Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page wrapped up his testimony at the copyright infringement trial over his 1971 classic “Stairway to Heaven” on Thursday, telling the court that he never met the man whose song he’s accused of ripping off.
Page is accused of lifting from the 1968 Spirit song “Taurus” while writing “Stairway.” A lawsuit filed by Michael Skidmore, the trustee of the Randy Craig Wolfe Trust, dubbed after the real name of Spirit frontman Randy California, notes that Spirit and Zeppelin played a number of shows together before the release of “Stairway.”
But during Thursday’s testimony, Page said that he never met Wolfe, who wrote “Taurus,” and never saw Spirit play live, even when Zeppelin shared a bill with the band.
Asked whether “Stairway to Heaven” crystallizes the essence of his former group, Page replied, “I don’t think any one song crystallizes the essence of Led Zeppelin.”
The guitarist was also asked whether the first two minutes and 14 seconds of “Stairway” — which contains the guitar passage allegedly similar to that of “Taurus” — are “memorable and important.” Page replied, “Yes, I think so.”
On Wednesday and Thursday, Page arrived at court carrying a guitar case, sparking speculation that he might perform in the courtroom. As it turns out, that performance never materialized, but he did dazzle the packed courtroom with his virtuosity — sort of.
During a brief break in proceedings, Page displayed his air guitar skills while talking to Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant, who is also expected to testify.
Page has said that he has Spirit’s 1968 self-titled debut album, which contains “Taurus,” in his record collection. However, he maintains that he doesn’t know how it got there. During Wednesday’s testimony, he said that the hasn’t really listened to the album, noting, “Since the comparisons [between ‘Taurus’ and ‘Stairway’], I really didn’t want to get that into it.”
On Thursday, the court also heard testimony from former Spirit bass player Larry Knight, who testified that he talked to Page at a Spirit after-party in London in 1973. Knight said that Page told him, “Good show.”
During Thursday’s court date, jurors also heard testimony from Kevin Hanson, former singer-guitarist for Huffamoose, who served as a musical expert for the plaintiff’s side.
Hanson testified on the openings of both “Taurus” and “Stairway to Heaven,” opining, “To my ear, they bear a striking similarity.” He added that, while the minor descending chord progression that both songs employ are commonplace, Taurus’ performance of the progression makes the work “original” and “creative.”
Led Zeppelin’s attorney, Peter Anderson, attempted to discredit Hanson on a number of fronts, including that he is a friend of Skidmore’s attorney Francis Malofiy, though on redirect Hanson stated that he had simply been hired by Malofiy as a session musician.
Musicologist Alexander Stewart also took the stand, testifying that “Stairway” and “Taurus” are similar in five separate categories and asserting that there is no”prior art” reflecting the way Taurus used the chord progression.
Plaintiff Skidmore was another occupant of the witness stand on Thursday. Skidmore, a former rock journalist, said that he discovered Spirit in 1969 and became friends with Wolfe after interviewing the group. After Wolfe died, Skidmore said, he helped with the re-release of Wolfe’s music to “promote Randy’s music and continue his legacy.”