Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Song Meaning, Analysis, Background: Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin

ARTIST: Led Zeppelin | ALBUM: Led Zeppelin IV | RELEASED: 1971
Song Meaning: Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin
"Stairway to Heaven" is the highlight of Led Zeppelin IV
Here we go. This is the song that most of you've waiting for. Hopefully I won't screw this up terribly. "Stairway to Heaven" was written by the rock duo of Robert Plant and Jimmy Page. Rumour ( actually it's a fact ) has it that Plant wrote the initial bits of lyrics while listening to Page's guitar chords. The lyrics were of course written out of spontaneity.

There are those who claim that the song was about a particular lady close to the band, or one of the band members, but there's no evidence to prove that. However there's no denying that the song is about a lady, as Plant later recalled, "a woman getting everything she wanted all the time without giving back any thought or consideration."

Analysis of Lyrics: 

Before I get into line by line analysis of the song, I'd like to say that there's a lot of stuff going on in this song. One of those is the use of symbolism. Another is making references to known English phrases, idioms and sayings of that sort. And there maybe other stuff that I haven't even picked up on. So feel free to let me know about them in the comments below.

"Stairway" is the recurring symbol throughout the song. For those of you who don't get it, that means the song is not about a lady going to heaven in a stairway. But rather, it refers to something invaluable, something larger-than-life. "Heaven" is another symbol, like "stairway," that refers to an extraordinary place that you can live far better life than what we enjoy on Earth.

There's a lady who's sure - First line of the song introduces the main character of the song. It's a "lady," and Led Zeppelin purposely kept her general, so we the fans could ponder about who they are talking about. From now on, I'll refer to her as Jess for the easy reference.

All that glitters is gold - All that glitter is not gold is what we'd have expected since it's a well-known saying. What that means is that all the shiny stuff you see is not necessary what it appears to be. However Led Zeppelin has taken the reverse approach, stating that Jess knows what's gold from fool's gold at the first glance!

And she's buying a stairway to heaven - what Zeppelin is saying here is that Jess has so much faith in her eyes, she doesn't doubt the credibility of the invaluable "stairway" because she knows it leads to the place it claims. It's likely the case that most of us shy away from these things, thinking "it sounds too good to be true," but Jess is a rare breed.

With a word she can get what she came for - to understand this line, you have to read the previous two. So what this means is that when Jess goes to heaven and if she's "too late," then she can pretty much turn back the clock with simple word of  her mouth. In other words, not only does Jess has good eyes, but she's also capable of getting whatever she wants - even if it requires twisting of others' arms. This perfectly fits with Plant's take on the song: "a woman getting everything she wanted."

Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings - Word indeed can be ambiguous, not just for us but also for Jess. This line refers to the words "on the wall," but it could also mean the words you hear from others. Thus, when it comes to taking other's advice, Jess is not the one to jump the gun; she's always cautions. So apparently Jess can trust her eyes more than ears.

There's a songbird who sings - songbird could symbolically mean angels in heaven.

Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiven - this is an interesting line. As it is written, it doesn't really mean much other than to suggest the fact that sometimes we think of crazy things. But in the context of the song, does it make a reference to Jess? Yes, in fact it's Plant who's saying that Jess is a character of his imagination, or someone he imaged, pertaining to somebody that may or may not exist. The significance of this line is exemplified in the immediate followup, as the song changes point of view from third to person to first person. In the next, lyrics is sung from Plant's point of view.

And my spirit is crying for leaving - Plant's heart is telling him to leave for the west, which definitely means the USA. I don't know why this line was included here, or maybe I'm totally misinterpreting it, but the fact of the matter was Led Zeppelin wasn't well received in England as they were in the US. Although they were the band of 70's, they were quite the contrast to the band of the 60's - The Beatles - and the English found Zeppelin to the be somewhat "uneasy."

In my thoughts I have seen - I don't know what Plant was referring to here. Maybe he was high ( I'm not kidding ) when he wrote this and he probably didn't even know what he was talking about. I have a hard time getting inside Page and Plant's minds right now, especially if they were high. Maybe I need to do some drugs and get myself in a similar state before continuing further...

If there's a bustle in your hedgerow - in an interview, Plant himself said this line means the beginning of spring, or beginning of something good. Zeppelin used "May queen," which, according to the English tradition, is a lady villagers choose to welcome the arrival of spring, to expound that.

I gotta take a little break. I come back and finish off the rest. Peace.


There's a lady who's sure
All that glitters is gold
And she's buying a stairway to heaven.
When she gets there she knows
If the stores are all closed
With a word she can get what she came for.
Ooh, ooh, and she's buying a stairway to heaven.

There's a sign on the wall
But she wants to be sure
'Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings.
In a tree by the brook
There's a songbird who sings,
Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiven.
Ooh, it makes me wonder,
Ooh, it makes me wonder.

There's a feeling I get
When I look to the west,
And my spirit is crying for leaving.
In my thoughts I have seen
Rings of smoke through the trees,
And the voices of those who standing looking.
Ooh, it makes me wonder,
Ooh, it really makes me wonder.

And it's whispered that soon
If we all call the tune
Then the piper will lead us to reason.
And a new day will dawn
For those who stand long
And the forests will echo with laughter.

If there's a bustle in your hedgerow
Don't be alarmed now,
It's just a spring clean for the May queen.
Yes, there are two paths you can go by
But in the long run
There's still time to change the road you're on.
And it makes me wonder.

Your head is humming and it won't go
In case you don't know,
The piper's calling you to join him,
Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow,
And did you know
Your stairway lies on the whispering wind.

And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our soul.
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How ev'rything still turns to gold.
And if you listen very hard
The tune will come to you at last.
When all are one and one is all
To be a rock and not to roll.

And she's buying a stairway to heaven.

1 comment:

  1. Every musician wants to do something which will hold up for a long time, and I guess we did it with stairway to heaven. See the link below for more info.



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