The cover without the band’s name or album title, but with the image of a bearded old man bending under the weight of a bundle of branches on his back is known to millions of rock fans around the world. But to this day, no one knew who the mysterious man was, whose image appeared on the cover of Led Zeppelin’s fourth album. The one with the song “Stairway to Heaven” on it.
The secret was discovered by accident. Brian Edwards of Western University England was preparing an exhibition of photos by Ernest Farmer (1856-1944), a somewhat forgotten photographer. While searching, he came across an album with the inscription: “Memories of a visit to Shaftesbury 1892. A gift for Auntie from Ernest.” It contained over a hundred photos of buildings and shots of towns and people working in the agricultural areas of Wiltshire, Dorset and Somerset. And it was in this album that there was a photograph that – thanks to the Led Zeppelin cover – is famous all over the world.
Further searches also provided an answer to the question of who the man in the photo was. His name was Lot Long and he was a craftsman installing thatched roofs (English: “thatcher”). He lived in Mere from 1823 to 1893. When the photo was taken, he was already a widower.
On the cover of Led Zeppelin’s fourth album there is a photo of a picture hanging on a shabby wall. Robert Plant, the band’s lead singer, bought it in a second-hand bookstore near guitarist Jimmy Page’s home in Pangbourne. Until now, it was not known that the picture was based on a photograph taken in 1892. On the other side of the cover there is a photo of a British housing estate, contrasting with the old man crushed by the weight of a branch.
Main photo source: https://www.wiltshiremuseum.org.uk/