Led Zeppelin's manager Peter Grant dropped the 'a' in the word 'lead' to prevent "thick Americans" from pronouncing it as "leed". - Rocklopedia.com
"If we are to go forward, we must go back and rediscover those precious values - that all reality hinges on moral foundations and that all reality has spiritual control." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
I shall ramble on.
Yes, like Tom Buchanan in Teh Great Gatsby, "Once in a while I go off on a spree and make a fool of myself, but I always come back." That's me talking to this here Blog. This will be the second time I've restarted it with intentions of keeping it going. I just happened to stumble upon it while making my way for the Misty Mountains (metaphorically speaking). I've been dazed and confused, seen good times, bad times, but I can't quit you, baby. I've also been shocked to see people actually reading this thing.
[Didja see The Great Gatsby? Wasn't it a glorious mess? I'll blog about it soon, old sport.]
But in short, I'm back, I'll try and keep it going and we'll leave it at that.
I've had a mild obsession with Led Zeppelin lately, listening to the songs, digging them, thinking how they're widely considered the best rock band ever, while only really active for 12 years, while The Rolling Stones are celebrating their 50 years of making music and wondering why they don't get as much love as they think they should and feel overshadowed by the Beatles (active for 10) and Yeshua, I've already started with the run-on sentences, awready.
When you're at the top of the mountain made out of Marshall amps, what is considered your best song, the song that defines you, that tune must be a humdinger. And for Led Zeppelin, that song is "Stairway to Heaven," further referred to in this blog as "Stairway" or "Teh Song." It's our topic. I've had brekkie, two cuppas and a poo and I'm ready to examine this song and try to get some meaning out of it. For your edification and mine. Mostly yours, since my edification has come and still reverberates within the hypostyle halls of myself. Wow, that was deep, eh?
Now, I'm not going to get into much of the history of the band, that's out there. (I've said before that a lot of what I've got in this blog isn't revelations, but information out there waiting. That information, the Truth, the Woohoo, it's the girl that seems unattractive sitting over by the wall who came without a date, but if you get to know her, she's awesome. I've danced with her and I'll tell you all about it.) But what I've found to be really OUT THERE are some of the dissections of Stairway that I've seen online. Now we see a lot of things online, things that can't be unseen. We're only a googearch away from something horrible and terrible and Republican. But I've seen some autopsies on Stairway to Heaven online that make one wonder if that person ever listened to the song or read the lyrics with any consciousness involvement. No, the "rings of smoke" line does not mean the forest is on fire. My gawd.
Now, the problem with Stairway is that it seems mysterious, interminable, weeeird. The musicality of the song itself, which I find helps lead us to the meaning of the piece, can also detract from the lyrics since it's a finely composed song that builds and builds and displays the craftsmanship of the band. But I feel, when we do get a little background, specifically where Robert Plant came from when writing the lyrics and the music and mindset of Jimmy Page, the occultist, that we can actually get a clear point to the song. What I mean to do is tell you what I think the song is about, 'xactly, and let you take if for what you deem it is worth. If I don't convince, you, that's nobody's fault but mine.
Let's go ahead and dispense with some silliness: Yes, Plant and Page may have been higher than an orbital kite when the song was created. But saying Stairway is a gibberish of LSD-enhanced themes/imagery is the talk of closed-minded skeptics, and we'll have none of that here. And the song is occult enough without any backward-masking foolish talk. So stop it, this instant. John Lennon may have purposefully make lyrics that he knew were nonsense, and yes, there are some Led Zeppelin songs where the lyrics aren't that important, but it's clear that something important happened when Plant wrote this song, even though he himself has gone back and forth on it and may not himself get the full gist of the import. And yes, saying that Robert Plant was only a so-so lyricist is a pretty dumb thing to say, in an attempt to wash any real meaning from the song. I don't think the song is really that obscure, when you look at it piece by piece, face value and get where Plant's uber-curled head might have been at.
My hand was writing out the words, 'There's a lady is sure [sic], all that glitters is gold, and she's buying a stairway to heaven'. I just sat there and looked at them and almost leapt out of my seat." Plant's own explanation of the lyrics was that it "was some cynical aside about a woman getting everything she wanted all the time without giving back any thought or consideration. The first line begins with that cynical sweep of the hand ... and it softened up after that. - From the Wikipedia entry for the song.
This helps us get started in our examination of the song and we'll check out where Plant was coming from real quick first before we start. While both he and Page downplay their studies in occultism and mysticism these days, Plant was a fervent reader of myth and fantasy, a lover of Tolkien, whose songs are peppered with references to the Misty Mountains, Gollum, etc. as well as the mystic legends and magical history of Great Britain/Wales. While there are a few songs from the Led Lexicon that have mystic/occult ties, they are fairly sparse. Rush has more songs on spiritual themes than Led Zeppelin does, and "Mystic Rhythms" and "Animate" are even more "pagan" than Stairway to Heaven is, but in a more overt way than Teh Song explores similar themes. What we are told here by Plant is that his hand was writing out the words, but it was like "automatic" writing, that he wasn't consciously writing that line down, that it came from inside/outside himself.
It is a truth that Truth never knocks down your door with a S.W.A.T. team and shouts at you in simple sentences with a bullhorn. While some religions claim that only the few chosen can read their sacred text and understand its meaning, the Truth about Life is that anyone can "read it" and all of it teaches us, as all of it is sacred. And the idea that Life used Plant to put a "sign on the wall" is fairly romantic and we'll say no more about it.
We only stray when we want to change what we perceive into something else. We can all do the Misty Mountain Hop. so to speak. The idea is also that the more subtler the way that Truth tries to reveal itself, the more potent that revelation is. In short: the most difficult thing is to realize yourself, your place in the cosmos, and anytime someone is selling you the secret in a few easy steps, you can dismiss it outright. It's dishwater, and it tastes nasty because I was swilling that myself for 25 years and the aftertaste never quite leaves you. So if Life has something to say to you, it might be a song, or a moment of synchronicity, a fleeting thought, a theme in a movie...it won't be on a pulpit thumping anything.
Back to Plant, tho. He has a love of the "old ways," if only in a romantic sense. He loves the Arthurian myths, the Mabinogion, etc. Then when you couple that with Black Magician Jimmy, sometimes you're going to create a work that has Truth in it. Now the whole "Black" title to Jimmy Page betrays the Western World's maintenance of the spiritual status quo, of the domination of Xiandom. Any spiritual pursuit other than Xianity is outright condemned and painted black by those in charge. I've mentioned before that the Western Logic Rule is to define sharply something. For example, the exposure of the NSA's surveillance program is in one person's POV treason, and in another one's an act of a patriot, when it's really both at the same time. Me, I love my country, which is why I hate it so much right now. A deeper discussion about such modern problems is needed to solve those problems. In other words, let's think things through.
There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold
And she's buying a stairway to heaven.
When she gets there she knows, if the stores are all closed
With a word she can get what she came for.
Okay. First of all, with a change in punctuation and an extra "ooh" here or there, there is a set set of lyrics for this song. Yes, Plant will change them up when he sings them live, not counting goof-ups, and I refer to the lyrics as printed in the original release of the album in which the song appears, not released as a single, Led Zeppelin IV. These are the ones I'll use. You can go to 3 diff online lyric sites and see 3 diff versions. The Truth mutates of its own accord when it speaks.
The first stanza speaks of a lady who is "sure all the glitters is gold." Now that can have a double-meaning in that it is saying in her eyes, gold is the only thing that shines, that has value. Which is a very disappointing worldview to have and makes you pity the lady. But based on Plant's own words, I believe the line is saying more exactly that to the lady, whatever glitters, that seems of value, what makes an impression on her is gold...which means wealth. That nothing else holds her interest, a person totally bought into the idea that stuff bring happiness. It's about getting everything you want, with a focus on things. And that if she buys things, the glittery things that are her gold, she will reach heaven. Since the lyrics as printed in IV are all in caps, I don't know if heaven is meant to be capitalized or not. We'll keep it a small h at this point. Because I think the idea of heaven to someone with a materialistic point of view, someone who thinks that there is nothing blasphemous about a store called "Heavenly Ham." Its a concept I've mentioned before in this blog. In this spiritually incompetent culture, we seek to fill the *G*O*D*-shaped hole in our lives with stuff, which is like trying to fill the grand canyon with packing peanuts. You'll be disappointed.
So the song starts out by setting the problem the song is addressing. There is a lady, a materialist, who thinks satisfaction involves things, and when she gets to that point, even if "the stores are all closed" she'll still be satisfied. This is actually a fairly common view of heaven, of a place of satisfaction, often involving material and spiritual. A Baptist will say it's the end of material suffering, then get in his new car, go to a nice restaurant and then watch cable teevee on his big-screen and hope for heaven when all that misery can end. This material obsession with even the most religious in Uhmurkah is why such folks seem obsessed with staying alive, because probably Yeshua will have better things for you to do than play video games there. In other words, if you've been told you'll go to heaven when you die, if the Lord is calling you home, why would you call an ambulance? HMM?
So we've got a woman, obsessed with stuff, gold, who is still seeking "heaven" and that it involves a stairway, which is perhaps a nod to the concept of Jacob's Ladder, or the Kabbalistic Tree of LIfe, but also grounds heaven into a place that is reached by a device and that it is elsewhere, above you, and that you can buy it with money/influence, etc.
There's a sign on the wall but she wants to be sure
'Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings.
In a tree by the brook, there's a songbird who sings
Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiven.
Which to me says she wants to interpret the sign the way she wants to read it so she can continue on her quest for stuff and a heaven that is her own personal shopping mall....which gives the reason for the next line transporting the scene to a setting of a tree by a brook and a songbird who sings. Now the lyrics as printed in IV go like this: Who sings sometimes/all of our thoughts are misgiven. So does the songbird sing "sometimes all our thoughts are misgiven" or is it that the songbird sometimes sings "all our thoughts are misgiven"? Based on how Plant and usually anyone else sings Stairway, (who excepting Heart is usually badly) it appears to be that it is: "sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiven." Which is basically the theme of my blog.
Why the sudden shift to a scene in nature? And why is it that a songbird has to tell us that sometimes our thoughts are wrong? Notice that the line is not "mistaken" but "misgiven." That's important. I think it's clear to the lady what the sign says, but she gives herself a loophole by saying that words can have two meanings. We really all know what is right and wrong, obfuscating that Truth brings suffering and sometimes a new pair of shoes can help with the suffering, but only for a while.
Right away after the image of the lady, we are put into a natural setting where a songbird, nature, is what tells us the truth about our thoughts and that sometimes these thoughts have been given to us, but wrongly. Misgiven. And to me, this is what the song is about. And the rest of the song is the argument for the solution, for an alternative to materialism and seeking satisfaction in wealth, material success, etc. Which may seem a paradoxical statement from a band known for their excesses and custom jet-planes. If there's one thing I've learned in my own spiritual quest, it's that paradoxes soon dissolve when you don't have a vested interest in maintaining them. The idea that you can't have material success AND also spiritual awareness is wrong, is "misgiven." Remember, the lady thinks that ALL that glitters is gold. The Truth is that everything glitters, even Adam Sandler.
There's a feeling I get when I look to the west,
And my spirit is crying for leaving.
In my thoughts I have seen rings of smoke through the trees,
And the voices of those who stand looking.
Well now we're getting into some mystical imagery and Plant's own musings. I mentioned Plant's love of Tolkien before and this stanza's imagery is right from it. To us, the West means the Western World of Capitalism and Oppressive Colonialism and Warmongering and chocolate-dipped bacon. To Tolkien, the West is the unspoiled lands across the sea of glass, a physical place but also a mystical place, like Avalon or the countless islands that Irish heroes visited in the Celtic Otherworld that are physical places but only able to visit under certain circumstances. These are the places that shamans visit when they seek to talk to the ancestral spirits in order to intercede for their people, etc. When Frodo and Bilbo and Gandalf etc. get on the gray ship and sail into the West, the other hobbits at the dock know they'll never see them again, because you don't come back from there. It's another way to look at heaven, at nirvana, arriving where you're supposed to be, at the end of the walk of life. Here Plant seems to say when he looks to that West, his spirit cries out to leave the world he is in. He'd like to go to the world of Tolkien and see the rings of smokes in the trees, which any idiot who's read Tolkien knows these are from the pipes of the people in the forest. The voices? Elves? Those who stand looking can mean any entity who lives in that realm to the West, those elevated expressions of consciousness who either run the place, or those who traveled there in a gray ship to get away from a place that had already left them. The lyricist here has mused over the lady who is interested with stuff, heard the songbird and wants to leave to a better place...and that place is a sylvan land of trees and nature, not obsessed with things. Those "who stand looking" are maybe the gods, the elves, (be they Tolkien's or Terence McKenna's "machine elves") the gray aliens who you think built Stonehenge, whatever.
And it's whispered that soon if we all call the tune
Then the piper will lead us to reason.
And a new day will dawn for those who stand long
And the forests will echo with laughter.
Again, subtlety...the Truth "whispers" to us. And that Truth is that if we all "call the tune
" something something. Now note that we ALL have to do it. That's the tricky thing. We're a species at its own throat right now, so that seems a remote possibility. But I'm not here to bring you down, there is hope. Now what does "call the tune" mean? I've seen a couple of definitions out there. I think "to decide matters of policy" seems to fit here. Putting this into the concept of a song is a way of softening the reality. Who "calls the tune" in your life is who has control of it We can ALL decide that we control our lives and that we can make the best decision for all of us, rather than leave that up to an elite, elect few running the world and thinking that we're here to make their lives better, which is how the Western World is run right now. If you're an American, an European, an Australian, etc. someone else has their hand poised to grab you by the short hairs if you stray from the road. America was, supposedly, founded on the concept of Reason. That a citizenry of informed, involved people can reason together and run the country without a monarch or an authoritative government and that elected representatives were to be nothing more than just that, representatives of the people, to take back with them the interests and voices of the people. You can take a few minutes to laugh out loud now, if you want. I'm getting a mist in front of my eyes, myself...and I want to paint it red.
Well, what happens if we all call the tune? Well, if you've got any religious hysterics in the room (which also includes atheists) you might want to chloroform them at this point for their own protection. Because "the piper will lead us to reason" if we all decide on the right policy. Who is the piper? Hmm, could he be...SAAA-TAAANN??? Well, no. Satan is an angel. (Not fallen, neither.) Right now, he's where-ever Yahweh is if Satan is not "going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it" and his job is to be Yahweh's conscience. Yahweh asks Satan a question about his servant Job because Yahweh knows Satan will challenge what he has to say, because that's his job. Yahweh wouldn't throw Satan out of Heaven (big H) for arguing with him, that's what Satan is there for. Satan is the prosecutor and Yahweh is the defendant and it's up to Yahweh to show Satan that Job is a faithful servant. Now Job doesn't actually like the experiment and Yahweh has to go down in a whirlwind and give Job a good talking to, but...oh, go read the Book of Job.
How much influence Page had at this point, we can never be quite sure, but his own study and practice of magick surely helped this song slide into a more mystical realm. At least, he could help Plant, if he needed it, on the direction the lyrics were going. Page, who doesn't want to be burned as a witch (who does, really) has downplayed his interest in the occult in the past. And I only bring him up now to make it clear that Stairway to Heaven is a serious song that has a mystic pedigree, influenced by the interests of both Plant and Page, at least at the time the song was created. Morons can make off-the-cuff statements about them making a deal with the devil, and that's why they were able to make such great music...but then those same folks are forgetting that The Rolling Stones, the Beatles...well this blog is already going to be overlong without making a list...had interests, spiritually, other than the norm and also did some droogs. Once or twice.
Back to ol' Scratch...you can take pretty much any figure in mythology who lives in the wood who is a nature god and you know where the Xian image of the debbil comes from, horns, cloven feet, etc. It's pretty clear the piper is the Great God Pan, or at least a similar deity of his ilk. The Xians very early on tried to make forests and woods dark, dangerous places and make the deities of those places the most despicable in eyes of the Xian deity, who isn't Yahweh. I'm not sure what god Xians worship, but he bears no resemblance to the Yahweh of the Old Testament. But the reason for the woods being made into places to shun, is that is where the Celts of Europe went for a lot of their religious activities. They had sacred groves that they felt where inhabited by the presence of their deities. So the Xians cut the trees down, they were trampled under foot and they built churches over those spots and told us to be afraid of the woods at night and that is why horror movies like Friday the 13th and The Blair Witch Project and The Evil Dead that take place in rural/forested settings are a much buttresses to Xiandom as they are entertainment. So when the Xians wanted an image of the devil, they chose Pan, Cernunnos, etc. in case the hayseeds in the trailer park didn't get the message.
Pan/Dionysus was one of the more beloved of the Greek pantheon, and folks would go out into the forest to "commune" with him and he is a key part of ye olde Eleusinian Mysteries. He would have appealed to Led Zeppelin, what with all the sex and drinkin' and teevee-killin' they were into. So saying that the person who will help us is the piper matches Pan. Who has pipes, even. What is odd about this stanza, which probably has the atheists' getting this coppery-taste in their gums, is that a half-man/half-goat woodland deity is the one who will "lead us to reason." If there's one thing I've tried to get through in this blog, besides that I don't like Adam Sandler, it's this: We already had it figgered out, millennial ago. We've forgotten what glitters, really, and we see gold and go "ooh, shiny" and we've only got ourselves to blame. These deities I've been talking about are at least ideas. And if enough of us focus on an idea, it does become real. American Football is an idea but atheists don't go on about how it should be banned. And if you don't like American Football, you wouldn't say that all sports are null and void, right? This is how atheists respond to negative religions, throwing the baby Yeshua out with the bathwater. Again, maintaining the paradox.
And when the piper leads us to reason, that being, letting go of our materialistic obsessions and trying to buy ski-lifts to heaven when we should just enjoy the reality of life, gilded with the glitter it already had, what happens? A new day will dawn, for those who stand long, and the forests will echo with laughter. Getting all of us to call the tune is no easy task, but if we "stand long" the forests will (again) echo with laughter. We'll enjoy ourselves. I don't know anyone who has a brain, including myself, who isn't really miserable. Ignorance is bliss, but still ignorance. "Finding your bliss" as Joseph Campbell put it, is the important thing. But it's not easy, it'll be hard, and we'll have to stand and wait long to get to that place, because we've got an entire infrastructure right now that keeps us from that. The wealthy think they have bliss, but we see how fiercely they protect their wealth, because they think that's all they've got...that if you take away their gold, then all the glitter is out of life.
In the concert movie "The Song Remains the Same," Plant at the end of this stanza actually says "remember laughter?" I mean, the people at the show are enjoying the concert, probably having a great time, and Plant asks them if they remember laughter, do you remember a time when we were really happy?
If there's a bustle in your hedgerow, don't be alarmed now,
It's just a spring clean for the May queen.
Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
There's still time to change the road you're on.
Well, now the song begins to tie itself together, as the lyricist, who left the lady and her gold to think about his yearning for a better life and the whispered solution to the problem his world has, due to misgiven thoughts, now talks about another lady. It gets into pagan/heathen imagery now. The words pagan and heathen, while having different origins equate to: "unlearned country-dweller." The hicks in the sticks just won't get with the program, so let's call them names. It was only natural for the cities of Europe to be "converted" to Xianity first, while the holdouts were the folks connected closer to nature, to the land. The wisdom of the land and the ancients must be oppressed in the interest of a religion that came from an obscure Semitic people but meshed very well with a Roman Empire that wanted to go to version 2.0 and make religion and belonging to the state the same thing. Because when heresy exists at all, that is mental/spiritual oppression, and when heresy is also treason, the journey to the Dark Side is complete.
The idea with the last stanza is that as the "new day" begins to dawn there will be "sounds" that may alarm you, we all called the tune, and then, as the song begins to build up to a crescendo of celebration, we are told to not be alarmed, it's just that the Queen is coming soon.
But then there's the hope. There's still time, always time, to change. It's a path, not a stairway. And you can walk on that now, not try to reach it later on, when you're ready.
Your head is humming and it won't go, in case you don't know,
The piper's calling you to join him,
Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow, and did you know
Your stairway lies on the whispering wind.
Now the song is in your head now, it's humming, and in case you still weren't sure, that's the piper calling you to join him. And now, the lady with the shopping bag that you keep your heart in...can you hear the wind blow? Can you respond to nature?...look, your stairway is insubstantial, it can be found on the wind that is whispering the Truth to you, your stairway is everywhere, it was there all the time and it is also nowhere.
And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our soul.
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold.
And if you listen very hard
The tune will come to you at last.
When all is one and one is all
To be a rock and not to roll.
Now, if you remember the song, or want to go ahead and play it now, the song builds to a flourish and it's more like a rock and roll song with Plant's vocals hitting the notes with intensity, it's the climax of the last few stanzas. Spiritual revelation has arrived, we are on THE road. And our shadows are taller than our soul, which is a nice poetic metaphor. What does it mean? Well, at sunset our shadows lengthen. Maybe that's the imagery. But what I take away from this line is that we are bigger than we think we are, in a world in which hundreds die somewhere due to flooding or war or natural disasters and the rest of us just keep on doing our thing like it never happened and so many humans seem disposable to the interest of politics or people who think heaven will be the most awesome shopping mall eva, we are expressions of consciousness, each of us are sacred, the worst of us...expressions of the cosmos.
Then here's where Plant preaches to you: Look, there's a lady (not a male deity) that we all know. She's the queen, the goddess, the consort of Pan, the male deity. This is the divine female principle that the Abrahamic religions deny. And the politics of the West and the East both are designed to keep women down, that if you keep a good woman in her place, you keep the good goddess down, too. You wish, you hairy bastids. The goddess is about nurture and nature, about family and caring, which is why it is a lady who thinks all that glitters is gold is the subject of the song...it's women who can rescue the world, through their influence...we can learn to care for each other and women are better at that then men. So when a lady has become corrupted by materialism, that's a shame.
The goddess shines white light, purity, the light of reason and she wants to reveal to us how EVERYthing still, and always did, turns to gold...that everything glitters. We already have, from the bounty of the earth, what we need. Including spiritual/mental satisfaction. And the goddess has a whole lotta love.
And then we come back to the present situation and Plant makes the altar call...that if you listen very hard (again, no one's going to hand you an easy salvation and be serious) then you can also hear the song, the piper's tune and on that day, All will be one and one will be all.
You have to a rock, firm, strong and ready to stand long and not to roll along with what society, your church, your parents, etc. try to get you to "go along" with. Because sometimes our thoughts are misgiven.
And then the song, after the flourish of the last stanza...
And she's buying a stairway to heaven.
And this is a quiet, muted line as sung by Plant, the same manner as the first stanza, and the hope of a better way is still out there, but the singer, depressed, comes back to earth and he looks at the lady again...and she's still trying to buy her way to satisfaction.
Thank you for indulging me. I want to say in closing that this is what the song means to me. I don't insist that this is what Plant and Page had in mind. Only the madman is absolutely sure. But I'm pretty sure this is what was trying to be said. So take this and go your way and whatever you think the song means to you...
The Song Remains the Same.