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INCOMING: Zep Doc Expected To Get The Led Out

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Now in post-production, the as yet untitled Led Zeppelin documentary, directed by Bernard MacMahon, celebrates the world’s best-selling rock band on their fiftieth anniversary. The documentary traces the journeys of the four members through the music scene of the 1960s, their meeting in the summer of 1968 for a rehearsal that will change the future of rock, and culminates in 1970 when their second album knocks The Beatles off the top of the charts and they become the number one band in the world.

With brand new interviews of Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, and John Paul Jones, as well as rare archival interviews with the late John Bonham, this documentary will be the first of its kind; the Led Zeppelin story told through the words of the men that lived it, with no outside voices or conjecture. Featuring never before seen archive film and photographs, state of the art audio transfers of the band’s music, as well as the music that shaped their sound, this documentary will be the definitive telling of the birth of the world’s biggest selling rock band. It is the first and only time the band have participated in a documentary in fifty years.

Jimmy Page: “When I saw everything Bernard had done both visually and sonically on the remarkable achievement that is American Epic, I knew he would be qualified to tell our story.”

Robert Plant: “Seeing Will Shade, and so many other important early American musicians, brought to life on the big screen in American Epic inspired me to contribute to a very interesting and exciting story.”

John Paul Jones: “The time was right for us to tell our own story for the first time in our own words, and I think that this film will really bring that story to life.”

PREVIOUSLY: THE DEVIL’S ADVOCATE: Meet The Man Who Sued Led Zep Over “Stairway To Heaven” & Lived To Tell

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Photo by BRYAN SHEFFIELD via PHILADELPHIA MAGAZINE

PHILADELPHIA MAGAZINE: The fact that Philadelphia barrister Francis Alexander Malofiy, Esquire, is suing Led Zeppelin over the authorship of “Stairway to Heaven” is, by any objective measure, only the fourth most interesting thing about him. Unfortunately for the reader, and the purposes of this story, the first, second and third most interesting things about Malofiy are bound and gagged in nondisclosure agreements, those legalistic dungeons where the First Amendment goes to die. So let’s start with number four and work our way backward.

At the risk of stating the obvious, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, let the record show that “Stairway to Heaven” is arguably the most famous song in all of rock-and-roll, perhaps in all of popular music. It’s also one of the most lucrative — it’s estimated that the song has netted north of $500 million in sales and royalties since its 1971 release. Malofiy’s lawsuit, cheekily printed in the same druidic font used for the liner notes of the album Led Zeppelin IV, alleges that Jimmy Page and Robert Plant — Zep’s elegantly wasted guitarist/producer/central songwriter and leonine, leather-lunged lead singer, respectively — stole the iconic descending acoustic-guitar arpeggios of the first two minutes of “Stairway” from “Taurus,” a song with a strikingly similar chord pattern by a long-forgotten ’60s band called Spirit. At the conclusion of a stormy, headline-grabbing trial in 2016 that peaked with testimony from Page and Plant, the jury decided in Zep’s favor. […]

But in late September of last year, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Malofiy’s appeal of the 2016 “Stairway to Heaven” verdict and ordered a new trial on the grounds that the court “abused its discretion” when the judge refused to allow Malofiy to play a recording of “Taurus” for the jury. (Members were only allowed to hear an acoustic-guitar rendition played from sheet music.) The retrial is expected to begin in the next year, and Page and Plant, along with bassist John Paul Jones, are again anticipated to take the stand. Copyright experts say Led Zeppelin — which has a long history of ripping off the ancient riffs and carnal incantations of wizened Delta bluesmen and only giving credit when caught — should be worried. […] Ultimately, Malofiy doesn’t have to prove Led Zeppelin stole Spirit’s song; he just has to convince a jury that’s what happened. Assuming the trial goes forward — and that this time, he’s allowed to play recordings of both songs for the jury — there will be blood.

If Malofiy prevails in the coming “Stairway” retrial, he’ll completely shatter the Tolkien-esque legend of the song’s immaculate conception — that it was birthed nearly in toto during a mystical retreat at a remote Welsh mountain cottage called Bron-yr-aur, to which many a starry-eyed Zep disciple has made a pilgrimage once upon a midnight clear when the forests echo with laughter. It will be like proving that da Vinci didn’t paint the Mona Lisa, that Michelangelo didn’t sculpt David. Barring a last-minute settlement, many legal and copyright experts predict that Malofiy may well emerge victorious, and credit for the most famous rock song in the world will pass from the self-appointed Golden Gods of Led Zeppelin to some obscure, long-forgotten (and not even very good) West Coast psych band, along with tens of millions in royalties, effectively rewriting the sacred history of rock-and-roll. And the man who will have pulled off this fairly miraculous feat of judicial jujitsu is the enfant terrible of Philadelphia jurisprudence. MORE

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