Dopers old enough to remember rock radio in 1971: Did you recognize "Stairway to Heaven" as a instant classic?

I’m not old enough to remember when that song first came out, but I definitely remember hearing “More Than A Feeling” a few years later as a 12-year-old and knowing that I’d heard something great.

Does anyone else wish to share their experiences?

I wasn’t old enough, either (I was only 6), but as the song wasn’t ever released as a single in the U.S., I suspect that, at the time of the album’s release, it was likely only getting significant airplay on album-oriented rock stations. I’ll be curious to hear what slightly older Dopers say, as well.

I was 15 and each Zeppelin album was highly anticipated. I didn’t recognize it as a in instant classic from hearing it the first time, it was the other way round, I knew it was a classic from it’s growing and lasting popularity.

Yes. I worked at the college radio station in 1971 and heard it there. Everyone at the station was playing it in their shows by the end of the year.

One of my roommates hated Led Zeppelin. We told he that he’d like “Stairway to Heaven” so we played the album. After each song on the first side, he’d say, “That’s it? I don’t like it.” We told him to wait (“Stairway” was the last song on the first side). He’d express his disinterest in Led Zep after each of the other songs until finally got to “Stairway.”

He loved it.

I think everyone recognized it as a great song from the first. But since it was only an album cut, it did not become known to the general listenership outside of college radio at first.

I was 11 in '71 usually listening to the bubblegum pop station station and only heard Stairway to Heaven on late night radio when the DJ was allowed to play what they wanted. It was never played during the day. It wasn’t until I hit my mid-teens that it struck me as something special.

Triva - Once when Stairway was playing on the radio, my brother parked and I made him with me in the car until it ended. We laughed and got out as soon it was done.

On the other hand, when I heard Cream’s White Room and Sunshine of Your Love in '67 and '68, I didn’t have a full appreciation of them, but knew this was something different and destined to change the music I listened to.

I don’t have a specific memory of when I first heard it, but yes, I remember thinking it was destined to become a classic. That opening… there was nothing like it, never had been. (Except maybe Battle of Evermore, which came out on the same album. It was very much their Tolkien Period.) It was hobbits and medieval maidens and reeked of things we were all into in those years. Mystical, magical. Then as you listened, it grew into a big, driving classic rock Zep sound, complete with signature Plant scream-singing.

Yeah. Instant classic.

I was fortunate to see them three times live, including at their last American performance in Oakland. It was the last song they played in their regular set. They couldn’t NOT play it. They played it at Kezar Stadium in '73, too, but not as their big finale number.

“College radio” AND “Album-Oriented” rock stations. We had a great one, whose speciality was playing deep cuts, whole albums in their entirety, and new music that was too edgy for Top 40 stations.

Now, sometimes “edgy” was the Mothers of Invention and the Fugs, sometimes bands like “Zep’lin, man…”

Oh, yeah, I immediately knew Stairway was the real deal. Same feeling I had the first time I heard Manic Depression, and Light My Fire (the ‘real’ album version). Heard them both in the same place, too, a friend’s basement ‘hippie den’.

How could anyone listen to that and not immediately think it would become a classic. Just a great, great song.

10 years old in 1971 and didn’t like Led Zep, don’t like them at age 60 either.

I also heard Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony around that age and instantly recognized THAT as a classic. Do I get points?

At the time since my car only had an AM radio and I didn’t have an FM, “Black Dog” was the song you heard…and turned up the volume.

“Stairway to Heaven” was too long for AM radio

I would have been 19 I guess. We (the crowd I hung around with) didn’t think of songs in terms of them becoming classics. I don’t think the term existed yet in relation to music/songs. Looking back, had we done so there would have been many records to choose from. That aside, it wasn’t so much single songs that we revered anyway. It was more entire albums. Nobody bought singles (45’s) anymore. Or no one I knew. With that in mind I’d say we easily played Allman Brothers at Fillmore East far more than Zeppelin. I will say the first 3 Zeppelin LP’s were pretty worn though. There was so much great music going on at the time.
Stairway To Heaven did get tons of FM radio airplay - we’d long since cast AM radio adrift. Thanks to repetitive radio airplay it wasn’t long before I grew sick of hearing Stairway and I long ago reached the point where I could give a damn less if I ever hear the song again in my lifetime.
Recall too that this was a time when we also had the aforementioned Fillmore East; also Derek & The Dominoes; Doors Morrison Hotel; Chicago (when they were still an awesome band) . . .the list goes on & on. It was an exciting time for studio experimentation and the level of musicianship was greatly expanding from the old top 40 under 3 minute song format.

I was in the SF Bay Area in 71 and remember, at some point, it being described as the #1 most requested song on the station, which was “freeform” radio KSAN (gregorian chants followed by delta blues wasn;t unusual).

Sure, why not?

I owned a few Zep albums on vinyl (“IV” was not one of them) and found that I liked individual songs but not the albums as a whole; I had the same experience with U2, YMMV.

Whereas these days the go-to song that people who don’t like Zeppelin will still like is Kashmir.

The only way I would be more impressed is if Evelyn Glennie participated.

Were you at the Saturday show july 1977 or the Sunday show (when Peter Grant beat up one of Bill Grahams people)? The Saturday show where Robert Plant wore a Nurses Do It Better t-shirt was my first ever concert. Pretty mind blowing.

Casey Casem started playing Stairway very early on. I’m 99% sure it reached #1 in the top 40 countdown. I’m 100% sure it was #1 as the greatest rock song of all time during each and every countdown I listed to throughout the 70’s if not into the 80’s.

It was one album in a constellation of nice albums, perhaps a head if not necessarily a shoulder as well above a bunch of others that people played at pot parties etc. No one played side two (I didn’t hear those songs until I bought my own copy). The first two songs were just quite good. The second two were the reason to put it on the turntable. I thought the pair of them were classics but would not have predicted the extent to which “Stairway to Heaven” is way out in front of “The Battle of Evermore”.

What a hell of a first concert that was for you!

I was at the Sunday show. I remember the date because it was my parents’ (dad and stepmom) 6th wedding anniversary. I didn’t actually realize it was Led Zeppelin’s very last concert in the USA until quite recently, like within the past 7 years. Although I was a fan, I wasn’t A FAN and hadn’t really kept track. I probably learned about the dust-up with Peter Grant around the same time. :slight_smile:

I loved their music in those days and still find it tremendously evocative with respect to my own memories of that time, even if some of the songs are now worn and suffer from excessive repetition.

I agree with @AHunter3 that Battle of Evermore is equally beautiful. Maybe more so.

I also agree with @Keith1 that we enjoyed an embarrassment of riches in those days. I went to Zep concerts with my friends because we could. Good god, Tower of Power and Santana played at our high school dances. So we tried to never miss a Day on the Green or any other concert within spitting distance of the East Bay – which was a lot of concerts!

A few years ago I saw Plant with Alison Krauss in Portland. I love both artists, but it made me especially happy to see him still making music and having a great time doing it.

Towards the end of the school year, a rumor started that Zep was going to play in Des Moines, where I’m from, and then Karac Plant died suddenly.

I was a 19 year-old DJ at a brand-new Top 40 station in my hometown in early 1972. (I would have preferred to jock at at album rock station, but there wasn’t one.) After 10pm we were allowed to play a couple of album cuts per hour. We were playing “Black Dog” and “Rock and Roll” as current singles. Off the LP were were playing “Stairway” and “When the Levee Breaks.” I recall “Stairway” getting a certain amount of phone response at the time. It seems like it was a few years later, however, that it really began to catch on as an FM radio staple. By that time there were more stations adopting album oriented rock formats, and even then they leaned on “classic” familiar tracks to draw more people in. By the way, “Stairway” was released on a promotional single, for radio stations only, maybe around 1976 or 77. I wish I had a copy of that single. It’s a rarity.