Robert Plant once helped fund a radio station that promised never to play Stairway To Heaven

 Robert Plant onstage in 1970, and the KBOO logo.
Robert Plant onstage in 1970, and the KBOO logo.
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Robert Plant has a famously difficult relationship with Led Zeppelin's 1971 masterpiece Stairway To Heaven, but most musicians would draw a line at happily contributing to a campaign to stop their most famous song being aired. Plant? He didn't hesitate.

"I was in Portland, Oregon," Plant told NPR in 2002. "I was driving along in my car, heading for Lincoln City, which is out on the coast. I wanted to drive down to Eureka. And just before the black-and-white [the highway patrol] caught me doing 90mph, [I was listening to] KBOO. It had this amazing music – it was kind of a mixture of sad outtakes of doo-wop and a very droll DJ, who sounded like somebody from Marin County in 1967."

“The guy came on saying they were looking for sponsorships. You know, ‘Please send in $10’ or $15 or whatever, and if people in the area did that, KBOO would promise never to play Stairway to Heaven. So I called him up and pledged my money. I was one of the KBOO sponsors."

If the current list of KBOO sponsors is to be believed, Plant is no longer donating money to the cause.

Having put his money where his mouth was, Plant related the story to Atlantic Records president Ahmet Ertegun, pointing out the irony of a radio station receiving free product from Atlantic but not playing a piece of music from one of the label's acts because its singer paid them not to. Ertegun, Plant happily revealed, was most amused.

KBOO, which proclaims itself to be a "volunteer-powered, non-commercial, listener-sponsored, full-strength community radio for Portland, Oregon, the Pacific Northwest and the World," appears to have kept to its side of the bargain, although it has played Heart's Kennedy Center version of Stairway To Heaven several times in the years since, as well as covers by guitar duo Rodrigo Y Gabriella and Italian saxophonist Ada Rovatti.

Last year Plant sang the song in public for the first time since Led Zeppelin's performance at the Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert at London's O2 Arena in 2007. Plant performed it at a gig in Oxfordshire organised by former Duran Duran/The Power Station guitarist Andy Taylor to raise money for The Cancer Platform charity.

"I just blurted it out," Plant told Rolling Stone. "‘Cause it’s such an important song to me for where I was at the time and where I was with Jimmy and with John and Bonzo. So on that night, it was what it was. It was a trial by fire, but I felt better at the end than at the beginning."