Robert Plant and Jimmy Page were front and center for the first day of Led Zeppelin plagiarism trial, which kicked off in Los Angeles more than 40 years after “Stairway to Heaven,” the song in question, was recorded by the iconic British band. Plant and Page sat with their lawyers as jury selection in the trial began, according to Rolling Stone.
Robert Plant, 67, and Jimmy Page, 72, are facing off against Michael Skidmore, the executor of the estate of late Spirit founder Randy “California” Wolfe. The suit claims that Zeppelin’s 1971 classic song stole chords from Wolfe’s Spirit instrumental “Taurus,” which was released three years earlier. Spirit and Led Zeppelin played on the same concert bill in the late 1960s, and “Taurus” was very much a part of Spirit’s set list at the time.
The presence of Robert Plant and Jimmy Page at the trial already had some potential jurors starstruck. Rolling Stone revealed that a special effects expert proclaimed his love for the rock legends and was easily booted.
“I’m very much a fan – my love for these guys [gesturing to Page and Plant] is very strong,” he reportedly said.
In fact, seven out of the first 14 possible jurors were dismissed from the trial, according to Ultimate Classic Rock. The final group of jurors chosen, consisting of four men and four women, was later sworn in after being vetted by Plant and Page’s attorney Peter Anderson and the trustee’s lawyer Francis Malofiy.
Plant and Page’s presence brought out the paparazzi, so to speak. While U.S. District Court Judge R. Gary Klausner has banned laptops, cell phones, and pens in his courtroom, Billboard reported that two violators had to be removed.
The Led Zeppelin plagiarism trial is expected to last several days (the judge allotted 10 hours), and Robert Plant and Jimmy Page won’t be the only famous faces testifying.
Malofiy revealed that Spirit members Mark Andes and Jay Ferguson, Linda Mensch (wife of famed manager Peter Mensch), music industry legend Lou Adler, and Guitar World editor Brad Tolinski have all been called by the plaintiff to appear or testify in court.
The defense will bring Led Zep bassist and co-founder John Paul Jones to the stand. Jones was dismissed as a defendant in the pre-trial hearing, and his name is not listed on the songwriting credits for “Stairway to Heaven” along with Jimmy Page and Robert Plant.
Lawyers for Wolfe say Robert Plant and Jimmy Page wrote “Stairway to Heaven” after hearing their client play “Taurus” while on tour, and 20 years after Wolfe’s death they want the late Spirit guitarist to be given a writing credit on one of classic rock’s most iconic songs.
But Plant and Page maintain that they wrote the song on a quiet night while in Wales and were not influenced by Wolfe’s chord progression. In a pre-trial declaration, both Plant and Page dismissed the notion that they ever even heard “Taurus” until 2014, despite the fact that a copy of the Spirit album which includes the song was inexplicably found in Page’s personal record collection.
In an interview posted by Radio.com, Robert Plant detailed a night in front of a bonfire, which turned into a creative session leading to “Stairway to Heaven.”
“The thing is, if you’re that involved with another character, another human being, as Jimmy and I had been in writing…sometimes the same mood can flow through you at immediately the same time,” Plant said. “When that happens, that is the peak point for creation.”
Robert Plant went on to say that he and Page were sitting around a bonfire, and after a lengthy conversation, one of rock’s most iconic songs was born.
Take a look at the video to hear a comparison of Plant and Page’s “Stairway to Heaven” and Spirit’s “Taurus.”
[Photo by Danny Martindale/Getty Images]