What is the deal with the songs Jet Boy Jet Girl by Elton Motello and Ça Plane Pour Moi by Plastic Bertrand? They’re basically exactly the same, with the obvious difference being the former is quite homosexually explicit and the latter is in French.
I first heard the song on a 1992 covers compilation I owned called Freedom Of Choice. The cover was by Sonic Youth and made its way onto countless mix tapes. I eventually became familiar with the original by Plastic Bertrand from 1977. Then, last year, I heard Jet Boy Jet Girl — also from 1977. What the hell?
I decided to seek answers. And lyrics.
First things first: Ça Plane Pour Moi means “This life’s for me.” Which is kind of funny because the song is all about a marginally homeless guy having a vision in four colours while waking up in the gutter after his cat swallowed its tongue from drinking his whisky. He meets a girl with curly hair, a hangover and a Band-Aid. She drinks his beer out of a rubber mug. They have a fight and he has to sleep on the sofa. They have a spat and she breaks all his stuff and leaves him alone. Cue the chorus.
Jet Boy Jet Girl is not, despite many believing so, an English-language cover of Ça Plane Pour Moi. A Jet Boy, FYI, is slang for someone on speed. The Motello song is about a teen boy who has a sexual relationship with an older man who eventually dumps him for a woman.
The refrain “he gives me hell” really sounds a lot like “he gives me head.” I’m not convinced it isn’t. This, and many other explicit lyrics got the song banned all over the place. It did manage to chart in Australia.
Motello is the moniker of Alan Timms, aka Alan Ward, who used to be in a band with Damned guitarist Brian James called Bastard. Elton Motello (the band) actually made two decent albums — 1978’s Victim Of Time and Pop Art in 1980. Ward/Timms has since worked as a recording engineer and producer. Plastic Bertrand is the stage name of Belgian musician, songwriter, producer and TV host Roger François Jouret.
Unlike Jet Boy Jet Girl, Ça Plane Pour Moi was an international hit for Plastic Bertrand. But Jouret never got any significant royalties. Why? Well, it wasn’t him. Instead, the hit was sung by the man who wrote and produced it: Lou Deprijck. Deprijck was the man behind ’70s Belgian trio Two Man Sound, which had a handful of hits like Disco Samba and this:
So that’s the man actually singing Ça Plane Pour Moi. But, a few months before putting down his vocal, Deprijck had Motello sing his own English lyrics on the same backing track. This is the version of Jet Boy Jet Girl which was released. So technically, Motello’s song was done first but is not a cover. Both songs have the same backing tracks, different lyrics, the same melody, and different vocalists who use a variety of stage names.
While Deprijck sang, wrote and produced Ça Plane Pour Moi, he didn’t write those lyrics. Those were written by Yves Lacomblez, who was part of Two Man Sound with Deprijck.
Both the Plastic Bertrand and Elton Motello singles had the same B-side — a song called Pogo Pogo. Again, same song with different vocals and different English and French lyrics. Though, the singers sound the same. I honestly couldn’t tell you for certain who the singers are. It’s frigging great:
No wonder I was confused.
Anyway, thanks Sonic Youth for inadvertently leading me down this path. They weren’t the only band to cover the song, there have been dozens. Here’s a playlist of those:
And, because the Sonic Youth version isn’t on Spotify, here’s a special YouTube playlist of some of their awesome covers.
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Area Resident is an Ottawa-based journalist, recording artist, music collector and re-seller. Hear (and buy) his music on Bandcamp, email him HERE, follow him on Instagram and check him out on Discogs.