#1 Label Fall of Day

William Rimmer was an abscure American painter, who did a picture around 1869 - 1870 entitled "Evening" or the "Fall of Day" which is currently in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.  This picture was adopted by Led Zeppelin as the "Swan man" logo and appears in the centre of the Led Zeppelin vinyl LPs.  The picture above is taken from page 101 of book "William Rimmer A Yankee Michelangelo", essays by Jeffrey Weidman, Neil Harris and Philip Cash, University Press of New England, 1985, ISBN 0-934358-14-1.

Steven William Rimmer is a related descendant of the 19th century artist, and has a few details on his website.  He quotes:

"Evening or the Fall of Day depicts the god Apollo rising from the earth at sunset — pretty much everyone who sees it seems to think it's Icarus, an angel or various christian devils."

(Of course, Apollo doesn't rise at sunset, but I think I know what he means).

Note that the original Rimmer painting was modified slightly, with both arms raised and some alteration to the wings, for the Led Zeppelin emblem.

Is this Apollo?

Most people believe that the winged person is Apollo, who is falling in anguish at the end of the day.  As a "Swan Song" is a dying dirge, the fall of the sun god Apollo at the end of the day would be a fitting symbol.  Apollo is also the God of music - a fitting image for Led Zeppelin.  But is the figure falling or rising?  I decided to explore this further.

Or is it Lucifer?

Research reveals that William Rimmer never specifically stated that the figure was Apollo or anyone else.  Some close to him believed that the winged man represented the angel Lucifer (I have unfortunately lost my reference to this fact).  Lucifer means "bringer of light", a symbol of which was the planet Venus which appears as the evening (or morning) star.  Venus was very important for early civilisations - the orb of the monarch, the horns on the vikings helmet and the 5 sided pentagon star (later labelled as the witches symbol) all derive directly from the worship of Venus.  After the sun and moon, Venus is the brightest object in the sky.  Over a period of almost exactly 8 years it traces out a pentagon (or horn shape) in the sky - the 8 year rotational period is so exact that it was used for time synchronisation until quite recent times (the error is less than half a day every 8 earth years) and accurate time keeping was important to early societies for crop planting, etc.

Could it be that the picture depicts the rising of the evening star, Venus?  Venus was the "light bringer" or Lucifer, whom the Christian church later associated with Satan in order to dissuade worship of the ancient Pagan idol.  The Luficer connection would undoubtedly have been attractive to Jimmy Page.

I explore the imagery further in my Symbology book.  Some research shows that the image painted by Rimmer does not resemble Apollo as depicted in ancient Greek drawings.  Nor does it look anything like Lucifer as would be drawn by Christians as an image of the devil.  The figure is androgynous (ie neither male nor female).  Is it the sun falling ("Fall of the day"), or Venus rising ("Evening"), or perhaps intended to be a combination of both indicative of that period at sunrise or sunset where briefly everything is in equilibrium.  The wind ceases, and a feeling of stillness and peace is felt (this is said to be the optimum times for meditation as taught in many Eastern and Western traditions).

Icarus?

It could also represent Icarus, who flew too close to the sun with wings made of feathers and wax (the wax melted and the feathers fell out, and Icarus took a nose dive into what is now the Icarian sea).  Wikipedia states that Atlantic Records intended their logo to be Icarus (which is not identical to the William Rimmer original), but what would recording executives know about such matters?

Swan Song

The association of the image to the "Swan Song" label was done by Jimmy Page and Atlantic Records, not William Rimmer.  In the Eastern religious traditions the title Paramahansa or "Great Swan" was given to the greatest spiritual masters. The swan was held in high regard by the Eastern mystics.  Is the Swan Song logo depicting the last call of an old dying bird, or does it herald superlative musical excellence?

© In the Light, 17 September, 2009