Figure on 'Led Zeppelin IV' Album Cover Identified After 52 Years

The late-Victorian photograph is believed to depict a Wiltshire thatcher named Lot Long, a widower from Mere

BY Megan LaPierrePublished Nov 8, 2023

Although Robert Plant himself feels like he has morphed into them in recent years, the identity of the person pictured on the album cover of Led Zeppelin's fourth studio album, Led Zeppelin IV, has remained a mystery for over 50 years.

Until now, that is: just in time for the beloved 1971 LP's 52nd anniversary, a research fellow with the regional history centre at the University of the West of England believes he has identified the grey-bearded figure carrying a bunch of hazel, The Guardian reports.

Before his time at the University of West England, Brian Edwards curated an exhibition with the Wiltshire Museum in 2021. When following up on some early photographs of Stonehenge, he believes he came across the original image the band used for the artwork, derived from an album of late-era Victorian photographs.

Beneath the photo of the stooping figure, the photographer wrote, "A Wiltshire thatcher." Edwards's further research suggests that the thatcher was named Lot Long (sometimes Longyear), born in Mere in 1823 and died in 1893. When the image was captured, Long was believed to be a widower living in a small cottage in Shaftesbury Road.

The image is believed to have been taken by Ernest Howard Farmer, the first head of the school of photography at Regent Street Polytechnic, which is now part of the University of Westminster. Apparently, Plant discovered a framed, coloured version of the photograph in an antique shop near Jimmy Page's home in Pangbourne, Berkshire.

"Led Zeppelin created the soundtrack that has accompanied me since my teenage years, so I really hope the discovery of this Victorian photograph pleases and entertains Robert, Jimmy and John Paul," Edwards said in a statement.

The original image is scheduled to be part of an exhibition at the Wiltshire Museum next spring. "Through the exhibition, we will show how Farmer captured the spirit of people, villages and landscapes of Wiltshire and Dorset that were so much of a contrast to his life in London," the museum's director, David Dawson, said. "It is fascinating to see how this theme of rural and urban contrasts was developed by Led Zeppelin and became the focus for this iconic album cover 70 years later."

Latest Coverage