Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page said a 1968 instrumental he’s accused of ripping off for the band’s iconic “Stairway to Heaven” was alien to him when he first heard it a few years ago.
Page testified Wednesday in a trial in Los Angeles federal court that he only became aware of Spirit’s “Taurus” after his son-in-law alerted him to comparisons posted on the Internet between Led Zeppelin’s 1971 classic and the California band’s track.
“I don’t do the internet,” Page, dressed in a dark suit and tie, told jurors under questioning by the lawyer for the trust of late Spirit guitarist Randy Wolfe. “He brought it to my attention. There was some sort of buzz about it.”
Page, 72, said he would have remembered the Spirit instrumental if he had heard it before because of its memorable orchestral opening. He was stopped by U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner from answering questions about similarities between the two recordings because any copyright infringement would only pertain to the sheet music of “Taurus,” not to the version that appeared in Spirit’s debut album.
Wolfe’s trust is seeking a songwriting credit for him and potentially millions of dollars in royalties.
Klausner repeatedly blocked questions trying to solicit direct comparisons between the two recordings. Instead, much of the questioning by plaintiff lawyer Francis Malofiy focused on another Spirit song, “Fresh Garbage,” the bass riff of which was incorporated in a medley Led Zeppelin played during their first American tour in late 1968 and early 1969.
“You can tell we’re just jamming on the riff,” Page said after jurors were treated to a more than two-minute outtake of Led Zeppelin playing the medley, “As Long as I have you,” during a performance in San Francisco in 1969.
Page said he liked Spirit at the time and had bought at least their second album, but denied that he had listened to band’s first album and that he knew “Taurus,” the fourth track on the record. He testified he has about 4,300 albums and more than 5,000 CDs and that he only discovered he had the first self-titled Spirit album in his collection recently when he checked because of the lawsuit.
The second day of the copyright trial was largely devoted to Malofiy trying to elicit evidence that Page and Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant were familiar with Spirit and would have heard “Taurus,” at some point before they wrote “Stairway to Heaven” in 1970.
Earlier Wednesday former Spirit bassist Mark Andes testified he hung out with Plant after a Spirit show at Birmingham’s Mothers Club in January 1970, drinking and playing snooker.
Plant said in a Feb. 23 court declaration that he has no recollection of seeing Spirit perform at Mothers that night and that Andes’s recollection is impossible because pubs in England would have been closed by the time the Spirit show ended.
“On Jan. 31, 1970, I had a car accident returning from Mothers with my wife,” Plant said in his declaration. “She had been with me at the club and we were returning home together, having spent the evening with friends at the bar.”
The case is Skidmore v. Led Zeppelin, 15-cv-03462, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).
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