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As the gritty, febrile “Turn It Up” details, Plant’s sense of alienation didn’t dissipate when he drove east of Tunica, Mississippi, to commune with the ghosts of the Delta blues greats who first inspired him: “I’m lost inside America/ I’m turning inside out/ I’m turning into someone else/ I heard so much about/ I’m blinded by the neon/ the righteous and the might/ I’m stuck inside the radio/ Turn it on and let me out.” “Patty and I tried a sort of zig-zag across the Atlantic,” says Plant, “but she didn’t share my penchant for cider and she used to marvel at the Black Country character I became after four pints of Thatchers.My feelings are very much ones of sadness and regret, but I also disturbed myself.Though there’s a genre-hopping, intercontinental bent to the music, lyrically the record is a reflective and deeply personal work about coming home.
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.
“So many things have happened.”What’s happened most recently is Plant’s 10th solo album, Lullaby and... “It’s my life; it’s all of our lives, really,” he says, when quizzed about its title.
The record sees him backed by The Sensational Space Shifters, a sonic brains-trust now augmented by the new recruit Juldeh Camera, a Gambian griot and ritti (single-string fiddle) virtuoso.
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.