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The untitled fourth album by English rock band Led Zeppelin was released on 8 November 1971. No official title is printed on the album, but it is generally referred to as Led Zeppelin IV, following the naming standard used by the band's first three studio albums. The album has alternatively been referred to as Four Symbols, , The Fourth Album, Sticks, ZoSo, Untitled, The Hermit, Runes, or simply, IV.

Upon its release, Led Zeppelin IV was a huge commercial and critical success. The album is one of the best-selling albums in history at 37 million units. It has shipped over 23 million units in the United States alone, putting it third on the all-time list. In 2003, the album was ranked 66th on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

Recording sessions

The album was initially recorded at Island Records's newly opened Basing Street Studiosmarker, London, at the same time as Jethro Tull's Aqualung in December 1970. Upon the suggestion of Fleetwood Mac,, the band then moved to Headley Grangemarker, a remote Victorian house in East Hampshiremarker, England, to conduct additional recordings. Here they used the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio. Guitarist Jimmy Page later recalled:

We needed the sort of facilities where we could have a cup of tea and wander around the garden and go in and do what we had to do.

This relaxed, atmospheric environment at Headley Grange also provided other advantages for the band. As is explained by Dave Lewis:

By moving into Headley Grange for the whole period of recording, many of the tracks [on the album] were made up on the spot and committed to tape almost there and then.

Once the basic tracks had been recorded, the band later added overdubs at Island Studiosmarker, and then took the completed master tapes to Sunset Sound in Los Angeles, CAmarker for mixing. However, the mix ultimately proved to be less than satisfactory, creating an unwanted delay in the album's release. Further mixing had to be undertaken in London, pushing the final release date back by some months.

Album title

Led Zeppelin IV inner sleeve.
From the 2003 CD release
the lukewarm, if not confused and sometimes dismissive, critical reaction Led Zeppelin III had received in late 1970, 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."

Page has also stated that the decision to release the album without any written information on the album sleeve was contrary to strong advice given to him by a press agent, who said that after a year's absence from both records and touring, the move would be akin to "professional suicide". In the words of the guitarist: "We just happened to have a lot of faith in what we were doing."

Owing to the lack of an official title, Atlantic Records initially distributed graphics of the symbols in many sizes to the press for inclusion in charts and articles. The album was one of the first to be produced without conventional identification, and this communicated an anti-commercial stance that was controversial at the time (especially among certain executives at Atlantic Records).

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.
I designed mine and everyone else had their own reasons for using the symbols that they used.

Page stated that he designed his own symbol himself and has never publicly disclosed any reasoning behind it. However, it has been argued that his symbol appeared as early as 1557 to represent Saturn. The symbol is sometimes referred to as "ZoSo", though Page has explained that it was not in fact intended to be a word at all.
Bassist John Paul Jones' symbol, which he chose from Rudolf 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.

Drummer John Bonham's symbol, the three interlocking rings, was picked by the drummer from the same book. It represents the threesome of mother, father and child, but also happens to be the logo for Ballantine beer.

Singer Robert Plant's symbol was his own design, being based on the sign of the supposed Mu civilization.

There is also a fifth, smaller symbol chosen by guest 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.

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's "ZoSo" symbol was put onto one of his Marshall amplifiers, John Bonham's three interlinked circles adorned the outer face of his bass drum, John Paul Jones had his symbol stenciled onto material which was draped across his Fender Rhodes keyboard and Robert Plant's feather symbol was painted onto a side speaker PA cabinet. Only Page's and Bonham's symbols were retained for subsequent Led Zeppelin concert tours.

Releasing the album without an official title has made it difficult to consistently identify. While most commonly called Led Zeppelin IV, Atlantic Records catalogs have used the names Four Symbols and The Fourth Album. It has also been referred to as ZoSo (which the Page's symbol appears to spell), Untitled and Runes. Page frequently refers to the album in interviews as "the fourth album" and Led Zeppelin IV, and Plant thinks of it as "the fourth album, that's it".

Album cover and inside sleeve

Led Zeppelin IV outer gatefold album cover
The 19th century rustic oil painting on the front of the album was purchased from an antique shop in Reading, Berkshiremarker by Robert Plant. The painting was then juxtaposed and affixed to the internal, papered wall of the partly demolished suburban house for the photograph to be taken. The 20th century urban tower block on the back of the full gatefold album cover is Butterfield Court in Dudleymarker, England.

Page has explained that the cover of the fourth album was intended to bring out a city/country dichotomy that had initially surfaced on Led Zeppelin III:

It represented the change in the balance which was going on.
There was the old countryman and the blocks of flats being knocked down.
It was just a way of saying that we should look after the earth, not rape and pillage it.

"The Hermit"
The inside illustration was "The Hermit", credited to Barrington Colby MOM, was influenced by the design of the card of the same name in the Rider-Waite tarot deck. This character was later portrayed by Page himself in Led Zeppelin's concert film, The Song Remains the Same (1976). The inner painting is also referred to as View in Half or Varying Light and was sold at auction under that name in 1981.

Varied versions of the artwork within the album exist. Some versions depict a longhaired and bearded supplicant climbing at the base of the mountain, while some others do not show the six pointed star within the hermit's lantern. If the inside cover of the album is held vertically against a mirror, a man's face can be seen hidden in the rocks below the hermit. Speculation exists that the face is actually that of a black dog.

The typeface for the lyrics to "Stairway to Heaven", printed on the inside sleeve of the album, was Page's contribution. He found it in an old arts and crafts magazine called Studio Magazine which dated from the late 1800s. He thought the lettering was interesting and arranged for someone to work up a whole alphabet.

Release and critical reaction

The album was released on 8 November 1971. In the lead-up to its release, a series of teaser advertisements depicting each symbol was placed in the music press.

The album was a massive instant seller. It entered the UK chart at number one and stayed on the chart for 62 weeks. In the United States it stayed on the charts longer than any other Led Zeppelin album and became the biggest selling album in the US not to top the charts (peaking at #2). "Ultimately," writes Lewis, "the fourth Zeppelin album would be the most durable seller in their catalogue and the most impressive critical and commercial success of their career".


In 1998, Q magazine readers voted Led Zeppelin IV the 26th greatest album of all time; in 2000 Q placed it at #26 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever. In 2003, the album was ranked number 66 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. It is currently #7 on Pitchfork Media's Top 100 Albums of the 1970s.

In 2006, the album was rated #1 on Classic Rock magazine's 100 Greatest British Albums poll; that same year it was voted #1 in Guitar World 100 Greatest Albums readers' poll and was ranked #7 in ABC media's top ten albums.

Publication Country Accolade Year Rank
Mojo United Kingdom "The 100 Greatest Albums Ever Made" 1996 24
Grammy Awards United States Grammy Hall of Fame Award 1999 *
The Guitar United States "Album of the Millenium" 1999 2
Classic Rock United Kingdom "100 Greatest Rock Albums Ever" 2001 1
Q United Kingdom "The Greatest Classic Rock Albums Ever" 2004 *
Robert Dimery United States 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die 2005 *
Q United Kingdom "100 Best Albums Ever" 2006 21
Classic Rock United Kingdom "100 Greatest British Rock Album Ever" 2006 1
Rock and Roll Hall of Famemarker United States "The Definitive 200: Top 200 Albums of All-Time" 2007 4

(*) designates unordered lists.

Track listing

Sales chart performance

Chart (1971–1972) Peak Position
Japanese Albums Chart 2
Norwegian Albums Chart 3
UK Albums Chart 1
US Billboard 200 2
German Albums Chart 9
French Albums Chart 2
US Cash Box Top 100 Albums Chart 1
US Record World Top Pop Albums Chart 1
Canadian RPM 100 Albums 1
Spanish Albums Chart 8
Australian Go-Set Top 20 Albums Chart 2

Year Single Chart Position
1971 "Black Dog" US Billboard Hot 100 15
1972 "Rock and Roll" US Billboard Hot 100 47

Sales certifications

Country Sales Certification
Argentina (CAPIF) 60,000+ Platinum
Brazil (ABDP) 50,000+ Gold
Canada (CRIA) 2,000,000+ 2× Diamond
Switzerland (IFPI) 50,000+ Platinum
France (SNEP) 600,000+ 2× Platinum
Spain (PROMUSICAE) 80,000+ Platinum
Germany (IFPI) 300,000+ Platinum*
Australia (ARIA) 560,000+ 8× Platinum
United States (RIAA) 23,000,000+ Diamond
Netherlands (NVPI) 60,000+ Platinum*
United Kingdom (BPI) 1,800,000+ 6× Platinum

Note: (*) Remastered sales only


Led Zeppelin

Additional musicians


See also


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