Relive Led Zeppelin's moving performance of "Stairway to Heaven" at Madison Square Garden in 1973

live 27/09/2018

Led Zeppelin performed three sold-out concerts back-to-back at Madison Square Garden from 27th - 29th July 1973. The gigs were also filmed for their concert film, "The Song Remains the Same".

"Stairway to Heaven" is a complex eight-minute song often labelled as progressive, folk and hard rock. It originated from the time Page and Plant spent at Bron-Yr-Aur, in Wales after Led Zeppelin's fifth U.S. tour. 

The song begins with a soft introduction on a six-string guitar and four recorders done in a Renaissance music style. It then proceeds into a slow electric guitar and shifts from a 4/4 to eighth notes when before leading up to a minute long guitar solo. The final section of the song is of a much faster hard rock style, with Plant ending the song with a short vocals-only epilogue. He uses his mid vocal range during the beginning, middle and epilogue sections while singing in his higher range vocals for the hard rock section.

The famous song has also been claimed to have a hidden message done via backmasking. The alleged message that was discovered by Paul Crouch was "If there's a bustle in your hedgerow, don't be alarmed now..." when the song was played backwards. The message apparently references to Satan. Following the outrageous claims, Swan Song Records stated that "Our turntables only play in one direction - forwards." Led Zeppelin's audio engineer Eddie Kramer calls these allegations as totally and utterly ridiculous. "Why would they want to spend so much studio time doing something so dumb?" he says.

Plant told Musician, "To me it's very sad, because 'Stairway to Heaven' was written with every best intention, and as far as reversing tapes and putting messages on the end, that's not my idea of making music."

The band hired a film crew who used up to four 35mm cameras and recorded the sound with a 24-track quadraphonic for each gig. A 16mm Éclair ACL camera was also used for insert shots, offstage and crowd shots. The film crew took notes and photos throughout the three gigs to learn stage lighting, setlist and other details. The live footages alone costs the band an estimate of $120,000 NZD.

Robert Plant and John Bonham could be seen wearing the same outfit for all three gigs so the editing of the film will be seamless, but there were still continuity issues as John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page did not receive the same memo as they wore different outfits for the gigs. According to Jones, he said he asked the film crew if they were filming on those nights, which they replied no to Jones. He thought it would be smart to save the same shirt for a night when they would be filmed.

Setlist:

  • Rock and Roll
  • Celebration Day (Bring It On Home intro)
  • Black Dog
  • Over the Hills and Far Away
  • Misty Mountain Hop
  • Since I've Been Loving You
  • No Quarter
  • The Song Remains the Same
  • Rain Song
  • Dazed and Confused (including San Francisco)
  • Stairway to Heaven
  • Moby Dick
  • Heartbreaker
  • Whole Lotta Love (including Let That Boy Boogie)
  • The Ocean