In the car park outside the store I paced around, talking to Nicklas on the phone. We spoke for a good twenty minutes and whilst talking some kind of fracas had occurred in the shop. A member of staff came running out of the shop and ran down the road like a sprinter. Another employee stood outside the door, holding onto a trolley. On the ground was a salmon steak. The runner returned after about ten minutes, holding a plastic bag, one presumes of stolen shopping. Turning back into the shop they left the salmon steak on the pavement. But this was yesterday. I only mention it because readers want to know what happened to the girl in the mustard sweater and what was the other woman holding?
Although I didn’t really get to go out today because of the online sessions I did nip to the shop around the corner for five minutes where in a less interesting queue, two men were talking. I only saw one man’s back but he was wearing a check shirt like Rory Gallagher might have worn. He was maybe in his late forties and had longish hair. He was discussing the virus with another man who was wearing a white shirt like Barry Manilow might have worn. He had very short cropped grey hair and was probably in his early seventies. I overheard the older man say that no wonder they were quelling the virus in Korea when they have a dictatorial regime, suggesting that the controlling of the people might explain the controlling of the outbreak. I realized that he wasn’t differentiating between North and South Korea, confusing one country’s political system with another country’s quick and efficient dealing with the problem. I guess these days the details don’t matter to people.
Today I had six sessioneers: Tony in Sydney, Noel near London, Kevin in Atlanta, Brian in Orlando, Joanne in Portland and Doug in Wappinger Falls near Woodstock. Thanks everybody for being so cool, listening to me and making great progress with your music and your creative spirit. There’s really not enough hours in the day to play and write and listen and work, but with the present circumstances, working from home might actually give that extra bit of time needed to fit everything in.
Which brings me to the group Spirit. You may have heard about the lawsuit against Led Zeppelin and the issue as to where they might have found ‘inspiration’ to write Stairway To Heaven. Spirit formed in 1967 in Los Angeles and featured Randy California on guitar and vocal. Randy had played with Jimi Hendrix in Jimmy James And The Blue Flames and it was Hendrix that named him Randy California (his real name was Randy Wolfe) to differentiate between him and another Randy, Randy Palmer, who he called Randy Texas.
Interestingly, Spirit had Randy California’s stepfather jazzer Ed Cassidy on drums, who was twenty years older than the rest of the band and had played with an impressive list of Jazz luminaries such as Cannonball Adderley, Art Pepper, Roland Kirk, Lee Konitz and Gerry Mulligan. Mark Andes played bass, Jay Ferguson sang (Andes and Ferguson later formed Jo Jo Gunne to some success with the single Run Run Run in the UK). Ferguson had a Top Ten US solo hit with the song Thunder Island in 1978. Fun Fact: Ferguson also wrote the theme tune to the US version of The Office. John Locke completed the line up on keyboards.
In 1968 Spirit and Led Zeppelin played together and this is where Zep would have heard Taurus, an instrumental song from Spirit’s first album. There is certainly a similarity in the downward progression, but perhaps mostly a similarity in the mood. The problem here is twofold, firstly downward progressions always sound similar to each other as do Blues songs, mostly using the same chord sequences – where do you draw the line? Although Spirit might have had a line on Led Zep because this wasn’t the first time they had plagiarized other artists’ material. Killing Floor (The Lemon Song) from Led Zep 2 didn’t originally have a credit for Howlin’ Wolf, but it did after a lawsuit had them settle out of court. (Hm, another Wolf!). But then did Chester Burnett (Howlin’ Wolf’s real name) take his ideas at least lyrically from Robert Johnson, who in turn took it from Arthur Mackay in 1937? This is the problem with Blues composition and lyric.
But the most notorious of all of Zep’s ‘inspirations’ came from Jake Holmes’ Dazed And Confused. Holmes opened for the Yardbirds in 1967 where Page would have heard the song. It was credited to Page, but Holmes, who didn’t claim copyright infringement till much much later (and wasn’t acknowledged till 2012), is surely the true writer with the version on Zeppelin 1 an interpretation of the original.
This is why the story of Randy California’s instrumental song Taurus from the first Spirit Album might justify a credit on Stairway to Heaven, but you be the judge.
Tragically Randy California drowned in the pacific off Hawaii in 1997. He successfully managed to push his 12 year old son away from a rip and out of danger, losing his own life in the process.
Tonight, after all the sessions and the day, I listened exclusively to Spirit associated records including the self-titled debut (1968), The Family That Plays Together (1968), Clear (1969), and The Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus (1970). A version of Nature’s Way (an early environmental awareness song) from this album appears on the third This Mortal Coil album Filigree and Shadow from 1991. How can this amazing band be so forgotten? I started the night with Randy California’s solo album from 1972, Kapt. Kopter And The (Fabulous) Twirly Birds, which alongside three original songs, featured two Beatles songs, a Paul Simon song, a James Brown song and a song by Lenny Lee Goldsmith (and Vic Phillips) from the band Sweathog, who are so forgotten that ‘the mists of time’ don’t even remember them despite having a song that reached No.33 in the US Charts (Hallelujah) in 1971. Three of the tracks from Kapt. Kopter included Hendrix’ bassist Noel Redding under a pseudonym that you can (for reasons that I won’t explain here) research yourself.