Creative and personal disputes among bandmates is nothing new. However, every now and then, a moment comes along that almost becomes so mammoth that it settles all debate. Take, for example, songs like Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway To Heaven’, a creation of such monumental success that it should be exalted from any criticism — or at least that’s what bassist John Paul Jones thought, even if Robert Plant has a different perspective on the track.
It remains a somewhat wild consideration that the creator of ‘Stairway’ is in the slim minority who hold ill feelings towards the track. For Plant, the song makes him wince in embarrassment as he no longer recollects the person who wrote the lyrics. While the words are deliberately left field and, in truth, make little sense, that’s what makes them so incredibly alluring.
“It’s just kind of a Led Zeppelin sampler, isn’t it?” Jones said during an interview on Swedish television in 2003. “It has everything we do in it somewhere. It starts off quietly with the acoustic instruments and then goes into a mellow-ish, almost jazzy vibe, with keyboard,” he said. “And then the rock and roll starts, with solos.”
“It’s got everything, really. I think it’s good,” the bassist added. “Then there’s the whole mystical lyrics. No one’s quite sure what they mean — Robert included.”
For decades, Plant has discussed how ‘Stairway’ is a track that he can no longer relate to, but last year he did admit he can still admire it, even if only from afar. In the past, he even brutally disregarded it as a “wedding song”.
While sitting down with UCR as part of their ‘Nights’ radio show, Plant commented: “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.
He added, “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.”
In response to Plant’s criticism, Jones said: “I don’t why [he doesn’t like it]. Maybe he knows what the lyrics mean. Maybe he doesn’t like the lyrics. You’re right, he doesn’t like it. But I disagree with him. I think it’s good.”
Perhaps for Plant, he feels like ‘Stairway’ is like taking an unwanted trip down memory lane and staring at a version of himself that he would rather not have to remember. He’s an entirely different person in comparison to the naive, brazen soul who wrote the song back in the early ’70s. While many of us have embarrassing memories from our youth, fortunately for us, it wasn’t documented on a classic track like ‘Stairway’, which continues to be an unavoidable fixture in Plant’s life despite how much he loathes everything he brought to the song.