Jimmy Page Testifies as Led Zeppelin ‘Stairway to Heaven’ Trial Heats Up
The proceedings intensified, however, when Malofiy called Page as a witness, causing an excited gasp from the spectators assembled in the galley as the rock-star royal made his way to the stand, reading glasses in hand. Much of Page’s testimony centered on the plaintiff’s counsel’s attempt to demonstrate Page and Led Zeppelin’s familiarity with the music and discography of Spirit, as well as any personal contact between the bands. With Malofiy in full attack mode – at one point during Page’s testimony, he testily referred to Page as the “alleged songwriter” of “Stairway to Heaven” – the attorney repeatedly confronted Page on owning multiple Spirit albums.
Under oath, Page admitted to recalling purchasing Spirit’s second and third albums, The Family That Plays Together and Clear. Both records were released in 1969, but Page was surprised when he recently discovered numerous other Spirit releases, including a live album and Spirit’s eponymous 1968 debut that contains “Taurus” as its fourth track. That album also contains “Fresh-Garbage,” a cover of which Page admitted was a staple of Led Zeppelin’s earliest live sets, appearing during a jam section in a medley entitled “As Long As I Have You.”
Page claimed he had never heard the band’s eponymous debut album, noting that there was no way for him to listen to, or even know the existence of, every record in his expansive personal music collection, which he assessed as “4,329 LPs and 5,882 CDs.” “To be honest, I could’ve bought it or been given it,” Page stated. He claimed he had never heard “Taurus” until “something appeared on the Internet – there was a buzz going on in the comparison [between “Taurus” and “Stairway”] a few years ago. My son-in-law brought it up; I don’t do the Internet, so he played it for me. When I heard the orchestral part at the beginning, I knew I’d never heard it before … When it started, I was confused by the comparison … [I thought] ‘What’s this got to do with ‘Stairway’?”
On the stand, Page was alternately candid, evasive, sarcastic and wittily charming in his Anglicisms. Describing the reason why Zeppelin decided to include “Fresh-Garbage” in their sets, he noted the band’s tendency to “chip a wink to what’s hot.” When Malofiy asked how long Led Zeppelin played the totemic “Fresh-Garbage” riff in the “As Long I Have You” segment of their live show, Page responded, “I don’t know – I don’t have a stopwatch.” During a protracted discussion of Page’s musical beginnings, Malofiy ludicrously stated, “later on [in his youth, Page discovered he] had a gift in his ability to play guitar,” causing the Zeppelin axeman to snap, “Well, yeah” and the crowd to guffaw heartily.
Much of the day’s testimony centered around the events of December 26th, 1969 – the date of a Led Zeppelin concert in Denver co-headlined by Spirit and heavy rockers Vanilla Fudge. According to Page, Led Zeppelin played first and had to leave immediately after to make the next day’s date in Seattle, making it impossible for anyone in the band to have seen Spirit’s performance. He also claimed he wasn’t even aware of Spirit’s presence on the bill, despite the fact that Zeppelin covered “Fresh-Garbage” that night, as had become tradition in their early live sets. “I didn’t think I was opening for Spirit; I thought I was opening for Vanilla Fudge,” Page said. “I was excited about opening for Vanilla Fudge because I was a big fan of theirs.”