The four symbols on the label and inside sleeve of Led Zeppelin IV, represent (from left to right) Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, John Bonham, and Robert Plant.
Jimmy Page decided that the next Led Zeppelin album would not have a title, but would instead feature four hand-drawn symbols on the inner sleeve and record label, each one chosen by the band member it represents. “We decided that on the fourth album, we would deliberately play down the group name, and there wouldn’t be any information whatsoever on the outer jacket”, Page explained. “Names, titles and things like that do not mean a thing.” This album was one of the first to be produced without conventional identification.
The idea for each member of the band to choose a personal emblem for the cover was Page’s. In an interview he gave in 1977, he recalled:
“After all this crap that we’d had with the critics, I put it to everybody else that it’d be a good idea to put out something totally anonymous. At first I wanted just one symbol on it, but then it was decided that since it was our fourth album and there were four of us, we could each choose our own symbol.”
During Led Zeppelin’s tour of the United Kingdom in Winter 1971, which took place shortly following the release of the album, the band visually projected the four symbols on their stage equipment.
Jimmy Page Symbol
Jimmy Page claimed that he designed his own symbol. Sometimes referred to as “Zoso”, he has explained that it was not in fact intended to be a word at all. However, it has since been discovered that the symbol has existed since at least 1557 to represent Saturn. Saturn rules over Page’s astrological sun sign, Capricorn, and may indicate why he chose it, though the guitarist has never publicly disclosed the reason for his selection.
John Paul Jones Symbol
John Paul Jones’ symbol, which he chose from Rudolph Koch’s Book of Signs, is a single circle intersecting 3 vesica pisces (a triquetra). It is intended to symbolise a person who possesses both confidence and competence.
John Bonham Symbol
John Bonham’s symbol, the three interlocking rings, was picked by the drummer from the same book. It represents the trinity of mother, father and child. The symbol (upside down) also happens to be the logo for Ballantine beer.
Robert Plant Symbol
Robert Plant’s symbol is the feather of Ma’at, the Egyptian goddess of justice and fairness, and is the emblem of a writer (ie song lyrics). It can be found in “The Sacred Symbols of Mu” by Colonel James Churchward. This is not a common symbol, but does turn up in Egyptian and Red Indian texts.
Sandy Denny Symbol
There is also a fifth, smaller symbol chosen by guest female vocalist Sandy Denny representing her contribution to the track “The Battle of Evermore“; it appears in the credits list on the inner sleeve of the LP, serving as an asterisk and is shaped like three triangles touching at their points. It is an old symbol for the Godhead.
Check out the mysterious ads Zeppelin put out for the album…