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Inspiration or Plagirism? The Spirit/Led Zeppelin Connection

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A few days ago I posted a blog about the passing of the art rock group Spirit's drummer Ed Cassidy, and in the process alluded to the fact that the band and Led Zeppelin had a connection. I didn't amplify then....the post was getting a bit lenghty....so I'll get to it now.

There is a closet industry out there made up of people who look for places where Led Zep "borrowed" without credit songs and/or segments of other artist's work. There's a gob (technical term) of You Tube videos like this:

....and the group has been sued a number of times over copywrite infringement. As it happened, Led Zeppelin opened for Spirit a number of times during Zep's first tour of the United States, and was apparently impressed enough with the Jay Ferguson penned "Fresh Garbage" that is shows up all over Zep's "As Long As I Have You", at least in their early performances. It starts at the 4:48 point in this bootleg and runs off and on for about 5 minutes.

By comparison, here's Spirit.

Notice the bass lineis heavily used, and in some performances, Zep uses the lyrics.

Now, remember this?

I guess the question shouldn't be "Do you remember this" but "How the heck can I get this out of my head" at this point in time, but I digress. During some of the shows in their late '68/early '69 debut tour, they opened for Spirit, the established act, who were touring their second LP, "The Family That Plays Together", with much of their first self-titled LP being played during the show. And one of the songs was boy wonder Randy California's beautiful little insturmental, "Taurus".

Sound familiar? It's close enough to "SWTH" that Guitar World noted "(Randy) California's most enduring legacy may well be the fingerpicked acoustic theme of the song "Taurus", which Jimmy Page lifted virtually note for note for the introduction to "Stairway To Heaven".

Apparently, it didn't bother California, his stepfather (Cassidy), or anyone else in the band. In the liner notes of the 1996 re-release of Spirit's first album, he wrote "People always ask me why "Stairway To Heaven" sounds exactly like "Taurus", which was released two years earlier. I know Lez Zeppelin also played "Fresh Garbage" in their live set. They opened for us on their first American tour." No lawsuit, no nothing.

So, did Zep "borrow" "Taurus"? That's for someone else to decide. Re-using licks is common in music, just ask George Harrison. Someone else can deside.

As an aside to the previous blog, someone asked me over the weekend if I knew Randy California's real name? Yup. Randy Wolfe. When he was 15, he ran into some guitarist in a New York City music store, and subsequently joined his band. The band had 2 Randy's in it, so the guitarist/bandleader called him Randy California (where he was living), to distinguish him from the other Randy in the band, who became Randy Texas. The band leader? Jimi Hendrix, who fronted for a short time Jimi James And The Blue Flame.

Thus we end our saga of Spirit, Ed Cassidy ("The World's Oldest Rock and Roll Drummer"), Randy California and some really good music.

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