On May 31, the trust that handles the estate for former Spirit guitarist Randy California sued the British classic-rock giants, claiming Jimmy Page improperly lifted the famous “Stairway” intro from Spirit’s instrumental piece “Taurus.” Earlier this week, lawyers for Led Zep and the band’s record company formally responded, asking a judge either to throw out the case entirely or else move it to the Golden State.
The lawsuit, as it happens, was filed in Pennsylvania. Zeppelin’s attorneys argue that’s just not the right venue for the case. After all, according to the 18-page court filing, Michael Skidmore, the trustee for the Spirit guitarist’s estate, is based in Massachusetts. The trust is in California, and Randy California (real name Randy Craig Wolfe) was, as his adopted surname suggests, a Californian. Band members Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones are British; they made “Stairway” in the United Kingdom. Warner Music Group isn’t incorporated in Pennsylvania, either.
Led Zep’s lawyers say in the court filing, “Under established case law, no good faith basis exists to argue the court has general jurisdiction over them.”
“Stairway,” let’s agree, can be heard just about anywhere. The album that contains the famous song, 1971′s soon-to-be reissued Led Zeppelin IV, has sold 23 million copies just in the United States. One of those places is Pennsylvania, the original lawsuit claims in its section on venue.
As the complaint puts it, “The song ‘Taurus’ and the song ‘Stairway to Heaven’ have both been commercially exploited and continue to be exploited in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the United States and throughout the world.”
Judge Juan Sanchez accept that argument and keep the case in his court. He could also dismiss it altogether. Or he could send it packing for the West Coast.
If Zep’s “Stairway” lawsuit is Pacific-bound, the band could be in weird sort of luck: “Going to California,” too, is from Led Zeppelin IV, which arrives in its remastered, expanded version on October 28 via Atlantic/Swan Song.
Compare “Stairway” and Spirit’s “Taurus” below, listen to “Going to California,” and scroll down for the latest court filing, via The Hollywood Reporter.