PAT BOONE On Choosing To Cover LED ZEPPELIN Classic "Stairway To Heaven" - "I Kept Looking For Allusions To Witchcraft Or Drugs"
January 24, 2018, 4 months ago
Back in 1997, legendary singer Pat Boone released In A Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy, a collection of interpretations of hard rock/heavy metal classics by the likes of Judas Priest, Van Halen, Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne and Guns N’ Roses.
Boone recently spoke to Songfacts' Greg Prato shortly before he was due to revisit Israel as a performer (his 21st trip there), to discuss the song he has connected with the most, his thoughts on covering Led Zeppelin's "Stairway To Heaven", and the story behind a song he once penned in tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. Read an excerpt from the interview below.
Songfacts: Some people of faith have a problem with Led Zeppelin and specifically, "Stairway To Heaven", a song you covered on your In A Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy album.
Boone: "Well, of course I took that into account. The idea came as a joke, at first. People thought I was joking, but I wasn't. The idea came when I was with my musicians in England. We were on tour, between planes at an airport, and we were sitting around. One of them said, "We like doing your hit songs and people here love them, but why don't we do something new, ourselves?" And I said, "Guys, I would. I would pay for it. But what can I do that I haven't done ten times, that wouldn't just be 'another album'?" And one of them said, "Well, you've never done heavy metal." We laughed, and that was a joke.
"But, after that, for several weeks, we kept kidding, "When are we going to make our 'heavy metal album'?" And my conductor, Dave Siebels, who is still with me after 30-something years, he said, "We've been joking about this, but there are some really good songs that only metalheads know. They've only been hits in that genre, but we can do them a different way and introduce them to another audience." And I said, "Well, what do you mean by 'different way'?" And he said, "Big band jazz, for example."
"I sparked, instantly. I said, "If we can find any songs that would be great and exciting with big band jazz arrangements, I would do it." So, they started flooding me with songs, and out of them, we picked those, including "Stairway To Heaven." Although it wasn't heavy metal, it was a precursor, as was Jimi Hendrix' "The Wind Cries Mary," and "Love Hurts" by Nazareth, although it was originally introduced by the Everly Brothers as a country song. And as I got to hear these songs, I realized "Paradise City" and "Crazy Train" and "Smoke On The Water" and "No More Mr. Nice Guy" were really good songs.
"But when I got to "Stairway To Heaven," I kept looking for allusions to witchcraft or drugs, and even though there were strange images, like "in the hedgerows" and all these things, there were no specific mentions of Jimmy Page's involvement in witchcraft or anything like that. The only thing that I changed was a little line at the very end - "When all are one and one is all." I changed that to "When the three and one is all and all," because "all and all" is something like a unification theology, which says that in the last days, no matter if you're Adolf Hitler or Jeffrey Dahmer or whatever you may have done in this life, however horrible, that you'll be reunited with everybody and all will be forgiven. So, when Robert Plant wrote "When all are one and one is all," I didn't know if it was alluding to that, but I just changed it, and never got any objection.
"With the three and one, which is the triune God - God and three persons - it sings the same, but it took away any vestige of what might be considered by some to be non-Biblical or anti-Biblical."
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