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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Ça Plane Pour Moi

A post over at Music (For Robots) sent me crashing happily into the pop-punk gutters lining memory lane this morning. I'd always had the vague impression that one-hit-wonder Plastic Bertand's 1977 song Ça Plane Pour Moi (song links in this post go to full mp3s) was substantially the same as a song by The Damned (really by Captain Sensible and The Softies, but it's been released as The Damned), Jet Boy Jet Girl. A little research uncovered the real story.

It turns out the tune originates with a band that was once called Bastard, and became Elton Motello after guitarist Byran James left for England to form The Damned. Bryan James presumably taught the tune to his new bandmates, and it was released as a b-side on their Wait For The Blackout 7" in 1982. Elton Motello has their own version which is pretty much the same. Meanwhile, Plastic Bertrand began using Elton Motello as a backing band, so they recorded it again with him, but he changed all the lyrics, and sang mostly in French.

So why did the version with unintelligiblly punk, French lyrics blow up in America? Perhaps because the chorus of the original, Elton Motello version, Jet Boy Jet Girl, is "he gives me head". America in the late 70's was not ready for a faux-punk rock ode to homosexual love. Plastic substitued lyrics which, in English translation, are non-threateningly absurd:
Someone poured whiskey on my cat, Splash
And lit him
He went "boof"
While he was on my bed
Normally I'd be all for the more politically interesting original song, but in this case, the urgent cheekiness of Plastic's version with its Beach Boys vocal flourish and lunatic pacing stands out. There are plenty more to choose from, because both versions of this catchy song have been covered by many, many bands.


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