Mary Poppins rather than an obscure instrumental by a little known 1960s rock band may have partially inspired Led Zeppelin’s iconic song Stairway To Heaven, the British group’s guitarist told a court on Thursday.
Jimmy Page said the chord sequence on the track was reminiscent of that used in Chim Chim Cheree, a melody in the 1964 film adaptation of the Mary Poppins story.
Page and Robert Plant, Led Zeppelin’s singer, were in Los Angeles district court on the third day of a trial examining allegations that the opening bars of Stairway To Heaven were plagiarized from Taurus, a song recorded by the long-defunct group Spirit in 1967.
A Trustee for the late Randy Wolfe, who composed Taurus, is demanding that he should be given a writing credit on the Zeppelin track, which appeared on their 1971 album Led Zeppelin IV. He is also claiming royalties should go to Wolfe’s estate.
A day after testifying that he had never heard Taurus before composing Stairway To Heaven, Page told Francis Alexander Malofiy, a lawyer for the trustee, that he was unsure if any similarity existed between the two songs.
He was then asked about a pre-trial written declaration he had given drawing a similarity between Stairway and the Mary Poppins song, which was played in court.
“I may have said the chord sequences are very similar because that chord sequence has been around forever,” said the 72-year-old guitarist, renowned at his peak for playing long solos live on stage.
Page testified on Wednesday that he owned a copy of Taurus on one of three Spirit albums among his collection of 10,000 records and CDs. But he insisted he had never heard the track or known he possessed it until becoming aware of online suggestions that it was similar to Stairway To Heaven.
The two groups appeared on the same concert bill several times in 1969, prompting speculation that Led Zeppelin may have heard Taurus then.
The business magazine Condé Nast Portfolio estimated in 2008 that Stairway To Heaven – one of rock music’s most played and instantly recognisable songs – had earned more than US$560 million (£394 million) in royalties.
Wolfe’s sister Janet told the court on Tuesday that her brother had talked often of the similarity between the two songs before his death in a swimming accident in 1997, adding: “It was something that upset him for many, many years.”