Taurus (instrumental)

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"Taurus"
Song by Spirit
from the album Spirit
ReleasedJanuary 22, 1968
RecordedNovember 1967
GenrePsychedelic rock, progressive rock
Length2:37
LabelEpic
Songwriter(s)Randy California
Producer(s)Lou Adler

"Taurus" is a rock instrumental by American rock band Spirit, originally released in 1968.

Composition[edit]

The track, composed by Spirit guitarist/singer Randy California, was recorded in November 1967 and released on the band's debut album, Spirit.[1]

Controversy[edit]

It has been alleged that Jimmy Page borrowed the descending guitar-figure from "Taurus" for Led Zeppelin's signature song "Stairway to Heaven".[2][3] Led Zeppelin had opened for Spirit in an early American tour, providing the possibility that Led Zeppelin had heard the Spirit song before "Stairway to Heaven" was written. In the liner notes to the 1996 reissue of Spirit's debut album, Randy California wrote:

People always ask me why "Stairway to Heaven" sounds exactly like "Taurus", which was released two years earlier. I know Led Zeppelin also played "Fresh Garbage" in their live set. They opened up for us on their first American tour.[4]

Randy California, born Randy Wolfe, died in 1997. In 2014, the musician's estate filed a copyright infringement suit seeking a co-writing credit for California on "Stairway to Heaven."[5][6]

In April 2016, District Judge Gary Klausner ruled that there were sufficient similarities between the songs sufficient enough for Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, credited as co-writers of "Stairway to Heaven", to stand trial by jury for copyright infringement.[7]

The trial began on June 14, 2016.[8] On June 15, 2016, Jimmy Page spent hours on the witness stand testifying.[9] By law, the jury was not allowed to hear original recordings of the songs; instead, they heard an expert perform both songs in court using original sheet music.[10]

The trial concluded on June 23, 2016, with the jury, after one hour of deliberation, finding that Led Zeppelin was not guilty of plagiarism,[11] determining that while Plant and Page had access to “Taurus,” the song’s riff was not "intrinsically similar" to the opening of “Stairway.”[12]

The Wolfe estate filed an appeal,[8] and in September 2018, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, California, citing a series of errors by the previous case's judge, threw out by a 3-0 ruling the 2016 district court's decision.[13] According to the appeals court decision, the 2016 trial judge erred in failing to instruct jurors that the trustee could prevail if Wolfe had created a “sufficiently original combination” of "otherwise unprotectable music elements," and also in instructing jurors about the copyrighting of music elements in the public domain; the case is set to return to the District Court.[13]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ruhlmann, William. "Spirit". AllMusic. Retrieved 29 September 2018.
  2. ^ "Randy California: obituary", Guitar World, April 1997: 'But 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".'
  3. ^ Perrone, Pierre (January 17, 1997). "Obituary: Randy California". The Independent. London, UK. Retrieved September 29, 2018.
  4. ^ Vincent, Peter (May 20, 2014). "Did Led Zeppelin rip off Stairway to Heaven?". Sydney Morning Herald. Sydney, Australia. Retrieved January 21, 2014.
  5. ^ Lewis, Randy (May 21, 2014). "Guitarist's estate says Led Zeppelin lifted 'Stairway to Heaven' part". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California. Retrieved January 21, 2016.
  6. ^ Silver, Vernon (May 15, 2014). "Stairway to Heaven: The Song Remains Pretty Similar". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved May 21, 2014.
  7. ^ "Led Zeppelin stars face copyright trial", BBC News, April 12, 2016. Retrieved April 12, 2016
  8. ^ a b Skidmore et al v. Led Zeppelin et al., 410 C.A. 16-56057 (2017).
  9. ^ Gibson, Caitlin (June 16, 2016). "Of course Jimmy Page testified like a rock star in the 'Stairway to Heaven' trial". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 29, 2018.
  10. ^ Grow, Kory (June 23, 2016). "Led Zeppelin Win in 'Stairway to Heaven' Trial". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 29 November 2016.
  11. ^ Cullins, Ashley (June 23, 2016). "Led Zeppelin Wins 'Stairway to Heaven' Jury Trial". Billboard. Retrieved June 23, 2016.
  12. ^ Stempel, Jonathan (September 28, 2018). "Led Zeppelin must face new trial claiming it stole 'Stairway' riff". Reuters. Retrieved September 29, 2018.
  13. ^ a b "Led Zeppelin to face new Stairway to Heaven trial". BBC News. September 28, 2018. Retrieved September 29, 2018.