ufoIt’s that time of the week again when our resident classic rock king lords it over the world he loves.

And it’s little surprise that a certain hat-trick of reissues is dominating his thoughts this week.

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In a few days’ time, thousands upon thousands of rock fans will be buying or downloading three albums they already own.

The release of Led Zeppellin’s first three albums I, II and III in remastered form, has sparked huge interest across the planet.

And the releases are widely predicted to be the best-selling remastered albums in history.

Yet it’s a safe bet to assume when we listen to our new copies for the first time, the vast majority of us will ignore the disc/record of the original songs that made Zeppelin the biggest band in the world.

Instead, we’ll focus our attentions on the bonus material, which includes live versions never heard before, demo versions and, on Zeppelin III at least, a couple of new tracks.

Jimmy Page, founder, archivist and keeper of the Zeppelin flame, has spent the past few years, listening to hours upon hours of tape reels, cutting,  pasting, freshening up and giving some of the world’s most recognisable rock songs a makeover.

The impending releases were always going to make the news but in the past week, Zeppelin have hit the headlines for what some may regard as all the wrong reasons.

It’s emerged relatives of the chief songwriter from the American folk group Spirit plan to sue Zeppelin for nicking the first few notes of  Stairway To Heaven, arguably their most famous track.

Plagiarism is an accusation that’s been hurled at Zeppelin ever since the release of their debut album in 1968.

On that record, blues legend Willie Dixon is given sole songwriting credit for the track You Shook Me but there are countless  Zep songs, which can be traced back to the music of the Mississippi Delta and indeed sound remarkably similar to the music of Robert Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf and so on.

Big deal!

Now I don’t agree with Sun columnist Jeremy Clarkson on too many things but I have to applaud his comments in his latest weekend musings when he argues these potential litigants smell a fast buck and are trying to jump on that well-worn royalties bandwagon.

The fact is that Zeppelin are no more guilty than anyone who has ever written a song. The truth is that all music is derivative.

Stone Age man banged drums for the first time, Old Testament shepherd played the first woodwind instruments and Medieval court entertainers plucked their strings.

Didn’t the great classical composers glean inspiration from chamber music and weren’t many folk songs close cousins to hymns?

Until someone announces a second verse to Doh, Ray, Me Far, Soh Lah Tee, Doh, then songs will continue to sound like their musical ancestors.

Page, of course, will be laughing all the way to the bank at this latest controversy knowing full well that any publicity is good publicity.

But those who criticise Zeppelin as merely a band who listened to the blues and amplified it tenfold are entirely missing the point.

Like The Beatles before them, they created a template and a style which has inspired peers and two generations beyond.

When we listen to those bonus albums in the days ahead, we’ll bear witness to musical pioneers, innovators and an embryonic process which spawned a genre.

Zeppelin never claimed to have invented the wheel. They just made a bloody good one.

Ian Murtagh