Led Zeppelin IV Cover Star Identified 52 Years After Album’s Release
The figure on the front cover of Led Zeppelin IV has been identified, more than half a century after the album’s release.
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The cover artwork of the classic album features a photograph of an elderly man weighed down by a bale of long twigs strapped to his back. Brian Edwards, a visiting research fellow with the regional history centre at the University of the West of England, has discovered the original source of the image: a late Victorian era photograph of a Wiltshire thatcher named Lot Long.
Edwards came across the photograph while he was studying a Victorian photo album at an auction house, according to The New York Times. As a long-term fan of the band, he instantly recognized Long as the mysterious man on the cover of Led Zeppelin IV. The photograph was captured by Ernest Farmer, who is now the subject of an exhibition at the Wiltshire Museum, which includes the image of Long.
Edwards’ discovery is notable not only because it reveals the identity of the inadvertent cover star, but also because, for many years, the image was widely believed to be a painting. Led Zeppelin’s sleeve features a colourised version of the image hanging in a frame on a wall, which – according to Led Zep lore – Robert Plant and Jimmy Page found in an antique shop in the village of Pangbourne. The source photograph is black and white, and the colorised version has never been recovered.
Additional research carried out into Lot Long suggests that the thatcher was born in Mere in 1823 and died in 1893. At the time the photograph was taken, he was a widower living in a cottage in Shaftesbury Road, Mere.