The latest in the Song of the Day for the greatest guitar solo series is the power rock ballad of power ballads. Straight from their untitled fourth album, Stairway to Heaven is a mixture of acoustic-folk music and anthemic hard rock. The fact that this power ballads of all power ballads have stood the test of time, ridicule and countless covers (both serious and comedic) says much about the power that Led Zeppelin had over rock music. Even 30 years since they broke up the band still influences musicians to this day.
Stairway to Heaven to me best exemplifies the gradual shift of the band from a down and dirty blues-based hard rock band to the proto-metal/progressive rock which would dominate the band’s sound from the mid-70’s until the band’s break-up after the untimely death of drummer John Bonham in 1980. The song puts to light Jimmy Page’s growing attraction for the esoteric as the song’s lyrics conjures up images of the fairy folk of the Welsh countryside. The acoustic guitar arpeggios which begins the song soothingly brings the listener in. Each section brings in more of the modern to the Renaissance-like intro. This build-up reaches a crescendo at the mid 5-minute mark when Jimmy Page begins a guitar solo which finally leads to a climactic hard rock finish to the song.
The song was the most requested and played track over the radio and became a staple of the band’s sets on their many tours during the 70’s. Like any piece of artistic work extremely popular with the masses the song reached such a popularity that a backlash just as extreme followed as the band broke up in 1980. The fact that this backlash didn’t diminish the song’s appeal to future generations of fans and to the legions before them shows just how important this song has become to rock music history.
While other epic power ballads have come and gone since Stairway to Heaven they will never supplant Led Zeppelin’s epic mystical anthem of fairy folk, magical lands with progressive hard rock. Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven was first and to many will always be First and The One.
Stairway to Heaven
There’s a lady whose sure all that glitters is gold
And she’s buying a stairway to heaven.
When she gets there, she knows if the stores are all closed
With a word she can get what she came for.
Ooh, ooh, and she’s buying a stairway to heaven.
There’s a sign on the wall but she wants to be sure
’Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings.
In a tree by the brook, there is a songbird who sings:
Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiven.
Ooh, it makes me wonder,
Ooh, it makes me wonder.
Theres a feeling I get when I look to the west,
And my spirit is crying for leaving.
In my thoughts I have seen rings of smoke through the trees,
And the voices of those who standing looking.
Ooh, it makes me wonder,
Ooh, really makes me wonder.
And it’s whispered that soon if we all call the tune
Then the piper will lead us to reason.
And a new day will dawn for those who stand long
And the forests will echo with laughter.
If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow,
Don’t be alarmed now,
Its just a spring clean for the May queen.
Yes, there are two paths you can go by but in the long run
Theres still time to change the road you’re on.
And it makes me wonder.
Your head is humming and it won’t go,
In case you don’t know:
The pipers calling you to join him.
Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow,
And did you know:
Your stairway lies on the whispering wind.
And as we wind on down the road,
Our shadows taller than our soul,
There walks a lady we all know.
Who shines white light and wants to show…
How everything still turns to gold.
And if you listen very hard the tune will come to you at last.
When all are one and one is all, yeah, to be a rock and not to roll.
And she’s buying a stairway… to heaven.
Great Guitar Solos Series