Not to fill this space with the endless essays written about Stairway to Heaven by students, musicians, scholars, religious writers/groups etc , which maybe another of its cultural impacts, here is one of many written about this tune ... Take carehttp://www.shmoop.com/stairway-to-heaven/meaning.html
"Stairway to Heaven" is, whether you like it or not, the most popular rock song of the past forty years (at least as measured by radio airplay). The song's very popularity has caused some (rather harsh) critics to slag it off mercilessly. It's overrated, they say. It's words are nothing more than "corny medievalism." If you play the record backward (why would you do that, again?) you might even find satanic messages.
Ohhhhkaaaaay. On the other hand, critics (and backwards-record-playing, satan-hunting lunatics) notwithstanding, "Stairway to Heaven" has also been called rock's greatest song. An epic that, at eight minutes long, has defied market researchers and been played over 3 million times on the radio. The pinnacle of hard-rocking lyrical and musical composition.
These opinions, on both sides, get so charged that any analysis that took sides would be totally inadequate. ("No 'Stairway'! Denied!") Even if it seems a bit ridiculous to talk about the "satanic messages" that supposedly fill the track when played in reverse, it may be necessary if we wants to appreciate the immense cultural potency of the song.
So what is it, exactly, about the song? Why is it probably being played on your favorite classic rock station right now, almost 40 years after its recording?
"Stairway to Heaven" plays out as a kind of spirit quest, a journey into a quasi-mythical, pagan past through music. The classical guitar and lyrics recall Romantic poets like Keats as nature itself becomes a voice of truth whispering in the distance. The song's key thematic element—a journey in search of meaning in a world of ambiguity—is emphasized by the constant evolution of the song as it, too, searches for an adequate voice. When that voice finally seems to be found—in Jimmy Page's soaring guitar solo, which starts almost six minutes into the piece—it is ritualistically and gloriously prefaced by a fanfare. It seems that the song is channeling the spirit of some kind of guitar god. The energy of the song then becomes incredible: Robert Plant's singing an octave higher, the distorted guitar bellowing, the rhythm section frantically pounding away. The song becomes less about Page as an individual musician and more about the band acting on Page's energy. There is a shift from "extreme individuality" to "extreme community," in the words of musicologist Susan Fast. And then, as if somehow the heavy metal sound isn't good enough, as Robert Walser explains: "The apotheosis/apocalypse breaks off suddenly, and the song ends with Plant's unaccompanied voice, a return to the solitary poignancy of the beginning." We are left with an ambiguity of sound, but also with a powerful sense of ritual and meaning found in the implicit rejection of contemporary pop music (and traditional religion) that metal and pagan/mystical lyrics represent. In this countercultural voice, looking for meaning "in the west" and from the "songbird who sings," at the very least there is a romantic assurance that some kind of spirituality exists… and it's something that can be experienced through heavy metal's aggression, emotion, and mysticality.
Whoa. There's a lot going on here, it seems. And we didn't even have to play the track backwards to find it.
Asking what spurred the culture of rejection embodied by "Stairway to Heaven," Musicologist Robert Walser noted that the 1960s and '70s marked a large period of destabilization in the Western world: "the end of Pax Americana; new economic crises; de-industrialization, the decline of unions and the rise of low-pay service jobs; revelations of corrupt leadership; powerful social movements challenging dominant policies on race, gender, ecology, and consumer rights; new challenges to the stability of social institutions such as the family; and redefinitions of political themes such as freedom."
It is also important to point out the development of postmodernism, an umbrella term for the general sense that there is no universal "truth" in the world and that we should instead explore and understand various local, cultural, and more relative values. Walser goes further to say that heavy metal, like the horror genre in film, developed to "restore the sense of security undermined by these disruptions." What that means is that when George Ramero was filming Night of the Living Dead and Black Sabbath were playing "Iron Man," they were attempting to find new, undeniable truths—the absoluteness of evil in flesh-eating zombies, the power of aggression in crunching guitars. This may all sound overthought and over-intellectualized—and maybe it is—but the popularity of the horror and heavy metal genres could not be denied.
Led Zeppelin, to the fascination and disdain of many, plays into the powers of occult and emotion. Anti-rock-n'-rollers have taken Led Zeppelin's mysticism and attempted (rather successfully) to allege that "Stairway to Heaven" contains satanic messages when played backward. But fans find the occultism and myth surrounding Led Zeppelin to be one of the band's best attributes. In Susan Fast's book on Led Zeppelin, In the Houses of the Holy, she cites fans as saying things like, "I enjoy the sense of magick [sic] in the music"; "A lot of their lyrics portray far off, mystical lands, castles, oceans, etc. The band's image was known as being mystical and somewhat secretive"; and "They are consummately modern with cores of ancient and original spirits." Note the use of the older, occulty-sounding British spelling of "magic" with a -"ck" ending, and the romantic ideas of mysticism and ancientness. The fan who spoke of the band's "original spirits" raised an important point: the folk/mystical sensibilities of the beginning of "Stairway to Heaven" and references to enchanting figures like "the May Queen" and "the piper" or "Rings of smoke through the trees" seem so elemental to us because they are old ideas. There is—in "Stairway to Heaven," Led Zeppelin, horror, and metal—a longing to go back to a time when the evil spirits in the forest grounded our beliefs in good and evil. This is the time of Homer and his Iliad, of King Arthur and his Grail, of Tolkien and his rings—the (in the imaginations of many) pre-political, pre-economic, and pre-industrial era. This is a time when things like the "gold" "souls" and "the west" had simpler meanings… or so we like to believe.
The classical music and nymphs in your hedgerow are only half of the story. If that were all there was to Led Zeppelin, the band would have ended up as wannabe minstrels playing at the Renaissance Faire. The fusion of hard rock with the classical is what makes the song so interesting. The authenticity of aggression and emotion was an important belief to the creators of heavy metal. Jimmy Page believed absolutely that he dealt in the power of real emotions, and he was heavily influenced by emotive, improvisational American blues acts like Chuck Berry. This explains the fanfare prefacing his solo in "Stairway to Heaven." The repeated triplet chords on the guitar echo the horn-played fanfares of coronations and royal weddings. It is as if the wandering of the song until this point has ceased to make way for a guitar hero who can provide the sense of authenticity and escape that Plant sings of. No wonder the solo is improvised; it seeks to convey pure emotion. While musicologists and critics have often said that the song gradually adds in instruments as it builds to this solo, it's more true to say that the classical music elements—the recorder, the acoustic guitar—are replaced by more modern instruments in a sort of movement through time, a summoning of truths and myths through the contemporary. It is a way to bring these past ideals into the now, and Page is the lone guitar hero who can do that.
That's not the end of the story, though. Robert Plant and the rest of the band adopt Page's aggressive new sound in joining the guitarist for the wailing final verse. When Plant sings, "As we wind on down the road" there is a sense of that he speaks of the band and their followers—that there is a musical community now moving against pop culture and into a contemporary realm of mysticism and power. That power is in rock n' roll. As the song becomes increasingly hard rock, Plant begins to rhyme his lyrics more frequently, as if rock provides this sense of poetic truth to him. And, more literally, the power of rock n' roll is in the words "rock n' roll" as Plant sings: "When all are one and one is all / To be a rock and not to roll."
But then, in an instant, we return to loneliness of the song's beginning. The rock section breaks off unresolved—on the F rather than the tonic of the song, the A—and Plant is left to sing us back to the A in his ghost dog croon. It suggests that the transformational sound of the second half of the song provides no lasting answer, but instead only a temporary escape—a kind of symbolic ritual rejection of the culture and some possibility of transmutation of the mystical past into the rock of the present.
Unlock the melody, harmony, and rhythm
Pop songs, to the disdain of classical music enthusiasts, don't typically go anywhere musically. You typically have a verse and a chorus that loop around—with a bridge somewhere in there tying it all together. "Stairway," to its credit, breaks free from that pattern—as just about everybody who's written about the song has called it a journey in some form. Stylistically the song goes through several stylistic transformations that warrant such a claim.
The song begins with those familiar acoustic guitar phrases—often repeated and often messed up by guitar students. Writer Richard Walser calls the beginning "reassuringly square" and it's true, the beginning guitar phrases follow a long-established classical music design. There are four phrases that are each four measures long, which are repeated until the electric guitar steps in. The rhythm is also as plain as you can get: simple eighth notes. The music here emulates the style of the baroque period in England (early 17th century). You can hear it in the flourishes that finish the phrases (especially in the measure right before Plant first starts singing), the pastoral timbre of the recorder, and in the contrapuntal melodies of the acoustic guitar. (Contrapuntal, roughly meaning, "point against point," is where two or more melodies are playing distinct from one another in a song.) In the arpeggiated opening lines you can hear the lowest notes descending downward (chromatically from A to F) while the highest notes in each phrase gradually rise (A to B to C).
From there the song moves away from these acoustic, pastoral tones by incorporating electric guitar and, later, drums. As the song moves on, it is interesting to think of music as moving stylistically through time in a kind of search… bringing us to the climax of the song, the guitar solo.
The solo is prefaced by what is called a fanfare. A fanfare is a short piece on horns to introduce royalty, to begin a military ceremony—or even to begin a news program (the horns at the beginning of The Daily Show, anyone?). The bright tonal quality of Page's guitar emulates this trumpeting, and the quick triplet chords that he plays further suggest that Page is imitating a fanfare. It's as if the wandering musical styles of the first half of the song have found some kind of hero — a guitar hero.
If the beginning of "Stairway to Heaven" embodies the folk, classical, and mystical influences on Led Zeppelin, Page's guitar solo represents all the contemporary influences on the band's rock sound. It is a melding of the emotional improvisation of blues tradition with the more psychedelic influence of Jimi Hendrix and contemporary British acts.
Jimi Hendrix gets a lot of the credit for the modern rock guitar sound, but perhaps just as important were The Kinks, whose song "You Really Got Me" featured one of the first successful usages of heavy guitar distortion. We can hear echoes of both in the sound of Page's guitar.
Like Hendrix and most rock guitarists today, Page never (intentionally) used complicated music theory or techniques in writing his songs. It is unlikely that Page cared that the final note of the first solo phrase is the sixth from the root—or that the solo is almost entirely in the pentatonic scale, a mainstay for rock guitar. But Page has always said that his guitar style has nothing to do with technique—he "deals in emotions." It makes sense then that his guitar solo in "Stairway" is an improvised one. Sound engineer Andy Johns recalled, "Jimmy had a little bit of trouble with the solo ... [he] hadn't completely figured it out. I remember sitting in the control room with Jimmy, he's standing there next to me and he'd done quite a few passes and it wasn't going anywhere. Then bang! On the next take or two he ripped it out."
"Dealing in emotions" as Page did with the solo harkens back to the improvisational blues influences on the group. Though Led Zeppelin played an important role in developing the heavy metal sound, over a third of their songs are acoustic and many of their hits were more blues than metal.
The song's hard-rock ending section builds upon the solo. Robert Plant's trademark screeching vocals join the fray while Page continues to throw in licks. This last verse section continues to use the A minor-G-F chord progression—something else that thousands of familiar songs use, this section ending on the F chord. Typically musical pieces end on the tonic—the root note of the key. "Stairway to Heaven" is in the key of A minor, so it should end with an A note. But the rock section doesn't. Instead the song finds its tonal resolution by coming full circle and ending with a single, simpler melody line: Plant singing, a cappella, "And she's buying her stairway to heaven."