Ever since the Beatles were passed on by Decca Records (who recovered quickly and signed the Rolling Stones), the music business is full of stories about wrong judgments from those that decide. This article is about the gatekeepers at BBC, who to their credit, accepted Led Zeppelin in the end.
The guy at Decca Records (Dick Rowe) who did not sign the Beatles ultimately went up to Liverpool to see a large variety show, and he was sitting next to George Harrison, whom he asked who was good. Harrison said “The Rolling Stones.” Rowe left the theater immediately and drove non-stop to London to sign the Stones on the advice of a Beatle.
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I was reading a book about Led Zeppelin’s fourth album called “When the Levee Breaks. Their 8 song fourth album became the biggest and baddest from beginning to end of all rock albums. And the interesting thing is that James Taylor’s “Something In the Way She Moves” may be connected to “Stairway To Heaven” via “Something” by the Beatles. Also, Zeppelin was inspired by a Fleetwood Mac song called “Oh, Well,” that “Black Dog” is derived from. In addition, “Rock and Roll” is close in spirit to another Fleetwood Mac song of the time, though the name escapes me.
Back to the story: John Bonham had run into George Harrison at a party just before Zeppelin was getting ready to do the album at Hedley Grange, a former orphanage located on the coast of south England. Harrison told Bonham that his band was great, but they had no ballads.
So Bonham went back to Jimmy Page and told him about Harrison’s comment. At this time, the band had been at their cottage in Wales called Bron-y-Ur (golden breast in Welsh) in the mystical Black Mountains. Robert Plant had been steeping himself in the Celtic mythology to mine for material for the new album, and was coming up with the lyrics for Stairway To Heaven, and other classics that refer to the days of Merlin and King Arthur in allusion and other artistic devices.
So Jimmy Page began tinkering with a riff loosely based on the single note descending in “Something,” though he sped up the tempo of the beat. And “Something” is in C major, whereas “Stairway” is in Am. So the next time you hear either song, there’s that descending note.
When James Taylor signed with Apple Records, he had a demo of “Something In The Way She Moves,” that Harrison had to have heard, as the Beatles had to sign off on each band being signed. The songs are close in several ways, though not enough to cause problems. Did Harrison subconsciously borrow the mood and lyric?
Note: Paul McCartney plays drums on “Carolina On My Mind.” a little tidbit of info. To their credit, the Beatles released Taylor from the Apple contract when he wanted to go, without penalty. Big mistake not to pay attention to James Taylor, look what happened afterwards.