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Mystery of Houses of the Holy Album Cover Solved

Mystery of Houses of the Holy Album Cover Solved
Led Zeppelin's surreal cover for their Houses Of The Holy album, featuring golden-haired children crawling across an apocalyptic landscape, is one of the most iconic images in rock history.

But while the sleeve design is familiar across the globe, what no one knows is that the young boy who appears in the photo montage is now a well-known television presenter.

Mystery of Houses of the Holy Album Cover Solved
Stefan Gates, of BBC2's Cooking In The Danger Zone, was just five when he and sister Sam were innocently snapped in the nude for the shoot on the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland.

His role is revealed as Led Zeppelin prepare for their historic reunion concert at London's O2 arena tomorrow night – which has seen one million fans battle for 20,000 tickets.

Stefan, 40, has travelled to some of the world's most dangerous regions fronting his show. But the photoshoot over ten rainy days in County Antrim remains prominent in his mind.

Mystery of Houses of the Holy Album Cover Solved
He had followed Sam, now 42, into child modelling after she was spotted by a talent scout. They posed together for knitwear patterns and appeared separately in commercials and TV dramas, including Poldark.

Stefan said: "We only got a few quid for the modelling and the chance to travel to places we had never been before.

"Our family wasn't well off, we certainly couldn't afford holidays, so it worked out great for us.

"For the Zeppelin cover we went to Ireland during the Troubles. I remember arriving at the airport and seeing all these people with guns.

"We stayed in this little guest house near the Giant's Causeway and to capture the so-called magic light of dawn and dusk we'd shoot first thing in the morning and at night.


"I've heard people saying they put wigs on several children. But there was only me and my sister and that's our real hair.

"I used to love being naked when I was that age so I didn't mind. I'd whip off my clothes at the drop of a hat and run around having a great time, so I was in my element.

"My sister was older so she was probably a bit more self-conscious."


Mystery of Houses of the Holy Album Cover Solved
The cover art was the brainchild of Aubrey Powell and Storm Thorgerson of legendary album-sleeve designers Hipgnosis. They took several multiple-exposure shots of Stefan and Sam to create the image of more children clambering over the rocks.

There is endless debate among rock fans over the significance of the image.

Powell has claimed he was inspired by the science-fiction book Childhood's End by Arthur C Clarke, in which children climb off the end of the world.

Stefan – who lives in North London with wife Georgia and daughters Daisy, four, and Poppy, two – is sceptical of all the theories about the artwork's meaning, including Powell's.

He said: "In a lot of cases with graphical design work it's an evolving process and they think up the explanation later. I personally have no idea what it means.

There's something about it though that is disturbing and haunting, perhaps more so because I am in it."


Although a fan of Led Zeppelin, Stefan confesses he has never listened to Houses Of The Holy, which was released in 1973.

Mystery of Houses of the Holy Album Cover Solved
"It carries too much significance for me," he said. "A part of me wants to go out to the Giant's Causeway with a big pair of speakers, strip naked and play it just to see if I have some kind of great epiphany."

Sam moved to Cape Town, South Africa, four years ago with husband Andrew Hamilton Barr and they have a daughter, Tallulah.

The screenwriter, who also features on the inside sleeve as the child being sacrificed at the top of a mountain, said: "I remember the shoot really clearly, mainly because it was freezing cold and rained the whole time.

"We were naked in a lot of the modelling shoots we did, nothing was thought of it back then. You probably couldn't get away with that now."


Stefan has just finished filming the third series of Cooking In The Danger Zone, which included a visit to Palestine.

He believes shooting the album cover 35 years ago has subconsciously played a huge role in his life.

He said: "Although it's just my naked behind you can see, perhaps being a part of something like that at a young age made me seek out more ambitious and adventurous experiences."
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December 16, 1968 - Zep plays Bath Pavilion for a mere £75.
December 26, 1968 - First American concert at the Coliseum in Denver, CO
December xx, 1969 - Led Zeppelin are reported to have sold 5 million dollars worth of albums in the US
December 11, 1969 - Led Zeppelin are presented gold and platinum discs for their first two albums
December xx, 1970 - The band enters Island Studios to begin work on the fourth album
December xx, 1971 - The band plays a few low-key shows back in England
December 23, 1972 - The band break for Christmas holiday after a London gig
December xx, 1973 - John Paul Jones works on studio productions for Madeline Bell
December xx, 1973 - Joe Massot films Jimmy Page’s fantasy sequence at Loch Ness
December 19, 1974 - John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page jam with Bad Company at the Rainbow Theater
December 10, 1975 - Led Zeppelin play a 45-minute show with Norman Hale at Behan’s in Jersey
December xx, 1976 - Led Zeppelin rehearses for the 1977 tour
December 25, 1976 - It’s announced that Plant and Bonham will reunite with the Band of Joy for three shows in the new year
December xx, 1977 - The band minus Robert gather to discuss Led Zeppelin’s future plans
December xx, 1978 - The new album is completed quickly at Polar Studios and mixed at Jimmy’s Plumpton Studio
December xx, 1979 - John Bonham considers joining Paul McCartney’s Wings
December 29, 1979 - The band minus Jimmy Page attend the Paul McCartney And Wings Kampuchea befefit show
December 04, 1980 - Led Zeppelin issue the following statement not to carry on as a band: "We wish it to be known, that the loss of our dear friend and the deep respect we have for his family, together with the deep sense of harmony felt by ourselves and our manager have led us to decide that we could not continue as we were."
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