The most famous rock song of all time, "Stairway To Heaven" wasn't a chart hit because it was never released as a single to the general public. Radio stations received promotional singles which quickly became collector's items. On Tuesday November 13, 2007, Led Zeppelin's entire back catalogue was made available as legal digital downloads, making all of their tracks eligible for the UK singles chart. As a result, at the end of that week the original version of "Stairway To Heaven" arrived in the UK singles charts for the first time. Previously, three covers had charted: the multinational studio band Far Corporation reached #8 with their version in 1985, then reggae tribute act Dread Zeppelin crawled to #62 in 1991 and finally Rolf Harris' reworking outdid the other two, peaking at #7 in 1993.
Robert Plant spent much of the '70s answering questions about the lyrics he wrote for "Stairway." When asked why the song was so popular, he said it could be its "abstraction," adding, "Depending on what day it is, I still interpret the song a different way - and I wrote the lyrics." The lyrics take some pretty wild turns, but the beginning of the song is about a woman who accumulates money, only to find out the hard way her life had no meaning and will not get her into heaven. This is the only part Plant would really explain, as he said it was "a woman getting everything she wanted without giving anything back."
Led Zeppelin started planning "Stairway" in early 1970 when they decided to create a new, epic song to replace "Dazed And Confused" as the centerpiece of their concerts. Jimmy Page would work on the song in an 8-track studio he had installed in his boathouse, trying out different sections on guitar. By April, he was telling journalists that their new song might be 15-minutes long, and described it as something that would "build towards a climax" with John Bonham's drums not coming in for some time. In October 1970, after about 18 months of near constant touring, the song took shape. Page and Plant explained that they started working on it at a 250-year-old Welsh cottage called Bron-yr-Aur, where they wrote the songs for Led Zeppelin III. Page sometimes told a story of the pair sitting by a fire at the cabin as they composed it, a tale that gives the song a mystical origin story, as there could have been spirits at play within those walls. Page told a different story under oath: When he was called to the stand in 2016 as part of a plagiarism trial over this song, he said that he wrote the music on his own and first played it for his bandmates at Headley Grange in Liphook Road, Headley, Hampshire, where they recorded it using a mobile studio owned by The Rolling Stones. Plant corroborated the story in his testimony. Headley Grange may not be as enchanting as Bron-yr-Aur, but the place had some character: It was a huge, old, dusty mansion with no electricity but great acoustics. Bands would go there to get some privacy and focus on songwriting, as the biggest distractions were the sheep and other wildlife.
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