How the Brits Rocked America: Go West

Stairway to Heaven

Series 1 - Episode 2 Stairway to Heaven



“1975 would herald the arrival of Rick Wakeman…” No documentary containing that sentence can fail to entertain. We’re nostril-deep in dry ice and hubris as the British sell rock music to America via increasingly demented live tours. In the 70s, concerts were extravagant loss leaders: huge LP sales, driven by FM radio, would pay for Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s orchestra, ELO’s spaceship or Rick Wakeman’s inflatable dinosaur. For most of a decade the US lapped it up. But as Mott the Hoople’s Ian Hunter recalls, “It was like getting married every day. Flowers, a girl, all kinds of booze. It does get boring after a while.”


How British bands thrived amid the culture of excess that began to dominate rock music in the 1970s. The programme examines how Cream broke into the American market during the late 1960s, before Led Zeppelin achieved even greater success at the start of the 1970s, fundamentally altering the sound of rock as a result. The programme also recalls the 1974 California Jam, where acts including Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Emerson, Lake & Palmer played to an estimated crowd of one million people, and charts the rise of arena rock concerts during the decade. With contributions by Jimmy Page, Jack Bruce, Paul McCartney, Tony Iommi, Jon Lord, Bill Bruford, Rick Wakeman and Jeff Lynne.