Friday, April 25, 2008


The other day I found myself (quite unintentionally, I assure you) listening to "Stairway to Heaven," rock's greatest, most-played, most beloved, most requested, blah blah blah, etc. song of all-time. Like most people (I assume), there were a few years in my life (over the hills and far away) when the opening strains of this song would send chills of pleasure coursing through my very being, followed shortly thereafter by an almost Pavlovian impulse to strike up my Bic lighter and hold it high above my head as I sang along with the tune.

These days I usually just change the station because, really, I don't need to "listen" to "Stairway to Heaven." I could easily call it up from the memory banks if I had to-- every note, every word, complete. Needless to say, I don't often feel the urge. I guess habituation, de-sensitization, etc. are a kind of curse, because the song hasn't changed at all since the first time I heard it. No, the only thing that's changed is me.

Anyway, enough of this philosophical cud-chewing!

There's a website that has 101 different versions of "Stairway to Heaven."

There's the "backwards" version, complete with lyrics:

There's the "Beatles" version:

There are versions done in the style of famous composers. Here's Glenn Miller's "version":

"Miller" Stairway

What if it had been performed by The Doors?

"Doors" Stairway

Here's a version performed by Frank Zappa:

Frank Zappa-Stairway to Heaven

"Stairway to Heaven" is the biggest selling sheet music in the history of rock, is still played thousands of times every year on FM stations all over the world, and is consistently voted the "greatest song of all-time."

How long can this go on? Maybe we should ask this kid...


  1. I don't even know were the original version comes from, and I had only heard one version, the performer of which I cannot recall. But that is a kick-ass song, anyway.

  2. Usual Stuff,
    FYI: Led Zeppelin, on their fourth album, is the original (which I didn't post).

  3. K - NO STAIRWAY? Denied!

    Of course it's a mind-blowing song, but 1) IMO, there are even better songs by the Zep, and 2) in the UK, it ALWAYS gets beaten in "Best Song Ever" polls by Bohemian Rhapsody - which (again, IMO) is pretty much unarguably the best song ever. Were Queen as big in North America as they were over here?

    PS - love the alternate versions.

  4. Tafkass,
    Sorry for the lag time in replying.

    I don't personally have a single song that I regard as the best ever, but certainly Stairway and Rhapsody are both worthy of such a title.

    I was a Queen fan from the get-go, and it was only after they became really big that my opinion (and their output) started to sour. They were very big in North America--initially with Killer Queen. Rhapsody made them rock gods to the masses.

  5. I see I got beaten to "Stairway Denied."

    I am so tired of this song that I can't even enjoy parodies of it anymore. I did used to think it was great, and in some senses, still deserves mention on a short list of "greatest rock and roll songs ever," I suppose.

    Interestingly enough (or not), I still really like, and will always crank when they come on the car radio, almost every other Led Zep song.

    "Bohemian Rhapsody" was huge in the States, in answer to tafkass. I was always kind of neutral on that one -- good guitar work, sometimes fun to sing along with.

    I don't think I have a favorite, and haven't for a long time. I've had a bunch of them over time -- certainly "Purple Haze," "Tush," "I Know a Little," "Precious," "Say What," "Satch Boogie," "The Rooster," "Been Caught Stealing," and "Give It Away" each held the slot for a while.

  6. Brendan,
    I don't recall the title "Satch Boogie"--who did it? And "Say What"? "Give It Away"-Chilis? "Precious"-Pretenders? "I Know a Little"-Skynyrd? "Stealing"-Jane's Addiction (or was it PfP?)? "Rooster"-Alice in Chains?
    My memory isn't what it used to be...

  7. kyklops:

    All your guesses are belong to us. Uh, I mean, all your guesses are correct.

    "Satch Boogie" is by Joe Satriani. Here is a live version.

    "Say What" is by Stevie Ray Vaughan. Here is the original studio version.

    Who is PfP?

  8. Brendan,
    Thanks for the links. "PfP" was just my shorthand for Porno for Pyros (which was, I think, just Jane's Addiction under another name--at least I couldn't tell the difference!).

  9. Bren - re. your appraisal of Bo Rap "good guitar work, sometimes fun to sing along with" - good lord, man! That's like saying Van Gogh's "Sunflowers" has a "nice vase" and a "good yellowy colour"...

  10. kyklops:

    Argh. I should have been able to figure out PfP. They were/are both fronted by Perry Farrell but I don't think they all the same band members. The big difference for me is the absence of Dave Navarro in PfP. I love his guitar playing.


    Excellent rebuttal, but ultimately, there's no accounting for taste. Bo Rap sometimes bugged me in its over-the-top feel, at other times in its campiness, and was certainly played too much. It strikes me, intellectually, as a better song than most rock songs, but it just never moved me as much as, say, the favorites I listed above. I guess what resonates with me is a more primal feel, or something like that.