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Impossible Questions: Stairway to Heaven Edition (The Answer)

December 23, 2014

Think you’ve got the answer? Keep reading to see if you nailed it.

Who had a hit single with “Stairway to Heaven”?

Impossible-QuestionsThe answer we are looking for is not Led Zeppelin.

While arguably the most classic of classic rock songs, the eight-minute 1971 anthem from Led Zeppelin’s untitled fourth album, was never a hit single…because it was never released as a single. It was too long of a song to get any play on three-minute-pop-song oriented radio, and the band refused Atlantic Records requests to edit the song down to a more manageable length. Fortunately, the song got plenty of jukebox play and airtime on “album rock” and “freeform” rock stations, which put less restrictions on their playlists and would play an entire side of an album of they felt like it. Perhaps in part because of the unavailability of “Stairway to Heaven” anywhere but its source album, the record known as Led Zeppelin IV has sold more than 23 million copies in the United States, the third-biggest seller of all time.

Led Zeppelin disbanded in the early ‘80s, after the death of drummer John Bonham. By that point, “Stairway to Heaven” was entrenched as a rock classic. Three years later, it was released as a single and hit the singles charts for the first time…but it wasn’t the one recorded by Led Zeppelin. In 1985, Frank Farian, a producer best known for assembling the popular British studio band Boney M, formed another studio project called Far Corporation. Members included three members of Toto (all seasoned session musicians) and future Survivor singer Robin McAuley. The goal was to make a quick buck, so Farian had the band record “Stairway to Heaven,” sounding as close to the original version as possible. It went to #8 on the British singles chart and #89 in the United States.

Need more impossible questions? Check out Uncle John’s Impossible Questions.

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Mattyfied
Mattyfied
December 23, 2014 3:10 pm

You’re slipping, BRI. How did you neglect to mention Neil Sedaka? Eleven years before Robert Plant mused about bustles in hedge rows, Sedaka’s rendition of (a completely unrelated song entitled) “Stairway to Heaven” went to #9 in the US.

Walt
Walt
December 23, 2014 11:21 pm

Forget the imposters… what about Neil Sedaka in 1960?

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