With his straggly hair pulled back, a goatee and a family of well-lived in wrinkles marking out several lifetimes, there's nothing plastic about Robert Plant; he has lived fully through several reincarnations, from midlands Beatnik to new Yardbirds singer, priapic 1970s rock god, 1980s survivor, 1990s reviver, and in the last decade, evoking rootsy Americana with 2007's hugely successful Raising Sand with Alison Krauss and the recent Band of Joy project with Buddy Miller and co-vocalist Patty Griffin, to whom he is rumoured to have married. "I eloped and ran off to Texas," is all he'll say, "So now I spend half my time there and half here." There, he lives in what he describes as 'an old crack house in Austin', a rented place infested with termites. "I tap my hand on the table and they fly out the walls in this huge cloud, like something from a Disney film."
Tim Cumming writes: I'm due to meet him in a Russian tea room in Primrose Hill, but find the man instead in the local wine shop, pondering the chiller cabinet. Across the road, there's a café crowded with a half dozen pavement-cramming prams. He makes a joke about fertility cults – you could say he was the centre of one, once – and chooses another café, on the sunny side of the street.