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31 January 2011 6,363 views 26 Comments

Vote for the greatest live version of their greatest song

Nearly 40 years ago on the evening of March 5th 1971 at the Ulster Hall Belfast, Led Zeppelin  performed for the first time in public, a new lengthy 12 minute composition due to be released on their next album. It began in tranquil mood and then developed into a soaring climax. It told the tale of a lady who was sure, about a bustle in a hedgerow and advised that if you listened very hard the tune would come to you at last.

The song was of course Stairway To Heaven. It has gone on to become their most famous composition and arguably their greatest song in terms of mass popularity.

To celebrate the song’s auspicious anniversary, TBL we will be conducting a poll to determine the 40 greatest live versions of Stairway To Heaven – as voted by fans around the world.

What we require you to do is to list in order of preference your five favourite LIVE versions of Stairway To Heaven.

The criteria is as follows: Any live version by Led Zeppelin is eligible plus post Zep versions ie Arms or Outrider tour, Live Aid, Page & Plant Japan TV, O2 reunion.

From these top fives, we will award five points to the number one choice, four for a second, three for a third, etc – and then collate the results into a defintive Stairway To Heaven all time Top 20 greatest live version listing.

This is a fantastic opportunity for you to re-discover this much maligned song. And believe us , you can expect to be in awe of it all over again as you pull out the old LPs, bootlegs etc and marvel at the song’s depth and beauty.

To give you a few ideas –there’s the BBC In Concert 1971 version, the brilliant Going To California bootleg delivery, The familiar official live version on The Song Remains The Same soundtrack, the How The West Was Won performance from Long Beach ‘72,  the stateliness of the 1975 Earls Court versions as the song elevated to the finale of the main Zep set, the meandering maze of Seattle ‘77, the often haunting versions performed Over Europe ‘80 including the marathon last ever Zep performance in Berlin.

Post Zep, there’s Jimmy’s emotional instrumental version performed on the ARMS tour, the spirited Live Aid performance, that 1994 P & P one off and the night they ‘’Did it’’ again for Ahmet, for one night only at the 02 on December 10th 2007.

So that’s a few pointers, but ultimately the choice is yours.

So get ready to re- discover the pure wonderment of a song that has been stirring the hearts of its listeners for nigh on 40 years.

To vote in the TBL Stairway To Heaven Poll you can either list them in the Comments/Response box at the bottom of this posting or you can email your top five  live versions of Stairway To Heaven list to Dave Lewis at

Whichever way you choose – state your top five Live versions and sources in order of preference – if you would like to add a brief commentary of the reasons for your choices even better.

The full results will be published on the TBL site on March 5th 2011 – 40 years to the day it was first performed live -and look out for a full feature on the poll to follow in the TBL magazine.

So get voting for Stairway To Heaven at 40. On the 40th anniversary, it’s time to determine the greatest live versions of the greatest Led Zeppelin  song…

DL/GF January 31st, 2010

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (2 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)


  • Dan said:

    To me the best are the 1971 versions followed by 1972 and then 1975. From 1971 I prefer:

    Toronto 9-04
    2nd Berkeley show 9-14
    Both Tokyo nights
    London 11/20
    Manchester 11/24

    1972 Australasian versions are pretty sweet.

    1973 – I think they played it too slow and Plant didn’t or couldn’t (?) sing it with passion anymore.

    1975 – 2/12, 2/14, 3/21 , virtually all EC dates.

    1977 onwards – meh.

  • Matt O'Kane said:

    I’ve realised my preferences are largely based on the wonderment inherent in the particular solos length and melody, closely followed by Bonhams attack after the solo/groove throughout. Sorry Percy and JPJ! So:

    5. 72 – HTWWW
    4. 80 – Over Europe (pick one)
    3. 73 -TSRTS – Film version
    2. 75 – Earls Court – DVD – beautiful phrasing and repetition of solo runs
    1. 77 – I just love 1977 versions eg from The Destroyer – the bit near the end of the solo where they pause suddenly – split second silence – then all come back in together as if pause had never happened – then pause again – before jones’ piano dances and on they go – truly epic and sensational telepathy at work.

  • Pete Leigh said:

    live aid, i duno why but its live aid

  • ledhed58 said:

    Thank you Kathy, I would have to say that TSRTS live version is my favorite live version but as I said, the studio version is PERFECTION in the way it was played and recorded, it truly is a one of a kind song and says a lot about the talent and chemistry of these four men..Peace….

  • Kathy Urich said:

    Stairway to Heaven what a timeless beauty she is. Unfortunately I haven’t heard many live (recorded) performances of the ones I’ve heard my favorites are:
    1. How The West was Won – Long Beach June 27, 1972
    2. The Song Remains The Same Madison Sq. Garden – DVD
    3. Earls Court – DVD 2005
    I do agree with Ledhed58, though obviously not a “live” version the studio version is fantastic, ever so moving;It still gives me goose bumps all these years later.

    On a side note caught Robert’s interview with David Letterman Friday (2/4) Robert was his very charming self and The Band of Joy did House of Cards – fantastic.

  • Mark Kohler said:

    Somebody’s right on and beat me to it…my two fave versions are the 75 Earl’s Court from the DVD (though I heard on the boot in lesser quality many years ago) and the 1977 Badgeholders boot. Other than that, this song may not even make my top 10 Zep songs. It did at one time, but I just had to put it away! Just as a personal moment, I saw Jimmy do it on the Outrider tour with Jason on drums and the crowd sang the lyrics (as it was done instrumental)…that was kind of nice.

  • ann said:

    According to my opinion , the best version of Stairway To Heaven is Page`s instrumental version at 12|83 ARMS Concert. No vocal ,only The GREAT COMPOSER on -stage and HIS GREAT COMPOSITION -so emotional and fantastic!!!

  • Keith said:

    What about Knebworth! One note told the whole field what a song was to be played.

    One note told me that and thousands others

  • Roger Mayles said:

    There are many many wonderful performanences of this monster number.However the Earls Court 1975 performance is certainly the best.

  • Peter said:

    Ilove this post and all of your efforts to keep the flame burning brightly. I’ve the live official recordingd and some bootlegs but it would take me a while… I should as the studio version is one of the finest, purest, full of finesse recordings I’ve heard of that particular song, which will resonante throught the ages. I picture humankind (if we exist to such an age) listening to this flying through interstellar star systems… just like we listen to Mozart, Beethoven, Grieg, the the list goes on… The band that we all know and deeply love will live on like the truly great composers. For me, the ‘hush’ and unexpected reverence (is there such a thing? I don’t know, a few choice ciders from Somerset have put paid to my more than normal vocabulary) amongst the BBC recording will be a feeling and emotion that will stay with me forever. Just like the band themseves, all composite parts into the neverending glory that is life (despite the hard times that we all gain to seek a more insightful glimpse into ourselves.) Long answer to a shirt question… Short answer. Beautiful song 🙂

  • Ian Nicholson said:

    1. Earls Court, 25/05/75. Of the four nights that I went to, the last night has always stood out for me. For that reason I’ll choose this version of Stairway as my favourite.

    2. Earls Court, 24/05/75. The one night out of the five that I did not attend, but I’ve listened to the bootleg of that night and it’s a great version.

    3. Alexander Palace, 22/12/72. My first Zep show, and first time I’d seen Stairway performed.

    4. TSRTS – Always loved this version, beautifully played. “I think this is a song of hope”. Robert, you were so right.

    5. BBC sessions, 1971. Understated, a masterpiece even at this early stage.

  • martin webb said:

    Got to be Knebworth 79 coz i was there, the first saturday i had a ticket the second saturday i gate crashed both gigs were mind blowing !

  • Paul Smith said:

    Can only be one for me, Earls Court, sat 24 rows from the front,
    with a load of mates, nothing ever like it.

  • Andreas Stocker said:

    my top 5 are

    1. 10/12/2007 @ the 02 – for the simple reason that I was there and a lifelong dream became reality

    2. TSRTS version – growing up in rural austria, for a long time this was my only Zeppelin live fix

    3. 16/03/1973 Vienna – this was one of my first bootlegs and even now hundreds of additions later it still gets used a lot and it’s just a very very special show

    4. Feb 1975 MSG – just awesome

    5. Earls Court

  • Anthony Grsolia said:

    Chris you definetly mentioned a great one!!
    if anyone wants to listen to it here you go.

    Uniondale – Valentines day MASSACRE!!! he really killed them that night!

  • Anthony Grsolia said:

    Here is Detroit 7/12/73 Enjoy!!

  • Anthony Grsolia said:

    In addition to my previous post here is an audio link to the 3/11/75 long beach

    love it!!

  • Chris Barbero said:

    I am going to have to say 2/14/75. The solo just does not end. Spectacular. Jimmy was the energizer bunny on that one!

  • Anthony Grsolia said:

    Here is my top five after skimming through my 100 live STH’s

    Long Beach 3/11/1975- really fast paced, love it!

    Cobo Hall 7/12/1973 first night

    Cobo Hall 7/13/1973 second night

    St. Louis 2/16/1975 slow but nice solo

    Orlando 8/31/1971

    Anthony Grisolia
    Keep up the good work Dave and clan!

  • ledhed58 said:

    Still love TSRTS version and the BBC Sessions version as well as the Earls Court version, That being said, my favorite version is the studio version, it was just put together so well and every time I hear it, it reminds me of a time in my life when the world was fresh and new and my favorite rock band of all time was hitting their stride. This song has aged so well and is so timeless, it truly has no peers and no other band can match the MAGIC that was infused into this song. It is what all musicians aspire to create and so very, very few attain. That is just my humble opinion…Peace….

  • Steve Harrison said:

    Knebworth 1979. It was my first time ever hearing it live in the flesh.
    knebworth 1979 Second hearing and final zep version so thats my choice.

  • Norlin said:


    Seattle 17/07/1977 – great solo.
    25/05/1975 Earls Court – fantastic version and another great solo.
    BBC Sessions – wonderful Robert vocals…

  • Ed Fels said:

    This is a tough call. Admittedly, all of my rankings are predicated on Jimmy’s performance, particularly on the solo.I’m going to avoid the “official” releases, as they might have been a bit edited, especially the MSG 1973 version (despite its excellence). On any given day, one can easily argue that the version from 1972 How The West Was Won captures Zeppelin in all their glory.

    1. LA 6/26/77- not many gems from this tour, but a sterling improvisational effort on the solo. I’m also partial to the piano heavy in the mix throughout the song.
    2. Earl’s Court 5/24/75- I like this one a tad better than the DVD version.
    3. Vienna 6/26/80- underrated performances abound on the ’80 tour, probably due to Page’s flashes of brilliance and sloppiness throughout the course of a single evening. But, when they were on in 1980, it was beyond impressive. Far from a dinosaur act.
    4. Vienna 3/16/73- *I have no connection whatsoever to Vienna. There must have been something in the water (or the illicit substances) that contributed to some ridiculous playing. Close call with 5/31/73.
    5. Long Beach 3/12/75- tight but loose. Nice interplay between drums and guitar. Some sections of the solo that Jimmy would typically play later in the solo make an early appearance, adding a nice twist.

  • Tom Birchfield said:

    My top 5 live versions of Stairway are:
    5. The O2 version-tight to the point
    4. The SRTS version-1973 Madison Square Garden-the one I have
    Iistened to the most
    3. How the west was Won
    2. LA 1977-the version that appears on “For Badgeholders Only”
    1. Earls Court 1975 from the DVD

  • Ian Baker said:

    OK Dave, this will be fun…
    Of course I can only comment on the ones I have heard/saw. Others may have better versions on stuff I haven’t got.

    Here we go then:
    1. How the West Was Won CD
    2. The Song Remains The Same MSG DVD (Is that a rocket in your pocket Percy)?
    3. Knebworth 4th August 1979 (Cos I was there and I was high)
    4. Earls Court May 1975, from DVD
    5. 02 Reunion Dec 2007 (Cos I was there and it made me cry)


  • Mark Harrison said:

    In My opinion the best Live Stairway is and always has been
    Madison Square Garden New York !2 Feb 1975 with Jimmy absolutely RIPPING the solo!! Magnificent!
    Only my opinion of course!

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