On Nov. 8, 1971, Led Zeppelin released their fourth album, an LP which has become colloquially known – and not inappropriately so – as Led Zeppelin IV. In truth, however, the album’s actual title is...a little difficult to explain. Actually, it’s easier to explain than it is to type, but therein lies the tale that brings us here today: what the heck is the deal with those four symbols that are the real title of Led Zeppelin’s fourth album?
To explain, we must step back in time to the band’s third album, which actually was entitled Led Zeppelin III, and discuss the annoyance felt by Jimmy Page – and probably the other members to some extent, too – when critics weren’t entirely onboard with the band’s work. Page decided that the fourth album wouldn’t even have a title. Instead, it would have four hand-drawn symbols on the inner sleeve and the label of the record, with each band member selecting their own individual symbol. You can imagine how thrilled Atlantic Records must’ve been with this decision, but per Dave Lewis’s Led Zeppelin: A Celebration, the band were steadfast in their decision to the point that they refused to hand over the master tapes for the album until Atlantic agreed.
So now you know why the album had those symbols instead of a title, but...whose symbol is whose?
Well, the one generally referred to as “ZoSo” is Jimmy Page's, while John Paul Jones’ is the one next to it that looks like a little like a propeller with a circle around it; John Bonham’s is the three interlocking circles, while Robert Plant’s is the circle with a feather in it. Plant designed his own symbol, Bonham and Jones found theirs within Rudolf Koch’s Book of Signs, and Page...
Well, Page is gonna Page, so we’re not really sure why he chose it, but we love this segment from the Led Zeppelin Wiki about the symbols so much that we can’t not share it.
Page's only public comment on his symbol came during a November 1994 appearance on Denton with Plant. At the end of their interview a member of the studio audience yelled "What's your symbol mean, Jimmy?" After some confusion as to what was being yelled, understanding dawned on Page's face and he replied simply "I eat bananas."
"You may not believe this," says Plant, "but Pagey once took me aside and said 'Look, I'm going to tell you the meaning of this once, and then I shan't ever mention it again--or at least, not for a long, long time anyway.' And would you believe that I have since forgotten what it was, and now Pagey won't tell me."
We realize this offers precisely zero insight into what it really means, but...it’s hilarious, right?
Anyway, long story short, everyone still calls it Led Zeppelin IV anyway, but at least now when you go give the album a spin, you’ll know the story behind the symbols that serve as the real title.
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