The mystery of the old farmer on the cover of Led Zeppelin IV has been solved
It is the photo that adorns the cover of one of the most legendary records of rock music. Led Zeppelin IV’s 52nd birthday. And we’re not talking about a simple record, but a record that includes songs – anthems like Black Dog, Rock and Roll, The Battle of Evermore, Misty Mountain Hop, When the Levee Breaks and of course the timeless Stairway to Heaven!
The photo on the cover with the falcon carrying the wood is a bit weird and doesn’t make sense and secondly there is no title. Yes! One of rock music’s greatest albums is untitled. For this reason it went down in history as “Led Zeppelin IV” because it is the fourth album of the band or “Four Symbols” because it carried the four symbols of the band or Untitled.
An album that went 23x platinum in the US, 6x platinum in the UK and 2x diamond in Canada, while selling over 37 million copies worldwide!
Nevertheless, the question of the cover with the falcon remained. Jimmy Page, for example, when asked would not reveal more information but emphasized that the old man on the cover strongly resembles the occultist Old George Pickingill, the mentor of the famous Satanist, Aleister Crowley. Years later it was revealed that Robert Plant was the one who first spotted the photo. He had found it in an antique shop in Pangbourne, Berkshire. Next to Jimmy Page’s house. Still, the question remained: Who is the old man on the cover?
The answer was given by Brian Edwards who, as part of research he is doing for the exhibition entitled ‘Wiltshire Thatcher: a Photographic Journey through Victorian Wessex’ which will take place in early 2024, located the photo in a photo album entitled ‘Memories of a Visit at Shaftesbury’ from 1892. The photograph is signed by photographer Ernest Howard Farmer (1856 – 1944), who had been director of the School of Photography and professor of photography from 1882.
The old man is said to be Lot Long, also known as Lot Longyear (1823 – 1893), a thatch maker, who spent his life in the small town of Mere. At the time the photo was taken, Long was a widower and lived in a small house. He earned his living by making or repairing thatched roofs. The original photograph of the farmer is now in the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes.