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Why Stairway To Heaven Sounds So Different In Wayne's World

"Wayne's World" is a film that pays deep homage to the headbangers and air-guitarists out there. Like its titular hero, Wayne Campbell (Mike Myers), and his socially awkward sidekick, Garth Algar (Dana Carvey), the film spares no expense in sharing its love for all things rock 'n' roll. Well, almost no expense.

While the comedy has more than one moment where they cut the jokes and play some good old-fashioned classic rock anthems, not even "Wayne's World" has the time or money to spare for Led Zeppelin's iconic eight-minute ballad. In one of the film's most well-known scenes, Wayne stops by his local guitar store to once again admire the shining white Fender Stratocaster that is his dream guitar. In most versions that you're liable to see, he asks to try out the guitar and plays three screeching notes before he is cut short by the store employee, who points to a "No 'Stairway to Heaven'" sign. "No 'Stairway'!" Wayne laments. "Denied!"

Keen-eared rock enthusiasts might have noticed something about this scene, however. The notes that Wayne play sound nothing like the dulcet, oh-so iconic opening intro of "Stairway." In a film that eagerly features Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" and a cover of Sweet's "Ballroom Blitz" to near-perfection, why does "Stairway to Heaven" sound so different?

Led Zeppelin charged much more than a C-note for these notes

The writers of "Wayne's World" are far from the only people to ever take a jab at "Stairway to Heaven" for being overplayed. The butt of the joke, of course, is that no guitar store patron needs to hear another amateur squeal their way through it again. That's why the employee cuts Wayne short. Still, that doesn't explain why Wayne doesn't play the song correctly. He may not be Jimmy Page, but what he played isn't even recognizable as "Stairway."

However, this may not be the only version of the scene that existed. Back in 1992, Wayne probably played those three notes correctly for the original theatrical release. Unfortunately, Led Zeppelin has a high price for media that wants to use their music. In an interview with Billboard, director Penelope Spheeris revealed that they may have tried to keep the real "Stairway" in, but had to cut it for legal reasons.

"I don't know this to be absolutely true," Spheeris said. "But somebody told me that in the first version of the movie we play too many notes. So they had to go back in and edit a note or two out."

According to Spheeris, Led Zeppelin charged $100,000 for any media that used more than two notes of the song. Wayne, of course, plays the first three. So, they replaced it with three unrelated notes at the unfortunate expense of the joke itself.