Music expert Rupert Till believes rock giants Led Zeppelin could be in deep trouble.
He has spoken out as the band’s leading lights Jimmy Page and Robert Plant have been ordered to face a court accused of plagiarism.
And Dr Till, senior music technology lecturer at the University of Huddersfield, reckons the odds are stacked against them when it comes to the allegations from 70s rock band Spirit, who claim the ban’s huge hit Stairway to heaven is a copy of their song Taurus.
Dr Till said: “The odds of the first 17 notes being the same are 2,218,611,106,740,437,000:1 or 2.2 Quintillion to One.
“Add that the tempo is almost the same, the key is the same, they both start with solo-picked acoustic guitar and there’s no chance this could be a coincidence.”
A jury trial is now set for a lawsuit. The estate of Randy Wolfe, the late guitarist of the band Spirit, filed the federal lawsuit in the United States amd now District Judge R. Gary Klausner ruled that there’s enough evidence to move ahead with a trial.
Dr Till said: “Oddly I gave a lecture on Monday to music students at the University on the subject of Led Zeppelin being sued for copyright infringement, and the moral issues raised by such plagiarism. It also reflects a book chapter I wrote, the Blues Blueprint, in Cross the Water Blues (2007).
“This time it is the iconic song “Stairway to Heaven” that is being discussed. The first 17 notes are exactly the same on the song Taurus by Spirit, and as a result Randy California (of Spirit) or at least his estate, are suing.
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“When you also consider that Led Zeppelin’s first US tour supported the band Spirit, and that Jimmy Page has the song in his record collection, it seems an open and shut case.”
Led Zeppelin have been repeatedly sued in part because they are the fourth best-selling artist in the USA, and there is a lot of money at stake.
Dr Till added: “Ironically Led Zeppelin are very careful about preserving their own rights, and have been known to aggressively pursue bootleggers or pirates for very small scale breaches of copyright.
“Led Zeppelin have taken material in the past from blues musicians like Willie Dixon and Memphis Minnie, while other heavy blues artists like the Rolling Stones, Free, Alexis Korner and Jeff Beck gave proper credit to the less well known artists whose music influenced them, in some cases for covers of the same song.
“My own calculation relating to Led Zeppelin suggests that the song “Taurus” represents about 5.5% of the music of “Stairway to Heaven”, a complex calculation representing the percentage of the music that is the same.
“No doubt this will be settled out of court. Most people who have sued Led Zeppelin for similar issues settled out of court, unable to compete with the lawyers of multi-millionaire rock stars.
“All that is left is to quote the title of Led Zeppelin’s famous in concert film, “The Song Remains the Same”.