‘Wayne’s World’s Most Confusing Joke Finally Makes Sense on Streaming
Who amongst us doesn’t love Wayne’s World, the iconic 1992 comedy that arguably predicted YouTube culture, re-popularized Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and serves as a constant reminder that a gun rack is a terrible anniversary present for an ex who doesn’t own any guns.
Fans of the movie recently noticed that the version currently streaming on platforms like Max and Apple TV is a tad different than what they’re used to. As you may recall, when Wayne tests out his much-thirsted-after Fender Stratocaster in a local music shop, he is immediately silenced by an employee who gestures toward a “No Stairway to Heaven” sign. “No ‘Stairway’? Denied!” Wayne complains to the audience.
In the edit many of us grew up with, Wayne plays a few discordant notes that, somewhat confusingly, sound more like Sonic Youth tuning their guitars than any song in Led Zeppelin’s catalog.
But now, decades later, the scene actually makes sense. When Wayne picks up the Strat, he begins to strum the familiar, painfully overused opening riff of “Stairway to Heaven.”
This is how the scene played out when people first caught Wayne’s World on the big screen in the U.S., but as critic Drew McWeeny noted, it’s been “fucked up on every single video release.” Why? According to director Penelope Spheeris, “We were told that we could only use two notes before we’d have to pay $100,000, so to sell that he’s gonna play ‘Stairway to Heaven’ in two notes is pretty difficult. So they had to go back in and edit a note or two out.”
But the censored version didn’t just whittle down the performance, it added an entirely new, wildly unrecognizable guitar part. Reportedly, “Warner Music Group and Led Zeppelin refused the rights to even the first few notes of ‘Stairway’ for broadcast, video or foreign release.”
In any case, the scene was restored back to its original glory in 2022 with the release of the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray (another win for physical media). But now that the restored version is available on streaming, not everyone is happy. A lot of folks seemingly got used to the altered scene, and some people never even knew that it was altered in the first place, possibly because they first saw Wayne’s World on a VHS tape that may or may not have come with a Big Mac and a side of fries.
Certain fans also seem to have thought that the nonsensical riff was supposed to be a joke, implying that Wayne’s guitar skills are so rough that his “Stairway to Heaven” sounds more like incomprehensible garbage.
Hopefully the filmmakers didn’t have to pony up 100 grand to satisfy Led Zeppelin, considering that taking songs without paying for them is pretty much how every Led Zeppelin album got made.
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