LOS ANGELES, May 19 (UPI) -- Mark Andes, a founding member of Los Angeles band Spirit, says Stairway to Heaven is not a Led Zeppelin original.
The 66-year-old bassist founded Spirit in 1967 alongside Randy California, Jay Ferguson, Ed Cassidy and John Locke. The band released its first, self-titled album in 1968, and the record included an instrumental track named Taurus, which California had wrote.
Taurus features a guitar line similar to the opening measures of 1971 hit Stairway to Heaven. Led Zeppelin opened for Spirit in 1968, and Andes postulates that the band heard Taurus during the concert and later appropriated the song for Stairway to Heaven.
"It was such a pretty moment," Andes recalls of Spirit's performances of Taurus. "It would typically come after a big forceful number and always got a good response. [Led Zeppelin] would have seen it in that context."
California himself believed Led Zeppelin had stolen the song, and called Stairway to Heaven "a ripoff" in the winter 1997 issue of Listener magazine.
"The guys made millions of bucks on it and never said 'Thank you,' never said, 'Can we pay you some money for it?'" he said in the interview. "It's kind of a sore point with me. Maybe someday their conscience will make them do something about it."
California died in 1997, but Andes and California's trust have teamed up to seek recognition from Led Zeppelin. Lawyer Francis Alexander Malofiy represents the group, and says the lawsuit seeks "to make sure that Randy California is given a writing credit on Stairway to Heaven."
Conde Nast Portfolio magazine estimated in 2008 that Stairway to Heaven had earned over $562 million. Led Zeppelin will cash in on the song even further this June when it re-releases its albums in deluxe, remastered vinyl and CD editions.
"It is fairly blatant, and note for note," Andes asserts of Stairway to Heaven's similarities to Taurus. "It would be nice if the Led Zeppelin guys gave Randy a little nod. That would be lovely."