What do those symbols on the cover of Led Zeppelin IV represent?
Led Zeppelin decided to leave their 1971 album untitled, although they later conceded that Led Zeppelin IV is probably the easiest name for it. (People have sometimes called it “Zoso,” “Atlantic SD 7208,” or “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince.”) Jimmy Page decided that each member should pick a symbol to represent himself, and that those four symbols would serve as the album’s title. Robert Plant claims his (the feather in the circle) was from “the ancient Mu civilization which existed about 15,000 years ago as part of a lost continent somewhere in the Pacific Ocean between China and Mexico.” John Paul Jones picked his (the encircled petals) out of a book of runes (early Gaelic writing), because it signified somebody who is confident and competent. John Bonham picked his (the three circles) out of the same book because he liked the way it looked; later, the band realized it was also the logo for Ballantine beer. Page has remained mum on his glyph, other than saying he designed it himself and it’s not supposed to be the word “Zoso.” (Asked the meaning by a fan after a 1994 appearance on an Australian talk show, Page allegedly replied cryptically, “Frying tonight.” Which might just mean he was heading for a post-show burger.) He did once, however, divulge the true meaning to Plant—who later lamented, “Would you believe that I have since forgotten what it was and now Pagey won’t tell me?”
(Excerpted from the 2006 book Is Tiny Dancer Really Elton’s Little John?: Music’s Most Enduring Mysteries, Myths, and Rumors Revealed, published by Three Rivers Press, written by Gavin Edwards.)