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