In the early part of my time in Zeppelin I wrote naively, but I loved all that mystery of the dark past and the Queen of Light.Unfortunately, I had it taken away from me bit by bit.”One of the events that helped him see Zeppelin anew, Plant says – one of “those few magic moments that hit home” – came when he, Page and Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones were gifted “lifetime contribution to American culture” medals by President Obama at a Kennedy Centre Honors bash on 2 December 2012.
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Quotidian as our co-ordinates are, they have resonance: my interviewee says that it was 800 yards from where we are sitting that he first saw Bukka White and Son House, and of course it was at another Hyatt – the one on Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles that Zeppelin dubbed “The Riot House” – that much of the debauchery linked to the band allegedly took place back in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Today, there will be no riding of motorcycles down hotel corridors, just Plant, now almost 66, enthusing about works by Rubens and Caravaggio he recently saw in Dresden, or telling how he once disturbed Bob Dylan putting a sock on to ask him about “Spider” John Koerner.
You can get it wrong a million times, but nobody mentions me and Page floundering our way across the Atlas Mountains with a Nakamichi tape-machine recording Berber tribeswomen.’“Still, who’s to know? All I can tell you is that, whenever I play a good gig with my current band, all that stuff sorts itself out again.“And maybe this new album is the end now for me,” adds Plant, bringing things back up to date and taking me by surprise. It’s like a kaleidoscope: you hold it up to the light, rotate it, and the pieces fall beautifully in different ways, but this record feels different.
Sometimes there are butterflies, she says, but there weren’t this time.
With them comes inevitable speculation about a reunion.
Back in May, Jimmy Page told The New York Times that Plant was “just playing games” with him, but the singer’s quip about his supposed availability in 2014 was likely just a flip attempt to de-fang an excruciatingly tiresome question.I have no intention of asking it, but Plant pre-empts it anyway: “It’s not going to happen – you’d have to exhume.”But if Zeppelin is a definite no-no, less clear-cut, it seems, is the question of whether Plant will work with Page again.In a piece published in Uncut the day after our interview, Plant revealed that, about two years ago, he made a “hands across the water” gesture that the guitarist “walked away” from: “I said, ‘If you got anything acoustic, I’ll give it a whirl.’”Page and Plant’s complex relationship seems coloured by their very different attitudes towards Zeppelin.Though there’s a genre-hopping, intercontinental bent to the music, lyrically the record is a reflective and deeply personal work about coming home.For the most part, the priapic Golden God of old draws upon “the restraint and quietude” he learned while singing with the bluegrass artist Alison Krauss on 2007’s Grammy-grabbing album, Raising Sand.You don’t have time to think about that stuff when you’re bringing up your kids or when you’re running out of drugs, but now I see so many unframed masterpieces around me.”Elsewhere, framed – or at least acclaimed – masterpieces prevail.