeppelin in 1968, the course of music – and popular culture as we knew it – would make a seismic shift into the aggressive, unrelenting world of rock music.

Four supremely talented musicians, all masters of their craft, joined forces in a guitar-driven sound that sent shockwaves across the planet. As The Beatles began to self-implode and The Rolling Stones introduced a darker side to music creation, Led Zep picked up the mantle and rammed their warlike creations through the radiowaves and went on to dominate the 1970s.

With eight studio records and four live albums to their name, Led Zeppelin altered the concept of album-driven content and made it suitable for stadium-sized venues. While they are now remembered as one of the best-selling bands in history, with hits such as ‘Whole Lotta Love’, ‘Immigrant Song’, ‘Kashmir‘ propping up their extensive discography, there remains one song that “crystallized the essence” of the group.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Jimmy Page was asked how important ‘Stairway To Heaven’ was to him, to which he replied: “To me, I thought ‘Stairway’ crystallized the essence of the band. It had everything there and showed the band at its best… as a band, as a unit. Not talking about solos or anything, it had everything there”.

Page added: “We were careful never to release it as a single. It was a milestone for us. Every musician wants to do something of lasting quality, something which will hold up for a long time and I guess we did it with ‘Stairway.’ Townshend probably thought that he got it with Tommy. I don’t know whether I have the ability to come up with more. I have to do a lot of hard work before I can get anywhere near those stages of consistent, total brilliance”.

Robert Plant, meanwhile, had a very different view of the legacy left behind by ‘Stairway to Heaven’. During an interview with Q magazine, he accepted and understood the criticisms that were directed at the now-iconic track: “If you absolutely hated ‘Stairway to Heaven’, no one can blame you for that because it was so pompous.”

In fact, it was only last year that Plant spoke of how ‘Stairway To Heaven’ is a track that he can no longer relate to, but did admit his lingering admiration. While sitting down with UCR as part of their ‘Nights’ radio show, Plant said: “The construction of the song, the actual musical construction, is very good. It’s one of those moments that really can stand without a vocal and, in fact, it will stand again without a vocal, I’m sure, because it’s a fine piece of music. Lyrically, now, I can’t relate to it, because it was so long ago. I would have no intention ever to write along those abstract lines any more.”

He added: “I look at it and I tip my hat to it and I think there are parts of it that are incredible. The way Jimmy Page took the music through, and the way that the drums almost climaxed and then continued —it’s a very beautiful piece. But lyrically, now, and even vocally, I go, ‘I’m not sure about that.’”

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