Published by Cel Manero from Global One Media, Inc.
A Solution to One of Rock’s Greatest Mysteries Seems to Have Emerged
Led Zeppelin’s iconic fourth album was released 52 years ago today, on November 8, and its enigmatic cover art has been the subject of intense speculation over the decades. The artwork, often associated with runes, tarot, and the occult, features a stooped figure with a bundle of sticks on his back, commonly referred to as ‘The Hermit.’
The original tale suggests that Robert Plant stumbled upon the painting in a second-hand store in Reading, Berkshire, while en route to recording sessions at Headley Grange in Hampshire. Some have asserted that the elderly man in the image is Henry “Brusher” Mills, a famous Victorian-era snake catcher who resided in Hampshire’s New Forest. Alternatively, Jimmy Page noted the figure’s resemblance to ‘Old George’ Pickingill, who famously instructed Aleister Crowley in the occult, and incorporated the painting into the album cover. However, Page has generally been reticent to divulge further details.
In his own words, Page stated, “The cover was supposed to be something that was for other people to savor rather than for me to actually spell everything out.” He conveyed this sentiment to The Times in 2010, adding, “Which would make the whole thing rather disappointing on that level of your own personal adventure into the music.”
The long-standing mystery surrounding the identity of the figure on Led Zeppelin’s fourth album cover has finally been unraveled. This breakthrough came as part of research for an upcoming exhibition at the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes when the original photograph that inspired the painting was unearthed. Brian Edwards, a Visiting Research Fellow affiliated with the Regional History Centre at the University of the West of England and a devoted Led Zeppelin enthusiast, made this remarkable discovery while going through an old photo album. He immediately recognized the image, shedding light on the figure’s identity.
Edwards expressed, “The soundtrack that has been with me since my teenage years was crafted by Led Zeppelin. I sincerely wish that the unearthing of this Victorian photograph brings joy and amusement to Robert, Jimmy, and John Paul.”
Further investigation was successful in identifying probable candidates for both the photographer and his subject. An initial signature matching the writing found in the album suggests that the individual behind the camera was Ernest Howard Farmer (1856-1944), a photography teacher. The stooped figure captured in the photograph is likely Lot Long, also known as Lot Longyear, who worked as a thatcher in the small town of Mere in southwest Wiltshire. Lot was born in 1823 and passed away in 1893.
The photograph taken by Farmer will be featured in an upcoming exhibition titled “Wiltshire Thatcher: a Photographic Journey through Victorian Wessex,” scheduled to take place at the Wiltshire Museum in the spring of 2024.
David Dawson, the museum’s Director, shares, “Through the exhibition, we will illustrate how Farmer managed to capture the essence of people, villages, and landscapes in Wiltshire and Dorset, which presented a stark contrast to his life in London. It’s fascinating to observe how this theme of rural-urban disparities was later developed by Led Zeppelin and served as the focal point for their iconic album cover, 70 years down the line.”