Jimmy Page 'never revealed he had five Spirit albums', LA court told
Published 18/06/2016 | 01:36
Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones has told a court his bandmate Jimmy Page never revealed he had five albums by the American group he is accused of copying when he wrote Stairway To Heaven.
Guitarist Page and singer Robert Plant are facing trial over claims that the opening guitar riff of their classic rock song was "lifted" from an instrumental track called Taurus by US group Spirit.
A lawsuit has been filed by Michael Skidmore, the trustee of Spirit guitarist Randy Wolfe - known as Randy California - who drowned in 1997 having never taken legal action over the song.
Jones, whose real name is John Baldwin, told the federal court in Los Angeles that Page never said he was a fan of Spirit in the late 1960s.
Mr Skidmore's lawyer Francis Malofiy asked him: "Did Mr Page ever share that he had five albums of Spirit, including one double album?"
Jones replied: "No."
The bassist said he played a guitar riff from Spirit's song Fresh Garbage during a medley at Led Zeppelin's early gigs in the late 1960s because it was "catchy".
"It was quirky and it caught my ear," he said. "I didn't know where it was from. I just heard it."
He told the court he could not recall seeing Spirit live and denied owning any of their albums or singles.
Asked whether he had ever met Wolfe, Jones replied: "Not that I recall."
He told the court he was a fan of jazz and rhythm and blues in the late 1960s and he did not attend rock concerts unless he was performing with Led Zeppelin.
Page, 72, has previously told the court he had not heard Taurus until his son-in-law showed him a comparison with Stairway To Heaven on the internet a few years ago. He also said he only recently discovered he owned more than two Spirit albums after checking his "massive" record collection of more than 10,000 vinyl albums and CDs.
Giving evidence on the fourth day of the trial, Jones said he joined Led Zeppelin after his wife read that Page was forming a band.
"She said call him up so I did," Jones said.
"I said, 'do you need a bass player?'. He said, 'yeah'. He said he was going up north to see a singer who also knew a drummer. That was Robert Plant and John Bonham."
Page and Plant, 67, sat next to each other in court during the copyright infringement trial, which is expected to conclude next week.
Earlier, a musicologist told the court the similarity between Stairway To Heaven and Taurus can be found in music dating back more than 300 years.
Lawrence Ferrara, a music professor at New York University, said 17th century Venetian opera singers and Mozart used music techniques featured in both songs.
He told the jury the only similarity between the two songs was a "common" descending sequence of notes.
"That progression, that movement, has been around for 300 years, dating back to the 17th century," he said. "In the 20th century, before Taurus, a large number of popular musicians, artists and composers also used it."
Mr Ferrara, an expert witness for Led Zeppelin's legal team, said the technique was a "musical building block" for a song.
"It was not something anyone can possibly own," he added. "It's not only what they did 300 years ago but what composers of all genres do."
Mr Ferrara said the rhythms of Stairway To Heaven and Taurus are "dramatically different" and he had found 20 pieces of music recorded before Spirit's song that also featured the same descending musical scale.
He said Johnny Mathis's 1960 hit My Funny Valentine, the opening of Michelle by The Beatles and the 1967 song Music To Watch Girls By all had similarities with the track Taurus.
The court heard that Page and Plant had earned tens of millions of pounds from Stairway To Heaven and other Led Zeppelin songs over the past five years.
Economist Michael Einhorn told jurors the musicians had received 58.5 million dollars (£40 million) from music sales, publishing rights and a record deal since May 2011.