Jimmy Page Talks About Making ‘Stairway to Heaven’
Jimmy Page is offering fans an intimate look into Led Zeppelin's most famous song, sharing memories and insights as a record spins in front of him. Chief among his points: The complex, episodic 'Stairway to Heaven' was built to last.
"The idea of 'Stairway,'" he says in a new BBC video, "was to have a piece of music, a composition, whereby it would just keep unfolding into more layers and more moods. The whole subtlety and intensity of the overlay would actually accelerate as it went through every level -- every emotional level, every musical level. And so it keeps opening up, as it continues through these patterns."
That's keyed, in part, by the late introduction of John Bonham's signature drums -- a launching point as the track builds momentum. Page also notes John Paul Jones' idea to use a recorder early on, giving 'Stairway' a slightly medieval feel. As for his guitar contributions, Page compares the acoustic intro to a poor man's Bach -- and then takes listeners through his solo, beginning with its flashy moment of fanfare. Robert Plant's magisterial lyrics are given lengthy praise too, though those came much later.
"It was slightly strange to be doing this whole thing without a vocal," Page admits, "because at the time, there weren't any lyrics. The whole of the running order, from the beginning until the end, was mapped out. It was tricky. It was a tricky thing to do, because there are a lot of musical changes in it."
'Stairway to Heaven' is set for reissue as part of Led Zeppelin's fourth album on Oct. 28, along with 'Houses of the Holy.' Page oversaw the remastering and release of the group's first three albums in June.