The offending passage:
It also doesn't help that the lyrics appear to be an index of a confused mind. If, for instance, the lady at the beginning of the song is a fool (she believes, after all, that she can buy a stairway to heaven), then why at the end of this long and winding lyrical road is she shining white light and showing us how everything still turns to gold? Some critics have turned themselves inside out trying to prove that this must be a different lady. Cultural-studies theorists will see this is an "open" text. Industry bean counters will notice that its ambiguity is the key to its popularity.
First the two sections:
There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold
And she's buying a stairway to heaven
And when she gets there she knows if the stores are closed
With a word she can get what she came for
Not just believes, not just thinks, but is sure. And she has some proof of this: she's like many Princesses out here in rl who understands that the 'rents money gets you places that you should not be. What's better than shopping? Shopping with the boutique to yourself, of course. Goodwin obviously doesn't get this.
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold
And if you listen very hard
And here at the the end she is afflicted with the problem of the Midas touch: she is there, strutting in the finery bought, and wants to prove to everyone what the song makes clear is obvious once seen, that the stairway isn't going to be bought, even though she doesn't know it or learn it, the listeners of this song are supposed to. Remember she is sure that all that glitters is gold. Since she now glitters, she must, in her mind be gold. This, is not hard.
Second layer down is the call of the sonic artist against the visual: truth is heard, pipers call, the stairway lies on the whispering wind and so on, where as visual things are, consistently, false as symbols. It isn't really a great poem, but it is a great minstrel song, in that its symbolism is consistent, and it tells its tale fairly well. The critic clearly hates it, and hates melody, and the English language, clear thinking, Greek mythology, Christian symbolism. The shibboleth of pop orthodoxy in the Rolling Stone mode of having a Victorian attitude about the cannon of post-modern times, is, don't you think, a bit absurd? Even more dismal is that he is writing a book about Led Zepplin, and is an entrenched member of the ignorance industry. Sigh. And some people wonder why cultural studies gets such a bad name.
Well anyway, the lyrics aren't confused, though of course many confused people read them and write about them, from their own frame work. I'm not really fond of the song, even though I've been subjected to it numerous times, but it isn't that bad, and seems to be quite good in that it survives.
[Wikipedia tells me he is also a buffoon, getting his facts wrong.
He states that Stairway to Heaven is the only "hit" they had because they did not release singles. In fact Wikipedia tells me that
Whole Lotta Love hit #4 on the US charts and The Immigrant Song hit #16, while Black Dog hit #15. Those would also count as "hits" in the vernacular of pop music.]
So he can't read, and he can't count, hadn't heard of the internet where his facts can get checked and his source looked at and lies a lot. Maybe Andrew Goodwin is the perfect person to write about this band, he's dazed and confused and hasn't done anything new since a break up in 1980. Once upon a time someone would have needed to own a copy of the album to read the lyrics and the details on chart positions would have been a schlep to a book store or library. But those of us growing up now realize that this kind of grandiose lie based on proprietary information, isn't tenable. Any one can pull down the lyrics, any one can look up the chart positions. And just did.