Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant has testified that his memory of encounters more than 40 years ago is dim, though his recollection of the creation of the band’s epic Stairway to Heaven was quite clear.
Plant told a packed courtroom on Tuesday (US time) that he did not remember hanging out with members of the band Spirit after a Birmingham, England, show in 1970, though he said he and his wife were in a bad car wreck and he has no memory of the evening.
“I don’t have a recollection of almost anyone I’ve hung out with,” Plant said as the courtroom roared with laughter.
Plant took the stand in a federal courtroom in Los Angeles during the copyright trial in which he and fellow songwriter Jimmy Page are accused of stealing a riff from Spirit’s song Taurus for Stairway to Heaven.
The estate of the late songwriter Randy Wolfe, also known as Randy California, is suing Page, Plant and their record label for copyright infringement.
Spirit’s former bass player previously testified to drinking beers with Plant and playing snooker after a show at Mother’s Club in 1970.
Plant had a much sharper memory of creating Stairway at Headley Grange in England, where he said his goal was to evoke an image of pastoral Britain.
Plant was sitting by a fire when Page played the introduction to the song.
Plant said he had a couplet that might work that began: “There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold and she’s buying a stairway to heaven.”
From there it started “rolling pretty fast”, he said.
The other band members would make contributions and Plant would occasionally retreat to a bedroom with a notepad to work on more lyrics for what became an eight-minute song.
Musical experts for the Wolfe estate have said there were many similarities between Taurus and Stairway, but a defence expert has testified that the main similarity was a common descending chord sequence used as a musical building block for 300 years.