This story is component of the book:Mama Mia Let Me Go! A journey via the the majority of intriguing lyrics and stories in rock music
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Tbelow are songs that, as soon as you’ve listened to them, fade amethod without having actually any kind of impact. Then, tbelow are others that transcend music, achieving poetic standing and enthroughout for eternity.
You are watching: To be a rock and not to roll
Stairmeans to Heaven, Led Zeppelin’s immortal masterpiece, is the latter. Its lyrics are affluent via cryptic recommendations to allegories and also mysticism, supplying far even more than the simplistic satanism that many detractors argue is its primary design template.Robert Plant composed the lyrics of course, and also he has actually consistently said that he drew inspiration from the functions of the Scottish writer Lewis Spence, notably from his bookMagic Arts in Celtic Britain. And it is that Celtic esotericism and also spirituality that truly comes with in the lyrics – no more, no much less.
The narrative begins through one of the most famed arpeggios in the history of music:
There’s a lady who’s sureAll that glitters is goldAnd she’s buying a stairway to heaven
Who is this ambiguous female figure? Fans of occultist theories have argued that this is a metaphor for an initiation into a brand-new kind of Pagan religion; an obscure, unwell-known idea. But this concept has a basic respond to in the many kind of referrals to Christianity in the song all at once. According to some, the lady is the Virgin Mary, and also Led Zeppelin seem to tacitly confirm this, pointing out the May Queen later in the song, May being traditionally the month dedicated to Mary.
But let’s protect against entering right into this type of dispute and also check out the lyrics for what they really recurrent. When you take the lyrics at face value, you have the right to see that the womale is nothing even more than an allegory of a greedy, materialistic, arrogant society that believes that whatever, including a path to heaven, deserve to be acquired via money alone.
Moving on, Jimmy Page’s guitar and also John Paul Jones’ key-boards take on us through their etheactual melodies.
There’s a feeling I getWhen I look to the WestAnd my spirit is crying for leaving
The West is a clear reference to the concept of purity in the Wild West, which was no much longer wild in those days by any kind of implies, however is still a representation of adventure, mystery and cdamage. In essence, it is the area where we deserve to remove ourselves from the materialism of modern culture and turn our attention to the unwell-known, to the stranger. Robert Plant wanted to guide us on a kind of spiritual journey, to aid boost ourselves and also the civilization approximately us. And those that hesitate and also are watchful (“Those who stand looking”), might be those via a conservative outlook, that refuse of this sort of spiroutine journey because they are imprisoned in societal materialism, unable to look forward.But, simply once we leastern mean it, we will certainly be dubbed to live in peace and also harmony, at one with nature and each other (“And it’s whispered that shortly, If we all call the tune / Then the piper will certainly lead us to reason”).
It is now that we arrive at the well known verse which, if listened in to reverse, supposedly contains a disturbing invocation of Satan. Instead of giving this notion any type of even more airtime though, let’s leave the rebuttal to Plant himself: “To me it’s incredibly sad, bereason ‘Stairmethod to Heaven’ was composed with eextremely best intention, and as much as reversing tapes and also placing messperiods on the end, that’s not my idea of making music.” This really have to be sufficient to put the principle to bed once and for all.
If there’s a bustle in your hedgerowDon’t be alequipped nowIt’s simply a spring-clean for the May Queen
This is the referral to May Queen that we discussed earlier. The bustle in the hedgerow represents our mind, puzzled by the possibility of this spiroutine route, or perhaps ssuggest unall set for it. But if it’s true that you can find many ways to adjust yourself, then it is additionally true that you constantly have the opportunity to hange your mind and take an additional route. Tbelow are no destinies that have currently been written; we are all free to make our decisions via complete autonomy.
Moving forward through the lyrics, we arrive at the last verse before the iconic Jimmy Page solo:
Your head is humming and also it won’t goIn case you don’t knowThe piper’s calling you to sign up with him
It is below once we lastly gain the call. Our minds are still perplexed, however the sweet melody of the piper is resounding in our heads, leading us towards spiritual perfection. The message is then addressed to the lady pointed out at the start of the song: the winds are changing and it’s time that everyone realises that humankind have the right to really aspire to something much better. At the bottom, the turbulent stairmethod to heaven, made of somepoint tangible, is nevertheless floating in the air(“your stairmethod lies on the whispering wind”). It’s a route, yet it’s fragile like any various other – perhaps even even more so, because it represents the spiroutine, not the physical.
The lyrics then give method to Jimmy Page’s magnificent guitar, which unleashes a riff, effective yet dreamy at the exact same time. It is considered by many type of the most beautiful solo of all time, yet it isn’t the last word; the song still has actually something to say in the create of one last appeal to listeners:
And if you listen extremely hardThe tune will certainly pertained to you at lastWhen all are one and one is allTo be a rock and also not to roll
The last verse is a synthesis of the message contained in the lyrics as a whole: no issue just how good our faults or our dark sides are, we will constantly have the opportunity to listen to and also understand also both those around us and also ourselves. Materialism and individualism will be always existing, prepared to tempt us, presenting their means as the easiest and most basic one to follow, however the alternative depends on us andour intentions to unite mankind. This is the only means to uncover harmony, to be joined and also “not to roll”, overwhelmed by a life enforced by stereoforms.
Here it is, therefore; our stairmeans to heaven: our goal in life, according to Led Zeppelin, have to be to find the power of the community, the should live together, in harmony with our souls and via nature. Only in this method have the right to we we really improve ourselves and others, escaping the actual evil of society, framed in its materialism, selfishness and disinterest towards others (“When all are one and also one is all / To be a rock and not to roll”).
Stairmeans to Heaven, in conclusion, is every little thing but a perverse ode to evil and darkness. In fact, it’s quite the oppowebsite, a splendid message of solidarity, brotherhood and also equality. With Each Other, we have the right to really adjust the civilization about us.To be a rock and not to roll. Maybe it’s simply an illusion. Perhaps we will never have the ability to really gain together and do something concrete to make our stays better. But the message is tright here, and also that’s what Led Zeppelin wanted from us.
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Below, you deserve to listen to a beautiful version ofStairmeans to Heavenas interpreted by Ann and also Nancy Wilson, for a tribute at the Kennedy Centre in 2012.