“Stairway to Heaven” is arguably one of the greatest rock songs ever written, and yet at the beginning of the song you don’t get the impression that rock stars wrote it. Instead the listener is transported through a series of delicate flute melodies and gentle guitar strumming, guided by Robert Plant’s true and earnest voice. The song not only has a lot of levels to it in a social sense, but also musically. And, that is by design. In a 2014 interview with the BBC Jimmy Page, guitarist for Led Zeppelin, sat down and explained how this iconic song was written with his bandmates.

Led Zepplin Promo Photo 1971
Via: Wiki Commons/Atlantic Records

He starts off by stating that he wanted the song to open with a “fragile, exposed acoustic guitar”. However the recorder flute was not his idea as he had originally wanted to use electric piano for the flute parts. Bassist and keyboardist John Paul Jones had suggested the recorder and played that instrument on the song.

If you’ve ever listened to the song and felt that it was like unwrapping a gift slowly then you are probably picking up on Page’s intent to craft a song that “kept unfolding into more layers.” Even without the lyrics Page intended the meaning and the music to unravel over the course of the song, “gaining momentum.” But, he said that Robert Plant’s lyrics came to him in flurry after hearing the music. By the first run through of performing the music and vocals together, Plant had already written most of the words. At the time the band was living and working at Headley Grange, a huge 18th century workhouse that had been converted into a private residence before becoming a recording space for various English bands.

Led Zepplin Concert 1975
Via: Flickr/Toni Morelli

Despite being one of the most popular rock songs of all time, Page said that while he was writing it he knew he was breaking one of the “cardinal rules” of music at the time. And, it’s one of the many reasons why this song has been listed as a favorite year after year.

Watch the full interview to see exactly how this iconic song was written.

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