Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" is one of the most iconic songs in rock and roll, but prior to the final mix at London's Island Studios, Jimmy Page, Zeppelin manager Peter Grant, and engineer Andy Johns took a trip to LA to mix Led Zeppelin IV at Sunset Sound. With the exception of "When the Levee Breaks," none of the tracks wound up on the album, but now you can hear the Sunset Sound mix of "Stairway."
While not radically different from the final version, the alternate mix has some extremely notable changes. The stereo image is very different -- with left and right completely reversed at times -- and the addition of thick reverb gives the song a hazier feeling. The mix lacks clarity in comparison to the final version, but it's not completely muddy. The guitars are still very present, but the subtle changes in space and tone result in more subdued song overall. Listen to the Sunset version above, and compare the original at YouTube.
John Paul Jones spoke with Rolling Stone about the alternate mix:
It's always interesting to hear stuff that you know really well and hear it differently, but the same. It does give a different perspective on it. You hear different things. I did read somewhere that the end of '"tairway to Heaven" contained one of the best rock bass parts ever recorded. Unfortunately it comes underneath one of the greatest rock guitars so... But "Stairway" is a favorite still. It's just got everything that we are about.
Jimmy Page added:
The Sunset Sound mix of "Stairway to Heaven" was actually mixed at Sunset Sound in L.A. in advance of the version that everybody knows. I think it's a really good embodiment of everything that's on there. It's a guitar mix, really.
The song will live on the companion disc for the band's upcoming deluxe reissue version of Led Zeppelin IV. Pre-order on a variety of formats via Amazon.
For Led Zeppelin's latest music, news, and tour dates, check out their Zumic artist page.
Source: Rolling Stone