Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin released in 1971 is without a doubt one of the biggest rock songs of all time, some even might say that it is the biggest rock song of all time, but with a title like that also comes popularity which can bring a lot of good things and some few bad things.
This song had a big impact on the music industry as well as many people around the world, so if you want to learn how to play guitar and you like Led Zeppelin, chances are you will try to learn how to play this iconic song.
That is good and all, however, it does affect some people when they are used to listening to it over and over, like guitar store employees.
That said, the song has earned a reputation of not being very popular at guitar stores which are often flooded with beginners and people looking to try out guitars with their favorite riffs, including “The Forbidden One”.
But, is it really forbidden? and why exactly is the song got this reputation, even if it is just a joke, let’s find out!
Is Stairway to Heaven Really Banned?
No, the song isn’t actually banned at guitar stores, but there is an ongoing joke about the music being played way too much, especially the intro.
This originated from both a real-life thing as well as the 1992 film, Wayne’s World, which features a scene that has the protagonist Wayne Campell played by Mike Myers, attempting to play the song at a guitar store. A moment after he starts playing the song a store employee grabs the guitar and points to a sign that says “No Stairway to Heaven”.
While this is something that is not actually taken seriously at guitar stores, the fact that it appeared in a big movie like this, made the joke a lot more popular and a lot more fun but where did this joke come from?
Where Did The Banned Riff Idea Come From?
It’s very hard to know how some jokes came to be, and that is exactly the case with Stairway to Heaven being “banned” in guitar stores which makes it a little like the “chicken or the egg” thing. The writers of Wayne’s World had some great jokes in there and a lot of pop culture references, which helps give the magic to the movie that makes it so relatable to people, one of those things is that joke.
However, no one really knows if someone just came up with it or if one person on the team had an experience like that.
This movie is sometimes over the top but this joke is not so much, as there are always things like that happening at guitar stores, jokes and gags to poke fun at
There are always signs and phrases referencing other genres or talking about hippies or anything that comes to mind to make that guitar store more appealing.
So yeah, no one really knows where this joke originated from but it’s a fact that it’s still very much alive.
Funny enough, this has not been the only song to suffer from this rumor, but some people believed that if you played the song backward you would hear satanic messages hidden in the lyrics.
Of course, this was not as clear as some people made it out to be, but it was brought to the attention of some believers by Michael Mills in the 80s, who was a Christian radio host at the time.
The Beatles were also victims of this rumor, but it eventually died down until it became a bit of a joke, where you might find a song that talks about the devil and that sort of thing if you play it backward.
We all know by now that, “Stairway to Heaven” is loved by a lot of people, but it has also received a lot of criticism from critics, musicians, and different types of media.
There is a famous story about critic Lester Bangs who once called Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven “a thicket of failed mush”, yeah there are people that don’t like it. In art, it’s very common for some people to criticize something or not like because they make a conscious decision to not like it, and that leads to very little tolerance in certain situations including people at guitar stores!
Yes, today there is an issue with copyright mainly due to so many creators making content on twitch, youtube, and more, making them susceptible to claims and unwanted trouble.
However, this is a bigger problem that applies to specific situations and it’s not just about Stairway to Heaven so this probably had nothing to do with guitar stores ‘banning’ the song right?
Well there is another story related to copyright that might have made people fall a little bit out of love with Led Zeppelin
In 2016, a band named Spirit sued Led Zeppelin for copying the song Taurus which was released 3 years before Stairway to Heaven, and while they do sound a bit similar on some parts, in the end, juries decided that there was no copyright infringement.
Led Zeppelin won the case but the bad press and stain on the song still made some people question their blind love towards the band and the forbidden riff.
Tired of Hearing it?
The main reason behind all of this is probably because of its popularity, but popularity can also cause burnout to listeners after hearing it so many times, and this is actually the most serious and logical answer to this whole thing about Stairway to Heaven in guitar stores.
There is so much music out there, and sometimes some songs draw too much attention, so who can blame guitar store employees?
Why Is Stairway to Heaven So Popular?
There are a lot of reasons why this song is so popular among Rock lovers and people in general, so let’s cover some of those in order to find out why is this song in so many people’s minds when they go to a guitar store
At the Height of Progressive Rock
Progressive Rock was still a very fresh genre at the time, but many bands were ready to step into this complex and amazing genre that broke a lot of the rules that made Rock or Pop popular at the time, getting inspiration from Jazz and other looser genres.
For this song, there are some noticeable changes in tempo, transitions, and even some mystery as to exactly what the song is about.
To add to the amazing 8 minutes of music, it also features an improvised solo by Jimmy Page which was played on a Fender Telecaster that was gifted to him by Jeff Beck.
How Easy is Stairway to Heaven?
There is nothing short of amazing but that also begs the question, Why are so many people obsessed about learning how to play this song on guitar, and how is it that they find the strength to do it as a beginner?
This song is not easy, it’s advanced at best bother rock hits are definitely easier like “Smoke on the Water”, but hey, it’s cool, and that is everything a beginner wants from guitar playing right? Besides practicing and enjoying the music of course.
There are many songs like Stairway to Heaven that while they are amazing, it becomes a bit repetitive to find so many people playing them over and over again, that’s why the joke started.
Anywhere from Wonderwall to Sweet Child O’ Mine, people tend to learn these songs as beginners because they are iconic and legendary but we also recommend that if you are a beginner you try out other lesser-known songs, as this will give you a broader understanding of the genre you like as well as your inspirations.
Finally, remember there are no banned songs in guitar stores, just remember if you are not “that person”, employees will thank you.