CARMINE APPICE Says Copyright Case Over LED ZEPPELIN's 'Stairway To Heaven' Was 'All Baloney'
October 29, 2022
In a new interview with Jeff Gaudiosi of MisplacedStraws.com, legendary drummer Carmine Appice commented on the copyright dispute over whether LED ZEPPELIN's classic song "Stairway To Heaven" was a rip-off of SPIRIT's "Taurus".
Michael Skidmore, the trustee of "Taurus" songwriter Randy "California" Wolfe's estate, had brought the claims more than four decades after "Stairway To Heaven" appeared on LED ZEPPELIN's untitled album, better known as "Led Zeppelin IV".
In June 2016, a Los Angeles jury deliberated for about five hours before deciding unanimously in favor of LED ZEPPELIN. The case was revived in 2018 before a court of appeals upheld the original verdict in 2020. In October of that year, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case, definitively ending it.
Carmine, whose band VANILLA FUDGE took LED ZEPPELIN out on its first North American tour in 1968, stated about the "Stairway To Heaven" lawsuit: "That was all baloney… Those chords are a stock set of chords. There's not anything that's amazing about the chords. It's the melody on top and the lyrics and the way they arranged it that really made the song happen. So it's just, I guess, some guys trying to make some money because maybe they're hurtin'. Randy California died. Who else is in the band? Randy's father died. The surviving members probably didn't go on to do anything, so they thought, 'Well, maybe we could sue LED ZEPPELIN?' There were other lawsuits that meant more, like when Ozzy [Osbourne] got sued by [his former bandmates] Bob [Daisley] and Lee [Kerslake] for the first [Ozzy solo] album ['Blizzard Of Ozz']. [Editor's note: Appice is referring to Daisley and Kerslake's lawsuit against Ozzy and the singer's wife and manager, Sharon Osbourne, over unpaid performance royalties.] That was legitimate. And they lost, when they shouldn't have lost."
LED ZEPPELIN singer Robert Plant testified in court that he had no recollection of ever hearing "Taurus" before. "I didn't remember it then, and I don't remember it now," he said. LED ZEPPELIN guitarist Jimmy Page also testified that he had not copied any part of "Taurus" even though he owned five discs by SPIRIT among his collection of 4,000 vinyl records.
Enrico Bonadio, a senior lecturer in law from City University London, told Newsweek in April 2016: "I don't think that it is appropriate to consider the act of devising a tune that simply has the same 'feel' and 'groove' as another as copyright infringement. This is how music creativity often works. Musicians frequently build upon earlier arrangements and styles, and so the increasing occurrence of cases such as these should give us pause."
After the 2016 trial, plaintiff's attorney Francis Malofiy claimed he lost his case on a technicality, insisting that it was unfair the jury was unable to listen to the sound recording of "Taurus" and instead was limited to hearing an expert performance of the registered sheet music.
Malofiy received over a hundred sustained objections and "multiple admonishments" during the ZEPPELIN trial, with the band's publishing company Warner/Chappell Music filing documents asking the judge to order the plaintiffs to pay over $613,000 in costs for defending against the lawsuit.
In various interviews over the years, Carmine has claimed that one of John Bonham's licks, a triplet bass drum motif used most prominently on "Good Times, Bad Times", the opening track on the first LED ZEPPELIN album, was inspired by something Carmine did on either the first VANILLA FUDGE LP or the "Renaissance" record.
Back in 2014, Carmine said that he would love to play with a reunited LED ZEPPELIN, claiming that he is a better fit to replace Bonham than John's son Jason.
VANILLA FUDGE released the album "Vanilla Zeppelin" digitally on September 30 via Golden Robot Records. The collection of reworked LED ZEPPELIN classics was described in a press release as "a great ode to one of the most respected and best bands of all time by one of the most respected and best bands of all time."
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