The depths of my very own rock n’ roll treasure and the psychology behind it
For me, ‘Stairway to Heaven’ by Led Zeppelin has always been a song of empowerment. The moment it landed in my lap I was completely mesmerized by its intricacy.
The beginning is like a fairytale, of a women who sees the glitter of gold, who opens doors with just a word. She’s high on herself, yet she wants to be sure of the sign on the wall, showcasing uncertainty. A novel of the most intricate of the human condition, desire and despair — it’s my survival song.
I was perhaps 18 when I heard the song. It was a mix of gothic elegance and rock and roll and quite frankly everything I wanted to mold myself after — even though I wasn’t sure what the song was about.
“We tend to personalize songs. They are intentionally left ambiguous and poetry can be like this as well,” Steve Joordens, psychology professor at the University of Toronto and a musician himself said. “That leaves room for us to implant assumptions so we can feel like a song was written for us.”
Singer Robert Plant chants that you could look to the West and be free. It was captivating in a manifest destiny sort of way. The idea in itself was attractive. It spoke to my teenaged free spirit. The woman is so invigorating that it made me want to conquer life. It made me shake my nerves off and be unapologetically present.
But as the song goes, every word has two meanings. And thoughts are misgiving.
Fast forward to today, the song means overcoming the difficulty of my own insecurities and fighting to morph into something so much greater than what I am now.
Midway through the song, accompanied by the guitar solo, her soul explodes. The psychedelic breakdown is enough to anchor an out-of-body experience. It is the ultimate form of escapism. Joordens explains that music, for the regular person is used implicitly as personal manipulation — a way he says we, “can mentally go to a certain place.”
Part of my love for rock and roll is rebellion. It’s blocking out the world around me. It’s the feeling of invincibility — a different kind of high.
“Because music is so distinctively human…the most primitive of that is a beat,” Joordens said. “You are taken away from the world you were in and brought into another world…almost like a book. Songs unlike a book are more visceral.”
I don’t know what it is, but that song completely shakes me. There is so much anger midway through, it’s as if whatever broke her erupted and completely shattered her. It threw her down and somehow, she has to fight to get back up.
Now its even just being able to recharge my body, mind and soul, that are, unanimously tired.
So, it’s a song of helplessness.
Since the passing of my Grandfather in September, the idea of buying a stairway to heaven is a way to mend toward a life that was ripped out of my hands. My life has been split between before and after him and the life after this one seems all the more precious. This song is the anger, the bellowing heartache that when cranked high enough, the roar that is the last half of that song seems to either drown me or physically release the emotions I can’t put to words.
I’ve learned time is precious. That life lived to the fullest now will only make the end of the road all the more magical.
I’m not there yet.
But in the end, there is still hope. The song says there are two paths to go upon, and that there is time to change the road you’re on. In the end, the woman of gold illuminates white light. I think one day it’ll mean peace within myself.
By Tina Adamopoulos