Hot 106 #5: Stairway to Heaven

Hot 106 #5: Stairway to Heaven

The Hot 106 is a list of 106 “classic rock” songs that should be banned from radio airplay forever. In an effort to be fair, and to flaunt their quasi-musical, quasi-snobbiness, Kent and Jen have tasked themselves with finding replacements for the overplayed tunes. 

(We didn’t skip Hot 106 #4, by the way — we discussed it randomly some time back.)

Kent: No change.

Nothing to see here. This one stays on the list. It is the national anthem of classic rock radio; ubiquitous but never superfluous. You always stand and take off your hat for “The Star-Spangled Banner”, and you always rock out to Stairway, no matter if you are an elitist member of the rock-and-roll cognoscenti or Beavis.

Like “The Star-Spangled Banner”, “Stairway To Heaven” wasn’t born into the high status it is known for today(our national anthem started out in life as an English drinking song). Too long to be released as a single, it only became the anchor of the album several years after its release (my favorite songs on the album, “The Battle Of Evermore” and “Going to California”, anchored many critic’s disdain for the “hippie” direction the band had steered toward. That those two songs are my favorites is also a shorthand way of saying, “I’m gay for the mandolin and am also just plain ol’ gay”).

Totally fabulous!

To me, the best seal of approval is the one given by Frank Vincent Zappa, a brilliant musical satirist that did goof versions of songs in the majority of his concerts. But even though many think Zappa was taking the piss when he did “Stairway To Heaven”, he is actually on record as truly liking the song, and, save for a few sound effects peppered about, usually played the song without irony sometimes adding his own bitchin’ guitar licks. Yes, they would sometimes “reggae” it up, but so did Led Zeppelin during rehearsals, mainly because Robert Plant got sick to death of it.

Note the note-perfect horn arrangement of the guitar solo. Pigs and ponies!


Jen: Conflicted.

Like Jack White, I am instantly suspicious of anyone who says they don’t like Led Zeppelin. And yes, I agree wholeheartedly with Kent that “Stairway” is the national anthem of rock. It is. And I never really get tired of it the same way I never really get tired of hearing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at every sporting event, ever, throughout my whole life. And let’s face it — I don’t hear “Stairway” nearly as much as all that.

And yet, and yet…

Anthems are fine for Americans. We like to make a big deal out of everything, and we especially like to unashamedly rub our particular type of awesomeness in the world’s face over and over again. It’s like one morning you’re living a simple life in a Croatian fishing village, making your own cheese, then BAM! AMERICA! McDonald’s everywhere, and you can’t do anything about it. Eventually you’re swapping your rissotto simmered in four-meat sauce with olives picked from 1,000-year-old olive trees… with a Big Mac. You resent the shit out of it, but you can’t help it. It’s cheap and easy.

Anglophile that I am, I feel that the Brits have a sense of subtlety and self-deprecation that keeps them from bludgeoning the rest of the world with their cultural output. Over the last 50 years or so, they’ve been better at music by just being… better, and by appreciating our castaways — like the blues and Pet Sounds — and using the inspiration to create music that will never get old.

And yet, and yet…

“Does anybody remember laughter?”

Here’s “Stairway to Heaven”, which Americans have used to jam classic rock radio down listeners’ throats for over 40 years. I know this wasn’t the intent of Jimmy Page and Robert Plant (derisive comments about “Stairway” from Plant are well-known and difficult to ignore), but the legacy of “Stairway” in America, at least, cannot be altered.

And since Zep has, collectively, had the good sense to put the band to bed after their iconic drummer died (looking squarely at you, Pete, Roger and John), they therefore receive little blame for the overplay — and certainly nothing but praise for writing THE definitive rock ballad of all time.

But how about we swap “Stairway” a few times for “Tangerine” or “Bring It on Home”, even? Just once?

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