Led Zeppelin bassist offers some surprising revelations
By David Sands
June 21, 2016
Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones raised some eyebrows when he took the stand in an L.A. courtroom Friday (June 17) to testify in the ongoing “Stairway to Heaven” copyright infringement trial.
His former bandmates, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, are accused of taking the intro for their famous song from an instrumental song called “Taurus,” which was released in 1968 by the rock group Spirit. The two bands toured together prior to writing of “Stairway.” The plaintiff in the case, the estate of Spirit guitarist and “Taurus” composer Randy Wolfe (aka Randy California), alleges the Led Zeppelin songwriters heard Spirit play “Taurus” and used its opening as a model for their own composition.
Jones, who is not on trial, told the court he’d never heard Spirit play and didn’t own any of their recordings. During his testimony he also contradicted the commonly held belief that Page and Plant first shared the intro to “Stairway” with the rest of their band after staying at a cottage in the Welsh mountains.
When presented in court with a recording of himself essentially saying that that in a 1972 BBC interview, however, Rolling Stone quotes him as responding: “It sounded like I was guessing. I was guessing.”
Asked how Led Zeppelin ended up using Spirit’s bass-heavy tune “Fresh-Garbage” in their early sets, Jones testified that he wasn’t sure.
“I forgot who introduced it — I can’t remember,” he said. “It was a two-bar bass riff that popped out from somewhere. It was a catchy little riff, had an interesting time thing and it caught my ear. I didn’t know where it was from.”
The bassist went on to say he believed all of the covers played by his group during an early Scandinavian tour were written by the Yardbirds, a band Jimmy Page played in prior to forming Led Zeppelin.
Lawyers for Page, Plant and Warner Music asked U.S. Judge R. Gary Klausner to end the trial on Monday on the grounds that the plaintiff hadn’t established copyright infringement had taken place.
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