Explaining a Weird Sonic Similarity: Elton Motello vs. Plastic Bertrand
This arrived in my inbox from Katie:
I am a student at Nova Scotia Community College studying radio journalism and broadcasting. I am also a self-professed pop culture junkie and I was listening to your show Sunday night as that’s my excuse to go for a drive and take some me time and the episode that was playing on the podcast playlist was sonic coincidences. [Read about the episode entitled “Unfortunate Sonic Coincidences” here.]
One that wasn’t addressed that always confused me so much was the link between “Jet Boy Jet Girl” by The Dammed and “Ça Plane Pour Moi” by French artist Plastic Bertrand. I remember being at an ex-boyfriend’s when he played “Jet Boy Jet Girl” and my ears perked up and I recognized it and told him “What is this, I am pretty sure I know and can sing the French version of this” assuming that they were the same songs and one was just a cover of the other. But upon further listening to The
But upon further listening to The Dammed version the lyrical content was nothing a like Ça Plane Pour Moi!” Further research sent me to “Jet Boy Jet Girl’s”Wikipedia’ page which briefly states they’re the same backing but there’s not really any more information about it. During your research for this episode did you come across this? Just looking to see what you knew about the two songs and what your input is regarding them!
Just looking to see what you knew about the two songs and what your input is regarding them!
Thanks, Katie Baxter
“Jet Boy Jet Girl”/”Ça plane pour moi” is an interesting situation. Let’s start by listening to both.
In the summer of 1977, a group of Belgian session musicians recorded the instrumental tracks for a gibberish-filled French language song that became known as “Ça Plane Pour Moi” (literally “It is gliding for me”) for a producer/artist named Lou Deprijck who was working with a new singer called Plastic Bertrand, whose real name is Roger Allen François Jouret.
Deprijck had initially wanted to use the music for a throwaway B-side to a track called “Pogo-Pogo,” a song designed to capitalize on the punk dance style. Both sides took about two hours to record.
(An aside: The voice we hear on “Ça plane pour moi” does not belong to Fouret. Testimony during a lawsuit revealed that Deprijck is the actual singer.)
Given that the vocals were to be in French, Deprijck also shopped the song to someone who might do something with it in English. After all, it was just a B-side. It was never going to be a hit, right?
The backing tracks landed in the hands of an English dude named Alan Ward, who wrote the sex-filled lyrics for “Jet Boy Jet Girl,” releasing it under the name Elton Motello. That recording ended up being released a few weeks before “Ça plane pour moi’s” re-release as an A-side.
(Another aside: The B-side to Motello’s version was–you guessed it–“Pogo-Pogo.”
Bottom line? The music is exactly the same but with different singers singing about different things in different languages. Alan Ward gets a songwriting credit for the words on “Jet” while a guy named Yves Lacomblez got the co-writing nod on “Ça plane.” The link is the Deprijck’s music.
Over the decades, both songs have been covered a dozen times by everyone from the Dead Boys to Sonic Youth to Leila K to The Presidents of the United States of America. This means Deprijck earned composer royalties from both versions (plus the royalties for all versions of “Pogo-Pogo”) giving him one of the most unusual double-dips in music history.
Alan Cross is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker.
In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.