In the 1970s, the band Led Zeppelin released their song “Stairway to Heaven.”
It wasn’t just any song: it was one of the best songs ever written!
The song “Stairway to Heaven” was banned because it was too popular. The song was extremely famous in that it was played everywhere, all the time; even in music stores by beginners and professionals alike! Hence, an unspoken rule was implemented to ban the song in music stores to prevent annoyance.
The ban may have been unspoken, yet everyone still knew about it.
Even Mike Myers referenced it in one of his scenes!
So, are you interested to learn more about this rule?
Let’s take a tumble down its history together!
Why Is Stairway to Heaven Banned in Music Stores?
“Stairway to Heaven” is a popular song sung by the English rock band, Led Zeppelin.
It was released in 1971 and captured people’s hearts and souls ever since.
As a matter of fact, it’s considered one of the greatest songs of all time.
Because of this very reason, it was banned in music stores!
The song wasn’t forbidden because it was violent, offensive, or even rated for a more mature audience.
It was mainly banned because it was loved too much by rock ‘n rollers.
Let’s see how that popularity backfired a little bit!
1. It’s One of Many Forbidden Riffs
A forbidden riff is basically an overplayed song that’s been banned from being played in music stores.
It’s a riff that has been used so often, it’s almost become clichéd.
The only way to make it interesting again is to play it with a twist.
A twist could be an extra note, a different rhythm, or even a different key.
However, when it comes to newbies just starting to learn how to play the guitar, being creative isn’t on top of their list.
They stride into the store, and they start playing their favorite songs—the ones with the most amazing riffs.
For example, the beloved “Stairway to Heaven.”
Sadly for the store employees, they’re often subjected to listening to these songs constantly being butchered by beginners.
Moreover, the song is a classic, so even professional players visit the shop to play it, too.
Thus, the stores banned it to give their employees some peace of mind.
2. It’s a Simple Song to Learn
Because it’s so easy to play, “Stairway to Heaven” is one of the most popular songs for beginner guitarists.
It’s also a great song for learning about chord transitions and strumming patterns.
But, there are other reasons why this song is so popular among beginners.
The main reason this song is so popular is that the melody is very easy to follow and sing along with.
If you’ve been practicing for a while, the chord progression will be easy, so you won’t need to worry about difficult chords or an especially complicated rhythm.
This makes it ideal for beginning guitar players who want something that they can start playing without getting overwhelmed by more difficult material.
3. It’s Basic Guitar Store Etiquette
Put everything back when you’re done, don’t be too loud, and don’t play “Stairway to heaven!”
Those are some of the well-known etiquette rules in any music store.
Etiquette is simply a set of rules that direct social interaction. It’s the way we act in public and private, on the internet, and in person.
If you happen to find yourself in a store that doesn’t have an explicit ban on forbidden riffs, it’s still best not to play any of them.
Is the Whole Song Banned or Just the Intro?
It’s just the intro, mainly because it’s the most played part.
When you play a song on a guitar, you can start from any part of it. You don’t have to start from the beginning.
You can start with any chord or note within the song, and then build up from there.
However, if you’re still a beginner and just learning the basics, you’re going to start over and over from the top.
Hence, the beginning of the song may be the most recognized part.
If you choose to play it from the middle, for example, you might go unnoticed by the store employees!
Where Does This Hate for Stairway to Heaven Come From?
Back in 1992, the musical comedy “Wayne’s World” hit the cinemas. It’s a classical movie that has been enjoyed by the audience for decades now.
Plus, the title character, Wayne Campbell, is played by the great comedian Mike Myers.
As soon as the notes roll out, one of the shop’s attendants swiftly stops Wayne and points to a sign above the stairwell.
Can you guess what the sign says? It actually bans playing that specific song in the store by saying “NO STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN.”
This amazes Wayne who then turns to the movie viewers to say “ No Stairway, Denied!”
Moreover, if you’ve seen the movie or just that scene, you might’ve noticed something odd.
The tunes that Wayne plays on his guitar are nothing like the sweet, melodic ones in the song’s intro.
This is due to the fact that the movie didn’t obtain the rights to the first couple of notes in the song.
So, they used a generic riff for international, cable, and videotape versions of the movie.
Only the U.S. theatrical release featured the original riff.
So, in a way, the forbidden riff was literally forbidden to be in a movie!
Is Stairway to Heaven Really Banned From Stores?
If you’re wondering whether you’ll be arrested if you play “Stairway to Heaven” in a guitar store, don’t worry!
You won’t. It’s not an actual legal ban.
As a matter of fact, it’s more of a silent ban or a general etiquette rule in any music store.
The main reason for this is that the song has been played so many times before that it can get annoying to hear over and over again.
However, you don’t have to let that stop you from enjoying it in a music store!
What Could Happen If You Play Stairway to Heaven in a Guitar Store?
Well, for starters, the staff would probably think you’re a rookie.
The guitar store staff is there to help you find the right instrument for your needs—not to have to deal with someone playing Stairway to Heaven over and over again.
They’re not going to appreciate it, and they might even get angry at you if they think that’s all you’re doing in there.
Of course, not all employees will be angry if you play it! There’s a big chance that nothing will happen, actually.
Maybe you’ll get a few eye rolls, a glance here and there, but nobody is going to kick you out. At least we hope not!
Are There Any Other Banned Songs in Guitar Stores?
If you thought Stairway to Heaven was the only song that has a silent ban on it in stores, you thought wrong!
Let’s take a tumble down the list of forbidden riffs:
1. Smoke on the Water
The song is as famous for its iconic riff as it is for how the riff came to be!
Very few people know that this riff was actually inspired by Blackmore’s love of classical music. He claims to have been inspired by Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony when writing this piece. That’s why the riff is so special and also banned in the stores.
2. Smells Like Teen Spirit
Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana is one of the most iconic songs of the ’90s.
It’s a song that has been covered by everyone from pop stars to heavy metal bands, and it’s been featured in everything from commercials to movies.
The song is easily one of the most recognizable songs in history, and it’s had a huge impact on music and culture. Hence, it met the same fate as its other cousins.
3. House of the Rising Sun
Nobody actually knows the author of this traditional folk song.
But that was no barrier to its success—the song swept rock lovers off their feet!
It was especially popular among them thanks to The Animals’ rendition.
4. Back in Black
Back in Black is a legendary album with an eponymous song that’s just as legendary as the album itself.
Its beginning riff cemented the band’s name in the history of rock and roll and earned a spot on many forbidden-riffs lists.
Are you still wondering: why is Stairway to Heaven banned in stores? Hopefully not!
As we said, it’s not really a ban—it’s just an unofficial rule.
The song is so popular that employees have heard it way too many times in their stores and would rather hear something else.
However, don’t let that stop you from trying the opening riff at least once!
Hello there, my name is Ramiro and I’ve been playing guitar for almost 20 years. I’m obsessed with everything gear-related and I thought it might be worth sharing it. From guitars, pedals, amps, and synths to studio gear and production tips, I hope you find what I post here useful, and I’ll try my best to keep it entertaining also.