Stairway to Heaven Meaning

It’s undoubtledy true to say that the lyrics are pretty vague and anyone can project his own meanings into the song, and undoubtedly Robert Plant assembled the lyrics in order to meet the demands of the tune! Nevertheless I think “Stairway to Heaven” has a comprehensible message: worldly values are misleading; we must commit ourselves to an awareness of reality; the world of nature offers us clues.

The first stanza tells us that there are people who accept the values of the world, believing that life’s ideal is a commodity that can be purchased.
In the second stanza we learn that such people are vaguely aware that marketing is misleading; the natural world reminds us that we often deceive ourselves.
In the third stanza the narrator describes his unhappiness with the world as it is and imagines a community of those seeking alternatives.
The fourth stanza refers to the possibility of achieving a utopian condition. “The piper” seems to me to be most likely the pied piper, and there is some contradiction between “if we all call the tune” and “the piper will lead us.” This would imply that enlightenment through politics is an illusion.
The fifth stanza states that we can trust the mysteries of nature; while we may sometimes go wrong we always have the ability to redirect ourselves.
The sixth stanza points out that we are confused, but that while we are subject to external demands, awareness of reality should tell us that commodified values are illusory.
The seventh stanza suggests that we grow older without finding enlightenment and the blandishments of commercialization beset us; however enlightenment can be achieved by paying attention to reality and understanding the unity of being; you must be firm and not at the mercy of external influences.
The song ends with a reminder that the belief that apotheosis can be achieved through worldly values is false.

Robert Plant is supposed to have been reading a book on British magic at the time the song was written: certainly he had a strong interest in the occult. The broad themes of dissatisfaction with the world, rejection of commercialization, and a belief that the natural world offers us messages about true value are consistent with the concerns of the time.

It’s unrealistic to expect enlightenment from the jingles of balladeers. Jus the same I think that music is often a kind of river for the subconscious, and sometimes allows creative minds to achieve a truer awareness than verbal rationality can produce!

I think his true objective was to write one of the most annoying songs in the English language.

He succeeded.

I’m with you on that one. Give me “Kashmir” any day over “Stairway.”

I have no cite, but I read in an interview years ago with Plant and/or Page that it was realized that one more song was needed for the fourth album while they were in the studio. Page had this riff or maybe a short version of a tune he couldn’t find a use for, and Plant had this line running through his head about a girl who could buy anything she wanted. “Stairway” was the result, and it took about as long to write as it does to play. So I really doubt that there are any deep philosophical truths in that song. It was hastily written filler for an album that was nearly due to be turned into the record company.

If anyone can find a cite for that story, I’d like to see it, either to support or shoot down my post.

  1. you might be looking too far into this

  2. around the 4-6 stanza: if it is played backwards it takes on a completely different meaning and example can be found on the following link- stairway to heaven backwards

And here I thought it was about the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

I love Zep, but I don’t expect much deep meaning from a lyricist who pens such immortal words as “I saw a lion, he was standing alone, with a tadpole in a jar.”

I’ve heard Plant laughingly admit he made a whole career out of singing nonsense. Specifically, I heard bandmembers comment that writing Stairway was quick business as described above.

It means jack, Jack.

For those playing along at home:

What’s the story behind Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven?”

your humble TubaDiva

They lost me at “there was a toolshed.” :smiley:

Cool! I never got a round to screwing up my needle by playing that song backwards. I never realized it was that coherent.

Whiuch leads one to wonder…

Most songs, when you play them backwards, sound like utter gibberish. This one actually sounds sort of like something.

So how do we know its not actually a perfectly good song about Satan’s toolshed (containing reverse gibberish messages just like every other recorded song, these referring to something about a “bustle in your hedgerow”) that got assembled into the album in reverse? At the time (1971), who, from the band all the way to the first listeners, listened to the song in a state un-stoned enough to notice the error before too many pressings had been done to economically recall them all?

Well, it could’ve happened…

I think that backwards link is faked. The bit that specifically clues me in is the “six six six”. All three sixes sound almost identical. This suggests that we should hear a corresponding repetition at that spot in the forward version (this seems to be “it’s just a springclean” or so), but we don’t.

It sounds pretty accurate, per my recollection of actually playing the LP backward at 33+1/3 rpm on a rigged turntable. I think the 666 part is indeed at the “spring clean” part, but the effect comes from reversing the “it’s just a sp” section, which results in a “s ts s” kind of sound which, in combination with looking at their printed lyrics, can give that effect. When you consider how off-base many long-held mondegreens can be, it’s not that remarkable that listening to a reverse track while “under the influence” of a written “transcription” could make you hear 666 at that point.

Here’s a couple of old threads about this song:

Notice that one interpretation (which, in my view, comes about as close to a coherent interpretation as it’s possible to come) says that the song is about a shallow woman who’s taken in by materialism. That’s fairly close to the view in the OP. I think it’s unlikely that we’ll ever get any closer to understanding a song that was never meant to be taken that seriously.

Plant is on record as saying that it doesn’t mean anything. It was just the first stuff that came into his head - which being that he was a dopey hippy, means that it is dopey hippy nonsense.

It is it’s very lack of meaning that has led (geddit) people to asign meaning to it.

It’s also the reason he won’t sing it anymore - he’s embarrassed by the words.

The first time I heard this was in mormon seminary class in 1981. Today is the first time I heard about the toolshed though. Sad Satan is kind of a funny image though.

I’ve personally taped Stairway from a CD to reel-to-reel tape and then reversed the reels. You can’t really hear anything much except the famous “my sweet satan” thing, and you probably have to be told to listen for that.

It’s bunk. And I say that as someone who’s not a big fan of Zep (Jimmy in particular)'s spiritual bent.

I just listened to it again, while deliberately covering the words… The only thing from the listed words I still heard was “toolshed”. Interestingly enough, without looking at the words, “my sweet Satan” turned into “lick my clit”. Funny, I never knew that about Plant.

I was fairly certain that it wasn’t some paean to Satan, as the band’s later years out of the limelight didn’t find them sacrificing goats on their estates. (Unless that’s supposed to be done indoors - forgive me, I’ve misplaced the manual.)

So here’s a related question. Are there any controversial heavy metal songs of the era that actual mean both what the author intended, and what we generally interpret? Does anyone recall a singer saying about a song - years after its release - something like “You know, a lot of people are critical of ‘To Beelzebub with Love’ because it promotes devil worship. I just wanted to get his side of the story out.”

The song that immediately comes to mind is Ozzy’s “Crazy Train,” where it’s possible he might mean exactly what he wrote. Didn’t a contemporary Christian band recently get criticized by some church for covering it? Was the controversy just because it’s Ozzy, or because of the lyrics?


Of course its fake. Sometimes I’m just amazed by what intelligent people will believe coming off the net.
A smart kid with an odd sense of humor can change the course of history, not because he knows anything but because he has a slick web site.
No wonder “its taking longer than we thought.”

Care to back that up? The transcript is BS, but that sounds like an accurate backward sample to me. And even if the transcript is BS, I don’t think it can be called “fake”, since obviously it’s whatever the listener heard in the nonsense.

Anyway, if they were going to fake it, surely they could come up with something better than that!

Personally, I have always thought this song was about a self-destructive, drug abusing woman. Which is actually reasonably consistent with the theory this song was hastily put together. Given that the band members were known to take prodigous amounts of drugs, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if they had to quickly noodle a song together the lyrics would pertain to drug use.