While visiting Jeff Gaudiosi in a new podcast for Misplaced Straws, drummer Carmine Appice discussed various rock-related topics about his career and his rock musician colleagues. Brother of former Black Sabbath and Dio drummer Vinny Appice, Carmine looked back on the famous lawsuit against Led Zeppelin for allegedly stealing certain parts of “Taurus” by Spirit for their legendary song “Stairway to Heaven” (aka The Forbidden Riff). He also compared the situation to former Ozzy Osbourne’s solo band members waging a legal war against the singer.
Looking back at Led Zeppelin, whom he toured with as a member of Vanilla Fudge back in the late 1960s, Carmine said (transcript via Blabbermouth):
“That was all baloney… Those chords are a stock set of chords. There’s not anything that’s amazing about the chords. It’s the melody on top and the lyrics and the way they arranged it that really made the song happen.”
“So it’s just, I guess, some guys trying to make some money because maybe they’re hurtin’. Randy California [former Spirit guitarist] died. Who else is in the band? Randy’s father died. The surviving members probably didn’t go on to do anything, so they thought, ‘Well, maybe we could sue Led Zeppelin?'”
Drawing a parallel between this one and legal actions against Ozzy Osbourne, Carmine explained how these two are completely different. As he explains, Ozzy’s former band members had all the rights to pursue him legally. Carmine said:
“There were other lawsuits that meant more, like when Ozzy [Osbourne] got sued by [his former bandmates] Bob [Daisley] and Lee [Kerslake] for the first [Ozzy solo] album [‘Blizzard Of Ozz’]. That was legitimate. And they lost, when they shouldn’t have lost.”
The lawsuit that Carmine is mentioning here is about bassist Bob Daisley and drummer Lee Kerslake suing Ozzy his wife and manager Sharon Osbourne. These focused on unpaid royalties, be it for writing or performing on Ozzy’s albums.
As for Led Zeppelin vs. Spirit, the whole thing has been stretched out for many years. It was only in 2014 that Spirit came out with these accusations officially. As the band claimed, Led Zeppelin’s 1971 “Stairway to Heaven” was very similar to their 1968 song “Taurus.”
After some years of going back and forth, the US Court of Appeals finally ruled in favor of Led Zeppelin in 2020. Additionally, the Supreme Court refused to look into the matter any further after an official request.