The Full Wiki

Stairway to Heaven: Map


Wikipedia article:

Map showing all locations mentioned on Wikipedia article:

"Stairway to Heaven" is a song by the English rock band Led Zeppelin. It was composed by guitarist Jimmy Page and vocalist Robert Plant for the band's fourth unnamed studio album, (see Led Zeppelin IV (1971)). The song was voted #3 in 2000 by VH1 on their list of the 100 Greatest Rock Songs. It was the most requested song on FM radio stations in the United States in the 1970s, despite never having been released as a single there. In November 2007, through download sales promoting Led Zeppelin's Mothership release, "Stairway to Heaven" hit #37 on the UK Singles Chart.

Song construction and release

The recording of "Stairway to Heaven" started in December 1970 at Island Records' new Basing Street Studiosmarker in London. The song was completed by the addition of lyrics by Plant during the sessions for Led Zeppelin IV at Headley Grangemarker, Hampshire, in 1971. Page then returned to Island Studios to record his guitar solo.

The song originated in 1970 when Jimmy Page and Robert Plant were spending time at Bron-Yr-Aur, a remote cottage in Wales, following Led Zeppelin's fifth American concert tour. According to Page, the instrumentals were written by him "over a long period, the first part coming at Bron-Yr-Aur one night". Page always kept a cassette recorder around, and the idea for "Stairway" came together from bits of taped music.

Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones explained that, following the song's genesis at Bron-Yr-Aur, it was presented to him:

[Page and Plant would] come back from the Welsh mountains with the guitar intro and verse.
I literally heard it in front of a roaring fire in a country manor house!
I picked up a bass recorder and played a run-down riff which gave us an intro, then I moved into a piano for the next section, dubbing on the guitars.

In an interview he gave in 1977, Page elaborated:

I do have the original tape that was running at the time we ran down "Stairway To Heaven" completely with the band.
I'd worked it all out already the night before with John Paul Jones, written down the changes and things.
All this time we were all living in a house and keeping pretty regular hours together, so the next day we started running it down.
There was only one place where there was a slight rerun.
For some unknown reason Bonzo couldn't get the timing right on the twelve-string part before the solo.
Other than that it flowed very quickly.

The song's opening guitar arpeggios are strikingly similar to the guitar line from the instrumental track "Taurus" by the American band Spirit, for whom Led Zeppelin toured as support act in 1968.

The first attempts at lyrics, written by Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant next to an evening log fire at Headley Grangemarker, were partly spontaneously improvised and Page claimed, "a huge percentage of the lyrics were written there and then". Jimmy Page was strumming the chords and Robert Plant had a pencil and paper. Plant later said that suddenly,

"My hand was writing out the words, 'There's a lady is sure , all that glitters is gold, and she's buying a stairway to heaven'.
I just sat there and looked at them and almost leapt out of my seat."
Plant's own explanation of the lyrics was that it "was some cynical aside about a woman getting everything she wanted all the time without giving back any thought or consideration.
The first line begins with that cynical sweep of the hand ... and it softened up after that."

The lyrics of the song reflected Plant's current reading. The singer had been poring through the works of the British antiquarian Lewis Spence, and later cited Spence's Magic Arts in Celtic Britain as one of the sources for the lyrics to the song.

In November 1970, Page dropped a hint of the new song's existence to a music journalist in London:

It's an idea for a really long track....
You know how "Dazed and Confused" and songs like that were broken into sections?
Well, we want to try something new with the organ and acoustic guitar building up and building up, and then the electric part starts....
It might be a fifteen-minute track.

The complete studio recording was released on Led Zeppelin IV in November 1971. The band's record label, Atlantic Records was keen to issue this track as a single, but the band's manager Peter Grant refused requests to do so in both 1972 and 1973. The upshot of that decision was that record buyers began to invest in the fourth album as if it were a single. In the US, Atlantic issued "Stairway to Heaven" as a 7" promotional single in 1972.


The song consists of several distinct sections, beginning with a quiet introduction on a finger picked 6 string guitar and three recorders (ending at 2:15) and gradually moving into a slow electric middle section (2:16-5:33), before the faster hard rock final section (5:34 to the end). Page stated that the song "speeds up like an adrenaline flow".

Written in the key of A minor, the song opens with an arpeggiated, finger-picked guitar chord progression with a chromatic descending bassline A-G#-G-F#-F. John Paul Jones contributed overdubbed wooden bass recorders in the opening section (he used a Mellotron and, later, a Yamaha CP70B Grand Piano and Yamaha GX1 to synthesize this arrangement in live performances) and a Hohner Electra-Piano electric piano in the middle section.

The sections build with more guitar layers, each complementary to the intro, with the drums and bass entering at 4:18. During the interlude before the start of the guitar solo, the time signature switches between common time and several other time signatures: 3/4, 5/4 and finally 7/8. The extended Jimmy Page guitar solo in the song's final section was played for the recording on a 1958 Fender Telecaster (an instrument he used extensively with the Yardbirds) plugged into a Supro amplifier, although in an interview he gave to Guitar World magazine, Page also claimed, "It could have been a Marshall, but I can't remember". Three different improvised solos were recorded, with Page agonizing about deciding which to keep. Page later revealed, "I did have the first phrase worked out, and then there was the link phrase. I did check them out before hand before the tape ran." The other guitar parts were played using a Harmony Sovereign H1260 acoustic guitar and Fender Electric XII (12-string); these can be heard on the left and right recording channels respectively. For live versions, Page switched to a Heritage Cherry Gibson EDS-1275 6/12 Doubleneck guitar. The final progression is a i-VII-VI (natural minor) progression (Am-G-F), a mainstay of rock music.

Sound engineer Andy Johns recalls the circumstances surrounding the recording of Page's famous solo:

I remember Jimmy had a little bit of trouble with the solo on "Stairway to Heaven"...
[H]e hadn't completely figured it out.
Nowadays you sometimes spend a whole day doing one thing.
Back then, we never did that.
We never spent a very long time recording anything.
I remember sitting in the control room with Jimmy, he's standing there next to me and he'd done quite a few passes and it wasn't going anywhere.
I could see he was getting a bit paranoid and so I was getting paranoid.
I turned around and said "You're making me paranoid!"
And he said, "No, you're making me paranoid!"
It was a silly circle of paranoia.
Then bang!
On the next take or two he ripped it out.

According to Page, "Stairway to Heaven"

...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.
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".
[Pete] 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.

Live performances

The inaugural public performance of the song took place at Belfastmarker's Ulster Hallmarker on 5 March 1971. Bassist John Paul Jones recalls that the crowd was unimpressed: "They were all bored to tears waiting to hear something they knew". However, Page stated about an early performance at the LA Forummarker, before the record had even come out, that:

I'm not saying the whole audience gave us a standing ovation - but there was this sizable standing ovation there.
And I thought, 'This is incredible because no one's heard this number yet.
This is the first time hearing it!'
It obviously touched them, so I knew there was something with that one.

The world radio premiere of "Stairway to Heaven" was recorded at the Paris Cinemamarker on 1 April, 1971, in front of a live studio audience, and broadcast three days later on the BBC.

"Stairway to Heaven" was performed at almost every subsequent Led Zeppelin concert, only being omitted on rare occasions when shows were cut short for curfews or technical issues. The band's final performance of the song was in Berlin on 7 July 1980, which was also their last concert for 27 years; the version was also one of the longest, lasting almost fifteen minutes.

When playing the song live, the band would often extend it to over ten minutes in length, with Page playing an extended guitar solo and Plant adding a number of lyrical ad-libs, such as "Does anybody remember laughter?", "wait a minute!" and "I hope so". For performing this song live, Page used a Gibson EDS-1275 double neck guitar so he would not have to pause when switching from a six to a twelve string guitar.

By 1975, the song had a regular place as the finale of every Led Zeppelin concert. However, after their concert tour of the United States in 1977, Plant began to tire of "Stairway to Heaven": "There's only so many times you can sing it and mean it ... It just became sanctimonious."

The song was played again by the surviving members of Led Zeppelin at the Live Aid concert in 1985; at the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary concert in 1988, with Jason Bonham on drums; and by Jimmy Page as an instrumental version on his solo tours.

By the late 1980s, Plant made his negative impression of the song clear in interviews. In 1988, he stated:

I'd break out in hives if I had to sing ("Stairway to Heaven") in every show.
I wrote those lyrics and found that song to be of some importance and consequence in 1971, but 17 years later, I don't know.
It's just not for me.
I sang it at the Atlantic Records show because I'm an old softie and it was my way of saying thank you to Atlantic because I've been with them for 20 years.
But no more of "Stairway to Heaven" for me.

However, by the mid-1990s Plant's views had apparently softened. The first few bars were played alone during Page and Plant tours in lieu of the final notes of "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You", and in November 1994 Page and Plant performed an acoustic version of the song at a Tokyo news station for Japanese television. "Stairway to Heaven" was also performed at Led Zeppelin's reunion show at the O2 Arenamarker, London on 10 December 2007.

Plant cites the most unusual performance of the song ever as being that performed at Live Aid: "...with two drummers while Duran Duran cried at the side of the stage - there was something quite surreal about that."

Footage of the song being played live is preserved on the band's concert film The Song Remains the Same, featuring a performance from Madison Square Gardenmarker in 1973, and on the Led Zeppelin DVD, featuring a performance from Earls Court Arenamarker in 1975. Official audio versions are also available on The Song Remains the Same's accompanying soundtrack, on Led Zeppelin BBC Sessions (a performance from London's Paris Theatremarker in 1971) and on How the West Was Won (a performance from the Long Beach Arenamarker in 1972). There are also hundreds of audio versions which can be found on unofficial Led Zeppelin bootleg recordings.

Success and influence

According to music journalist Stephen Davis, although the song was released in 1971, it took until 1973 before the song's popularity ascended to truly "anthemic" status.

"Stairway to Heaven" continues to top radio lists of the greatest rock songs, as well as topping a recent Guitar World poll. On the 20th anniversary of the original release of the song, it was announced via U.S. radio sources that the song had logged up an estimated 2,874,000 radio plays - back to back, that would run for 44 years solid. As of 2000, the song had been broadcast on radio over three million times. In 1990 a St Petersburg, Florida station kicked off its all-Led Zeppelin format by playing "Stairway to Heaven" for 24 hours straight. It is also the biggest-selling single piece of sheet music clocking up an average of 15,000 copies yearly. In total, over one million copies have been sold.

The song's length precluded its release in full form as a single. Despite pressure from Atlantic Records the band would not authorize the editing of the song for single release, making "Stairway to Heaven" one of the most well-known and popular rock songs never to have been released as a single. It did, however, appear as a promotional disc in the United States, pressed as a 7:55 track on each side; on an Australian acoustic EP, and in the 1990s as a 20th anniversary promo book.

The group's recording of this song also appeared as the sole Led Zeppelin track in the 1977 Atlantic Records 2-LP promotional sampler album, We've Got Your Music, marking the very first time that Led Zeppelin's "Stairway To Heaven" made its official debut appearance in an American-released various artists compilation collection.

In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine put it at number 31 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. In in a January 29, 2009, article, Guitar World magazine rated Jimmy Page's guitar solo at number one in the publication's 100 Greatest Guitar Solos in Rock and Roll History.

Other versions

The song has been covered a number of times. Rolf Harris's didgeridoo-and-wobble board interpretation reached number seven in the UK charts in 1993. Rolf Harris's version was one of 25 different versions of the song that were performed live by guest stars on the early 1990s Australian chat show The Money or the Gun - each being a unique version of the song in the usually idiosyncratic style of performance of each guest star. Dolly Parton released a stripped down acoustic cover of the song in 2002; Plant spoke highly of Parton's version, noting that he was pleasantly surprised with how her version turned out.

In 1977, Little Roger and the Goosebumps recorded a parody of the song in which the words to the theme song of the television show Gilligan's Island were sung in place of the original lyrics. Within five weeks, Led Zeppelin's lawyers threatened to sue them and demanded that any remaining copies of the recording be destroyed. However, during a 2005 interview on National Public Radio, Plant referred to the tune as his favorite cover of "Stairway to Heaven."

The sketch comedy series SCTV had an elaborate spoof of the song with its spoof album Stairways to Heaven. In the mock album, advertised in the style of K-tel, various snippets of cover versions are featured, supposedly from artists ranging from Slim Whitman to the faux-50s group "The Five Neat Guys," as well as the original version (albeit advertised to be a sound-alike). This sketch, due to rights issues, was not released on the DVDs for the show.

The London Symphony Orchestra recorded a verison Stairway to Heaven as part of their Classic Rock series in 1980, the venue being EMI Studio One, Abbey Road, London. It has also been arranged and recorded by the Hampton String Quartet on their early album, "What if Mozart Wrote 'Born to be Wild'."

A version by Far Corporation was released in 1985 and reached number 8 in the UK singles chart.

Australian physicist and composer Joe Wolfe composed a set of variations on"Stairway to Heaven." This work, The Stairway Suite, is composed for orchestra, big band, chorus, and SATB. Each variation is in the style of a famous composer: Franz Schubert, Gustav Holst, Glenn Miller, Gustav Mahler, Georges Bizet, and Ludwig van Beethoven. For example, the Schubert inspired variation is based on the Unfinished Symphony, and the Beethoven inspired variation includes vocal soloists and chorus and resembles Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Wolfe posted the full score of this piece on the Internet..

The blog for radio station WFMUmarker contains a page with links to over 100 cover versions of "Stairway to Heaven." The page contains mp3 files for each version.

In 2007, Rodrigo y Gabriela covered this song in the album Rhythms del Mundo Classics by the Buena Vista Social Club.


It has been suggested that the song's introduction bears a close resemblance to the 1968instrumental "Taurus" by the group Spirit. In the liner notes to the 1996 reissue of Spirit's debut album, songwriter Randy California writes:
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" in their live set.
They opened up for us on their first American tour.

Backward masking controversy

In the early 1980s, some Christian evangelists in the US alleged that hidden messages were contained in many popular rock songs through a technique called backward masking. One example of such hidden messages that was often prominently cited was in "Stairway to Heaven." The alleged message, which occurs during the middle section of the song ("If there's a bustle in your hedgerow, don't be alarmed now...") when played backwards, was purported to contain the Satanic references "Here's to my sweet Satan" and "I sing because I live with Satan".

In 1982, the Consumer Protection and Toxic Materials Committee of the California State Assembly held a hearing on backward masking in popular music, during which "Stairway to Heaven" was played backwards. During the hearing, William Yarroll, a self-described "neuroscientific researcher", claimed that backward messages could be decyphered by the human brain.

Various versions of the alleged message exist. One such interpretation reads:

The band itself has for the most part ignored such claims; in response to the allegations, Swan Song Records issued the statement: "Our turntables only play in one direction—forwards". Led Zeppelin audio engineer Eddie Kramer called the allegations "totally and utterly ridiculous. Why would they want to spend so much studio time doing something so dumb?" Robert Plant expressed frustration with the accusations in a 1983 interview in Musician magazine: "To me it's very sad, because 'Stairway to Heaven' was written with every best intention, and as far as reversing tapes and putting messages on the end, that's not my idea of making music."


Publication Country Accolade Year Rank
Rock and Roll Hall of Famemarker United States "The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll" 1994 *
Classic Rock United Kingdom "Ten of the Best Songs Ever!" 1999 1
VH1 United States "The 100 Greatest Rock Songs of All Time" 2000 3
RIAA United States "Songs of the Century" 2001 53
Grammy Awards United States "Grammy Hall of Fame Award" 2003 *
Rolling Stone United States "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time" 2003 31
Q United Kingdom "100 Songs That Changed the World" 2003 47
Toby Creswell Australia "1001 Songs: the Great Songs of All Time" 2005 *
Q United Kingdom "100 Greatest Songs of All Time" 2006 8
Rolling Stone United States "100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time" 2008 8
Triple J Australia "Hottest 100 of All Time" 2009 10
Guitar World United States "100 Greatest Guitar Solos" 2006 1

(*) designates unordered lists.

Formats and tracklistings

1972 7" single (Philippines: Atlantic 45-3747)
  • A. "Stairway to Heaven" [part 1] (Page, Plant) 4:01
  • B. "Stairway to Heaven" [part 2] (Page, Plant) 4:01

1972 7" promo (US: Atlantic PR 175 [picture sleeve])
  • A. "Stairway to Heaven" [stereo] (Page, Plant) 8:02
  • B. "Stairway to Heaven" [mono] (Page, Plant) 8:02

1972 7" promo (US: Atlantic PR-269)
  • A. "Stairway to Heaven" [stereo] (Page, Plant) 7:55
  • B. "Stairway to Heaven" [mono] (Page, Plant) 7:55

1972 7" promo (South Africa: Atlantic Teal)
  • A. "Stairway to Heaven" (Page, Plant) 8:02
  • B. "Going to California" (Page, Plant) 3:31

1978 12" single (Brazil: WEA 6WP.2003)
  • A. "Stairway to Heaven" [stereo] (Page, Plant) 8:02
  • B. "Stairway to Heaven" [mono] (Page, Plant) 8:02

1990 7" promo (UK: Atlantic LZ3)
  • A. "Stairway to Heaven" (Page, Plant) 8:02
  • B. "Whole Lotta Love" (Bonham, Jones, Page, Plant, Dixon)

1991 20th Anniversary promo (US: Atlantic PRCD 4424-2, Japan: Warner Pioneer PRCD 4424-2)
  • CD single, 7" single

Chart positions

Single (Digital download)

Chart (2007) Peak position
New Zealand RIANZ Singles Chart 13
Norwegian Singles Chart 5
Irish Singles Chart 24
UK Singles Chart 37
US Billboard Hot Digital Songs Chart 30
US Billboard Hot Singles Recurrents Chart 16
Canadian Billboard Hot Digital Singles Chart 17
EU Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart 79
Swiss Singles Chart 17
Portuguese Singles Chartmarker 8
Italian Singles Chart 60
Chart (2008) Peak position
Swedish Singles Chart 57
German Singles Chart 71

Note: The official UK Singles Chart incorporated legal downloads as of 17 April 2005.


  1. Dave Lewis (1994), The Complete Guide to the Music of Led Zeppelin, Omnibus Press, ISBN 0-7119-3528-9.
  2. UK Music Charts | The Official UK Top 75 Singles: Week of Mon 24 Mar - Yahoo! Music UK
  3. Dave Schulps, Interview with Jimmy Page, Trouser Press, October 1977.
  4. Sutcliffe, Phil (April 2000). "Bustle in the Hedgerow". MOJO, p.62
  5. Tolinski, Brad and di Benedetto, Greg (January 1998). "Light and Shade: A Historic Look at the Entire Led Zeppelin Catalogue Through the Eyes of Guitarist/Producer/Mastermind Jimmy Page". Guitar World, p. 100-104.
  6. Chris Welch (1994) Led Zeppelin, London: Orion Books. ISBN 0-85797-930-3, pp. 60-61.
  7. Guitar World Magazine, April 1997: "California's most enduring legacy may well be the fingerpicked acoustic theme of the song "Taurus," which Jimmy Page lifted virtually note for note for the introduction to "Stairway to Heaven."
  8. Steven Rosen, 1977 Jimmy Page Interview, Modern Guitars, 25 May 2007 (originally published in the July 1977, issue of Guitar Player magazine).
  9. "Their Time is Gonna Come", Classic Rock Magazine, December 2007
  10. "100 Greatest Guitar Solos", Guitar World Magazine, Oct 14, 2008
  11. Llewellyn, Sian (December, 1998). "Stairway to Heaven". Total Guitar, p.61-62
  12. Tolinski, Bradllyn with Di Benedetto, Greg, (January, 1998). "Light & Shade". Guitar World, p.98
  13. Songfacts: Stairway to Heaven
  14. Pallett, SImon (January, 1998). "Radio Dazed". Guitar World, p.122
  15. Dave Lewis and Simon Pallett (1997) Led Zeppelin: The Concert File, London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-5307-4, p. 58.
  16. Los Angeles Times, 12/6/1988.
  17. Stephen Davis, The Hammer of the Gods, William Morrow and Company Inc., New York, 1985, p. 150.
  18. Australian Broadcasting Corporation - Triple J Music Specials - Led Zeppelin (first broadcast 2000-07-12)
  19. Guitar World
  20. Robert Plant on Yahoo! Music
  21. [1]
  22. Guitar World Magazine, April 1997: "California's most enduring legacy may well be the fingerpicked acoustic theme of the song "Taurus," which Jimmy Page lifted virtually note for note for the introduction to "Stairway to Heaven."
  23. Sleeve notes, booklet included with CD EPC 485175
  24. The London Independent, 17 January 1997
  25. 1968 Setlist
  26. Arar, Yardena. (AP) "Does Satan Lurk in the Backward Playing of Records?" St. Petersburg Independent May 24, 1982: 3A
  27. Billiter, Bill. "Satanic Messages Played Back for Assembly Panel" Los Angeles Times April 28, 1982: B3
  28. Davis, Stephen. The Hammer of the Gods (1985) p. 335


  • Led Zeppelin: Dazed and Confused: The Stories Behind Every Song, by Chris Welch, ISBN 1-56025-818-7
  • The Complete Guide to the Music of Led Zeppelin, by Dave Lewis, ISBN 0-7119-3528-9

External links

Embed code:

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address