The mystery behind the identity of the man on the iconic album cover of ‘Led Zeppelin IV’ has been resolved.
The image of a grey-bearded man stooping over, a bundle of thatched wood on his back and a walking aid propping him up, has been an enigma ever since the album was released in 1971, but now an academic in Wiltshire has uncovered the origins of the photograph.
The man in question is a Wiltshire thatcher named Lot Long, who was born in Mere, Wiltshire in 1823, and died in 1893. The photograph was taken in the late-Victorian era.
According to The Guardian, Brian Edwards, a visiting research fellow at the University of the West of England, came across the original image while curating an exhibition at the Wiltshire Museum. The show in question displayed artifacts relating to the public and cultural history of the county, and while searching for early photographs of Stonehenge, he came across the familiar image.
“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.
‘Led Zeppelin IV’ was released 52 years ago today (November 8), selling more than 37 million copies worldwide, and it was ranked as the 106th greatest album of all time by NME in 2013.
The identity of the man in the painting had been a mystery since the album’s original release. The band’s singer Robert Plant is believed to have purchased a copy of the photograph from an antique shop near guitarist Jimmy Page’s house in Pangbourne, Berkshire.
Lot Long, who is sometimes referred to as Lot Longyear, was believed to be a widower at the time the photograph was taken, living in a small cottage in Shaftesbury Road, Mere. The photograph was discovered in an album titled ‘Reminiscences of a visit to Shaftesbury. Whitsuntide 1892. A present to Auntie from Ernest’. The Ernest in question is the photographer, Ernest Howard Farmer (1856-1944).
Led Zeppelin IV includes the band’s legendary song ‘Stairway to Heaven’, which was performed by Plant last month (October 21) for the first time in 16 years. At the charity show in Oxfordshire, Plant is said to have been prompted to bring the song out of retirement after a “six-figure” donation was made towards the show.
In other Robert Plant news, earlier this year the singer declared that it was Phil Collins’ “positive energy” that acted as a “driving force” to get his solo career off the ground.
“After John [Bonham, Led Zeppelin drummer] passed away and there was no Led Zeppelin, there had to be a way to go. I floundered around a lot because until I was 32,” he explained.
“Phil Collins especially was a driving force and had positive energy with the first record… Then he came on tour with me and basically said, ‘Robert, the guy that sat behind you for all those years was my hero… Anything I can do to help you to get back into fighting shape again, I’m here.’”