Jump to content
Slate Blackcurrant Watermelon Strawberry Orange Banana Apple Emerald Chocolate Marble
Slate Blackcurrant Watermelon Strawberry Orange Banana Apple Emerald Chocolate Marble
badgeholder

Best Stairway

Recommended Posts

Just wondering what some of your favorite versions of Stairway to Heaven might be. Currently listening to Mobile, Alabama '73, it's a good one...Toronto '71 is another one I like..

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This may or may not be the best version of "Stairway to Heaven" but I think that this is the longest version of this song. Played at the very last live Led Zeppelin show Ever. July 7, 1980 in Berlin, West Germany. A very Sad but fitting tribute to the Greatest Song of All-Time. Have a Listen.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

if you're looking for a version where Robert's still 100% sincere in his vocals, any of the early '71 versions are your best bet. As far as versions with a great solo, many of the '75 versions, as well as the ones from LA and Seattle 77 versions are the way to go.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The original from the Fourth Album.

I have always preferred the studio version too. The guitar solo is just perfect with that immaculate Telecaster tone and the beautiful call-and-response in the second part. Plus, the band was never able to recreate live that lovely, shimmery sound of the middle verse section..the way the guitars and keyboards sort of float and hummmm together. Also, I could always do without some of Plant's more coked-up interjections and shrieks during the live versions. Which is why, in some ways, the 2007 O2 performance was his best of the song since 1972.

But, as this is the Live Section, the question is meant for the live versions of "Stairway to Heaven" and I'll try to come up with one. Sue is correct...for the vocals go early, for the guitar solo go 1973 and beyond.

In a way, the development of the song in concert mirrors "Over the Hills and Far Away". Both songs start their concert life with Plant singing the original melody with feeling and conviction, but with Page still in the process of figuring out how to play the solo live. By the time Page comes to a decision about the structure and sound for the solo...1973 for Stairway, 1975 for OTHAFA...Plant has either lost interest or the ability to sing the song in the original melody or key. Instead he renders the songs merely an opportunity to quip about "Acapulco gold" or "Does anybody remember laughter/forests?"

While there are a few great Stairways later on...including some I witnessed on 3/12/75 and 6/21/77...for sheer overall excellence and impact, I find myself turning more and more to the brilliant performance of September 14, 1971 at Berkeley Community Center. Because Led Zep IV had yet to be released, I love that you can hear the intro clearly without the distraction of the crowd. I also love the ghostly vibe John Paul Jones' organ gives the intro. He didn't get a mellotron and start using it for Stairway until late-'72. Still wish Jimmy hadn't tampered with the Stairway on HTWWW. 9.14.71 also has the one Plant interjection that I don't mind, because it adds to the vibe of the song...his ad-lib of "You are the home of the Children of the Sun" is sung beautifully. And while the guitar solo is still in its formative stages, it's played with gusto and energy, leading the band to the closing segment, which they (Plant included) hammer home forcefully until abruptly the song goes out like it came in...a whisper.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi,

But, as this is the Live Section, the question is meant for the live versions of "Stairway to Heaven" and I'll try to come up with one. Sue is correct...for the vocals go early, for the guitar solo go 1973 and beyond.

In a way, the development of the song in concert mirrors "Over the Hills and Far Away". Both songs start their concert life with Plant singing the original melody with feeling and conviction, but with Page still in the process of figuring out how to play the solo live. By the time Page comes to a decision about the structure and sound for the solo...1973 for Stairway, 1975 for OTHAFA...

I don't think that early versions are "indefinite", well, if it's your are saying. In my opinion, no quality issue, but rather for the sake of change. This leaves us, as listeners, a much broader vision. Except perhaps the case the voice of robert plant, I think all years are equal in the sense that none of them can boast unanimous. Matter of taste : here the expression makes sense because each year conceals originality adapted to the tastes of each. The first of them: the solo.

"but with Page still in the process of figuring out how to play the solo live"

Well you see, I think the solos that sound the best are those of 1971. I did say that sound better, by that I mean the best solos performed in a technical point of view , not to mention melodic aspect wich, in this year, reaches the same heights than later years, but in a different light.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd have to agree and disagree with Strider. For me the Berkeley 1971 version is as good as it gets, and the organ worked better than the mellotron (same with ''Thank You'')

While there are some 1971 solos that are hardly inspiring and some of them are of the ''who bets 3 Euros that Jimmy's gonna finish on the next F major chord'' sort, in 1971 and early 1972 every solo was quite unique. In 1972 Jimmy started using his ''templates'', including the riff that wraps up the solo (which I am not a big fan of). 1973 saw further development of templates. In 1975 he used the same standard riffs from 1973, the solos got too long for my taste (frequently Jimmy seemed to kill the time before returning to another stock riff of his). Of course one must take Jimmy's technical decline in consideration. I don't think there are more than 10 solos from 1975 that I really like.

Naturally, I agree with everybody that Plant's singing and attitude got worse every year.

Studio version is indeed superb, but the coda could have been more powerful (I don't know how).

So, my favourites are:

Berkeley 1971

Toronto 1971

Tokyo 1971 (23.09)

Osaka 1971 (both shows)

London 1971 (BBC and Empire Pool)

Manchester 1971

LA Forum 1973 (2nd show)

Providence 1973

TSRTS

Good solos:

Seattle 1975 (2nd show)

Final night of Earls Court

For Badgeholders only

And if you'll excuse me, I'm off to the battlefield.

Edited by thelema

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd have to agree and disagree with Strider. For me the Berkeley 1971 version is as good as it gets, and the organ worked better than the mellotron (same with ''Thank You'')

While there are some 1971 solos that are hardly inspiring and some of them are of the ''who bets 3 Euros that Jimmy's gonna finish on the next F major chord'' sort, in 1971 and early 1972 every solo was quite unique. In 1972 Jimmy started using his ''templates'', including the riff that wraps up the solo (which I am not a big fan of). 1973 saw further development of templates. In 1975 he used the same standard riffs from 1973, the solos got too long for my taste (frequently Jimmy seemed to kill the time before returning to another stock riff of his). Of course one must take Jimmy's technical decline in consideration. I don't think there are more than 10 solos from 1975 that I really like.

Naturally, I agree with everybody that Plant's singing and attitude got worse every year.

Studio version is indeed superb, but the coda could have been more powerful (I don't know how).

So, my favourites are:

Berkeley 1971

Toronto 1971

Tokyo 1971 (23.09)

Osaka 1971 (both shows)

London 1971 (BBC and Empire Pool)

Manchester 1971

LA Forum 1973 (2nd show)

Providence 1973

TSRTS

Good solos:

Seattle 1975 (2nd show)

Final night of Earls Court

For Badgeholders only

And if you'll excuse me, I'm off to the battlefield.

Have to disagree about a couple of things, first, Jimmy's "technical decline." I don't think he did decline in that sense as is proven by several amazing performances post-73'. In fact technically he became better over time, not worse. I think what you are trying to say is consistency, or lack of which I agree 100%. When he was on he was on, as in Jimmy "on" in 77' or 80' was better than when Jimmy was "on" 69' - 73'. The problems IMO come back to the drugs and alcohol and the fact that they always changed the songs...this is a very bad combination. Some musicians can handle getting loaded and playing fine, however Jimmy is not one of them, either that or he just took way too much. Either way, as a musician myself I understand the way to improve technique and consistency is to not only practice, but to get a particular song down by playing it over and over again EXACTLY THE SAME WAY. This is why bands that play songs note for note tend to make less mistakes over bands which improvise nightly. It's called muscle memory, your fingers get used to the patterns through repetition so even being pretty wasted if you play the songs exactly the same way you will probably pull it off. Jimmy was always switching it up, improvising, and if you cannot focus guess what happens? Jimmy did not get "sticky fingers" because he was losing technical ability, he became more sloppy because when he went into a solo, a time change, or an improvised passage his mind was going in several directions at one time and not focusing on a clear direction. It would be akin to having five guys screaming at you to do five different things simultaneously while performing a task you can do in five different ways. This is why when he performed clean, or at least not completely wasted, his performances were excellent. Case in point, Jimmy's playing on the 98' Page & Plant Tour was in my opinion the best all around playing he has ever done, including the Zeppelin years.

So, it's not the era per se, it's sober & healthy Jimmy vs. wasted & devastated Jimmy. Sober Jimmy of any year, form 67' - 07' blows away wasted Jimmy from any year.

As a result my favorite STH depends on the particular performance, I prefer the great versions from 75' - 80' to the great versions from 71' - 73'. Just more creative overall.

Edited by IpMan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I thought that The Song Remains the Same version was pretty good, but I will forever love the LP version the best. I also agree that Robert has a terrible tendency to clutter the song up with his commentary and shrieks during the live versions. As was said earlier, that is why the 02 show was so spectacular. Robert's restraint was admirable, and like Ian Gilan on the latest Deep Purple album, "Now What?!", Robert had found a comfortable place where he could just sing, and let the beauty of the song speak for itself.

Edited by The Dark Lord

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

6/26/77

7/17/77

6/24/80

6/26/80

Just listened to 6/26/77 really good, nice pick! I will continue to check more of these out

Edited by badgeholder

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

i prefer any verion up to 73 really and a few from 75 (EC being the obvious) i find that after that planty loses interest in it even if some of the solos got better albeit longer and longer, and the song becomes more lumpen

to proffer a negative reply instead of the requested positive. i heard the berlin 80 version of stairway not too long ago for the first time and found it to be unbearable. i heard it all the way through but really didnt want to as i found page's solo to be seriouslly lacking and i thought to my self that were i to watch a trubute band playing that same solo id laugh them out the place

the longest version of the solo turns out to be (in my opinion) the worst. had he have played the solo at that length up to 73 when he was arguably at his most fluid, then i'd still think it was far too long but more acceptable. i know dave lewis and many others like the subjective idea of the final version of stairway being emotional and page maybe knew somehow it might be his last go at it, but for me its just indulgent nonsense

my wife came through the room when i was playing this version,. now she puts up with a lot of zeppelin from me and is used to page noodling away, and she rarely swears but she said "what the f*ck is that?" and told me to put it on headphones or turn it off. i had to agree, i shalln't be returning to it in a hurry

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

i prefer any verion up to 73 really and a few from 75 (EC being the obvious) i find that after that planty loses interest in it even if some of the solos got better albeit longer and longer, and the song becomes more lumpen

to proffer a negative reply instead of the requested positive. i heard the berlin 80 version of stairway not too long ago for the first time and found it to be unbearable. i heard it all the way through but really didnt want to as i found page's solo to be seriouslly lacking and i thought to my self that were i to watch a trubute band playing that same solo id laugh them out the place

the longest version of the solo turns out to be (in my opinion) the worst. had he have played the solo at that length up to 73 when he was arguably at his most fluid, then i'd still think it was far too long but more acceptable. i know dave lewis and many others like the subjective idea of the final version of stairway being emotional and page maybe knew somehow it might be his last go at it, but for me its just indulgent nonsense

my wife came through the room when i was playing this version,. now she puts up with a lot of zeppelin from me and is used to page noodling away, and she rarely swears but she said "what the f*ck is that?" and told me to put it on headphones or turn it off. i had to agree, i shalln't be returning to it in a hurry

Indeed.

Edited by thelema

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The first unofficial recording I acquired 28 years ago. 6-23-77. I've been comparing every Stairway to this one ever since. This is the one. Page is too wasted to play? Plant isn't interested? Bonzo isn't on? Overplays? Such strange dogma which surrounds 1977. Inconsistent on the whole? Sure, no doubt. Maybe it's Moon's presence. Maybe it's the spell the Forum had over them. Maybe they had their Wheaties that morning. Listen as Page and Bonzo lock like eagles in heat. That stop and go section - NAILED! Page's flourishes as he comes out of that part. Everything that is awesome and beloved about this show leads up the that Achilles(best ever?)/Stairway double whammy. And how you gonna top that? Hopefully you've got Keith Moon waiting in the wings.

Sloppy. Sloppy? Do fans really want to hear Jimmy replicate what's on the record instead of taking chances? He doesn't always nail it, but when he does...

"Technique doesn't come into it - I deal in emotions" - Jimmy Page

This version of Stairway is a beautiful example of that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

HOTWWW, was the best from what I have a limited collection. To me it all comes down to the solo, and when jimmy was more experimental - the longer the better.

Thanks to kinzoso - A new variation to my ears, I enjoyed that:-)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The studio version will always have a special place in my heart as it is what led me to Led Zeppelin, and I do love Jimmy's solo. ❤ I also love everything about the HTWWW version and it's slight variations. Robert's "How everything still turns to gold. And if you listen very hard..." is fantastic!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I like the studio solo, although I'd have to go thru a lot of live ones I'd not heard so far. I've always wondered why the solo in almost every live version was delayed a couple of beats/bars/stanzas as opposed to the studio version. I never got used to that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I like the studio solo, although I'd have to go thru a lot of live ones I'd not heard so far. I've always wondered why the solo in almost every live version was delayed a couple of beats/bars/stanzas as opposed to the studio version. I never got used to that.

What delay do you mean? I know it took him a second to switch over to the other neck sometimes if that's what you mean

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

No, no, not a "delay" of sound, what l mean is there's a few more beats before the solo comes in, live, as opposed to studio. Listen to the LZ IV version & TSRS or most any other live version. The solo comes in later in the verse(?) I can't explain it properly since I never got far in my music studies...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

No, no, not a "delay" of sound, what l mean is there's a few more beats before the solo comes in, live, as opposed to studio. Listen to the LZ IV version & TSRS or most any other live version. The solo comes in later in the verse(?) I can't explain it properly since I never got far in my music studies...

It is so he has time to set up his switch from the 12-string to the 6-string neck for the solo. At the end of the solo, he would have to switch back to the 12-string and sometimes it took him a couple bars before he could manage it, so there are some live "Stairways" where you hear him play the "And as we wind on down the road..." part on the 6-string before he changes to the 12-string.

Edited by Strider

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

^^^^I was thinking this was the case as well...when i first heard it i wondered about the "delay" as well... i felt it kinda rendered the start of the solo a little anti-climactic ... i say a little because overtime i got used to it and plus I've grown to love the live raw experimentation...

... plus figuring out how he makes the switch on the double neck adds to the general conversation of how hard Jimmy had to work night in and night out to get that Zeppelin nice and toasty... i break a sweat just daydreaming of playing a 3 hour plus setlist... 3 hrs of guitar is no f-ing joke

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now


×