Robert Plant said he celebrated what he called a “pure” era of songwriting with his 2017 cover of “Bluebirds Over the Mountain,” which featured Chrissie Hynde.

The track appeared on his Sensational Shape Shifters LP Carry Fire, 59 years after it became the first song written by rockabilly artist Ersel Hickey. It became a hit for Ritchie Valens and later for the Beach Boys.

“It’s a crooning song, it’s a sexy song,” Plant told Matt Everitt on the latest episode of the singer's Digging Deep podcast. He explained that he often used the Valens version at sound checks and reflected that styles had changed so much that “you’d get shot if you wrote anything like that now.”

“I’d always wanted to sing it, and I was looking for something that I could do that would break up the intensity of the Sensational Space Shifters," he noted. "It’s such a prolific group of guys musically. I suppose it’s sort of the marmite of psychedelic rock – you’re either on it or you’re off it!”

You can listen to the podcast below.

Plant recalled that when he sent a rough version of the recording to Hynde, she replied with “amazing expletives about ‘somebody’s keeping the spirit alive,’ and it was her! She came and added that touch to it, which was really special.”

Responding to Everitt’s suggestion that “you don’t get any more pure” than “Bluebirds Over the Mountain,” Plant said: “It was perfect in the mid-‘50s, when everybody had the wireless on and people sat around it to hear the equivalent of Prairie Home Companion. … It was the dreamscape.”

He added that "teenage angst was an amazing, cute place for all those random individual songwriters and also those nests of songwriters in the Brill Building and places like that. All that sad angst … but there’s always life around the corner, you can see. It’s all gonna be okay. Or not!”


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