Could a guitar shop really ban someone from playing “Stairway to Heaven”?

In 1992 Wayne’s World, Wayne (Mike Myers) and Garth (Dana Carvey) are dismayed when a visit to a guitar shop turns confrontational. As Wayne begins to strum the opening notes of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”, a surly employee points to a sign: “No ‘Stairway to Heaven'”.

“No ‘Stairway’,” observes Wayne. “Refuse.”

It’s a throwaway joke in a touchstone of ’90s comedy, but it also seems to strike a nerve among guitar shop owners, who – like Wayne’s World notes – must have heard it played (poorly) for decades.

In a 2002 Chicago Grandstand profile of Guitar Works in Evanston, Illinois, employees reportedly used to tell guitar enthusiasts “no stairs to heaven.” The Spokane Review in Spokane, Washington dubbed her “the unspoken rule of the guitar shop”.

But are they making an oblique reference to the film or a serious line for not playing the song? Is getting into “Stairway to Heaven” really bad form?

For the most part, a “Stairway” ban is a joke with an element of truth behind it. Guitar shops aren’t necessarily in the habit of kicking out potential customers, because someone who plays badly has as good of a money as a pro in the family. But suppose a guitar shop employee took umbrage at your performance of the song and actually asked you to leave or even banned you from the premises. Is it legal?

“The short answer is, yes, the company could make that kind of a rule, but it might not be a good idea,” Jed McKeehan, an attorney in Knoxville, Tennessee, told Mental Floss. “Business customers are guests. This means that in general, businesses invite customers to their premises, so customers have a right to be there. »

However, companies can revoke this invitation. While there doesn’t seem to be a case of a customer complaining that they were literally banned for scratching “Stairway,” the store probably has every right to ask anyone to leave as long as they aren’t part of it. federal protection. under federal civil rights law and not be discriminated against on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin. Also, no one can be denied service because of a disability; many states further restrict businesses that refuse services because of their gender or sexuality.

But stores can – and often do – ask customers to leave if they are disrupting or harassing others. Would playing “Stairway to Heaven” count badly?

“Companies can refuse service due to inappropriate behavior [like] rudeness, harassment of customers, threats to employees, lack of hygiene… [or] trying to access the business during off-peak hours,” says McKeehan. “So, can a place prevent a song from playing? Yes, but what kind of precedent does that set? Becomes the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld good for business? Personally, I don’t think so, but as far as I know, it’s legal to ban specific songs from playing.

You could possibly say that a handicap prevented you from playing “Stairway to Heaven” properly, in which case the store could face some sort of fallout for asking you to leave. More likely, they will simply get a bad reputation for being intolerant of poor guitar playing.

It may also be a myth that people gravitate to the song because it’s one of the first tracks amateur gamers listen to or because it’s easy to learn. Neither seem true. More likely, it’s because the song is so beloved and so familiar that people tend to project their rock celebrity fantasies onto it.

As for Wayne’s world, the joke that popularized the trend made meta sense. The original cut of the film had Wayne playing a few notes of the actual song before the clerk intervened. But when the producers discovered it would cost $100,000 in royalties for just a handful of notes left over for broadcast and home video release, they scrapped it. In the current version of the film, Wayne does not play the song recognizably. Even Led Zeppelin, it seems, doesn’t want anyone playing “Stairway to Heaven.”

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