Monday, September 27, 2010

New Wave for the New Week #85

This week's NW4NW entry is unusual in that it is as much about the story behind and history of a specific song as it is about a particular artist.

We begin with a Belgian musician by the name of Roger Jouret.  In the mid-1970s, Jouret was the drummer, singer and main songwriter for the post-glam, proto-new wave band Hubble Bubble (perhaps best known for their cover of The Kinks' "I'm Not Like Everybody Else").  When that band's bass player was killed in automobile accident in 1977, the remaining members of the group went their separate ways.  Jouret launched a solo career, assuming a purposefully ironic Punk Rock pose and rechristening himself as Plastic Bertrand. Bertrand hooked up with producer Lou Deprijck, who had just recorded a demo of a song called "Ça Plane Pour Moi" (translated alternately as "All's Well With Me," "All's Cool With Me," and "That Flies With Me").  Sung in idiomatic French in a near monotone over a chugging melody, the single appeared in December of 1977 credited to Plastic Bertrand.

With his prepackaged image and easily hummable song, Bertrand began showing up all over European television, propelling the song to hit record status in France, Belgium and the UK.  But a nasty rumor had begun: Plastic Bertrand  was, in fact, so plastic as to not be the real voice on the record!  Jouret insisted that was him on the single for many years, until 2006 when a linguistic expert concluded that Bertrand could not possibly have been the singer. In fact, it is Lou Deprijck's original demo vocal that is heard; the backing track was recorded with a variety of anonymous studio musicians, so Jouret did not actually appear on the single at all! (And you thought such scandals began with Millli Vanilli!)

This was not the only controversy associated with "Ça Plane Pour Moi." In November of 1977, just a few weeks before the Plastic Bertrand single hit the shelves, another artist, Elton Motello, released a very similar single, "Jet Boy/Jet Girl."  In fact, Motello's record used the same studio-session backing track as "Ça Plane Pour Moi," but replaced Deprijck's French vocal with Motello's English.  Motello had written completely new lyrics, unrelated to "Ça Plane Pour Moi," for his song. He also looked to capitalize on the Punk/New Wave movement with his exceedingly graphic, designed-to-shock tale of a gay young man losing his older, bi-sexual lover to a woman.  While the lyrics may still seem a bit extreme in today's climate, in 1977 they were positively scandalous, and the record was banned from airplay in many places.

Because Motello's record had hit the shelves first, and since Motello had listed the title on the single's sleeve as "Jet Boy/Jet Girl (Ça Plane Pour Moi)," many people in non-French speaking countries assumed that one was a direct translation of the other.  This created a minor backlash against Plastic Bertrand's record as being obscene at worst, and an odd foreign-language cover at best.

Through all it's crazily twisted backstory, "Ça Plane Pour Moi" has remained a very popular song and a staple of classic New Wave compilation albums and club playlists where early Wave is featured. It has been covered by artists ranging from Sonic Youth to The Presidents Of The United States Of America to Kim Wilde; it's evil twin song, "Jet Boy/Jet Girl," has been covered by bands including The Damned and Chron Gen.

So here's the single that started all the trouble, Plastic Bertrand's "Ça Plane Pour Moi." Enjoy!

Plastic Bertrand - Ca Plane Pour Moi

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