40 Years of Led Zeppelin's Stairway To Heaven

(Gibson) How did high school dances end before November 8, 1971? That's the date that Led Zeppelin released a promotional disc to FM rock stations that would become the world's most-played radio hit and cross over to teen-packed auditoriums everywhere.

"Stairway to Heaven" was an unlikely on-air success at eight-minutes long, but in the early '70s, FM DJs still could play the full-length version of "In-A- Gadda-Da-Vida," Iron Butterfly's 17-minute bathroom break anthem. And "Stairway"'s length, plus the song's long, quiet build-up, made it perfect for slow dancing until the explosive finale, which provided an outlet for the hormonal energy that the slow dancing generate.

The song that Gibson Les Paul legend Jimmy Page described as "crystallizing the band" started taking form in 1970 during Page and Robert Plant's famous songwriting vacation in rural Wales at a cottage called Bron-Yr-Aur. Page developed the acoustic opening section there, and Plant wrote the initial verse. By the time the entire band re-grouped at the Headley Grange rehearsal and recording building in East Hampshire, England, Page had several distinct pieces of electric and acoustic music that he felt were related to that initial theme. While Page tried to weave the sections together with drummer John Bonham and bassist and keyboardist John Paul Jones, Plant sat in a corner, writing. When he stood up and started singing, about 80 percent of the lyrics for "Stairway to Heaven" were complete. more on this story

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