Monday, February 26, 2007

Jet Boy Jet Girl

Lost (& Found ) In Translation

Watching the Oscars Sunday night, I heard the Pepsi commercial that features The Presidents of the United States of America covering Plastic Bertrand's "Ca Plane Pour Moi" (which roughly translates as "It's Alright With Me" or "This Life's For Me") and it immediately made me think of the Belgian-based New Wave band Elton Motello's "Jet Boy Jet Girl," a 1978 cult single that recently became available to the masses via John Waters' Valentine's Day-timed CD release A Date With John Waters. Both versions are the same exact song but with different lyrics, Plastic Bertrand's version being sung in French while Elton Motello's is sung in very graphic English, with lyrics referencing oral sex ("He gave me head!") and penetrative intercourse ("Jet Boy Jet Girl/I'm gonna make you penetrate/I'm gonna make you be a girl"). I don't know about you, but watching people drink Pepsi while listening to a song associated with oral sex, well, it leaves a strange taste in my mouth, so to speak.

Here's the Pepsi ad of which I speak:


At work the next day a 20something co-worker mentioned that he thought Plastic Bertrand's version was a cover of The Damned, who did "Jet Boy Jet Girl" as the B-side of their 1982 "Wait for the Blackout" single (technically the B-side was credited to Damned bassist Captain Sensible's side-band, Captain Sensible and the Softies) and he asked me who this guy Elton Motello was, so I set about researching the song and its confusing chicken-and-the-egg-who-came-first history. Turns out Elton Motello was not a guy but a band formed by singer Alan Ward (nee Alan Timms) who in 1974-1975 was in a band called Bastard with future Damned guitarist Bryan James (no doubt where James learned the song that would later turn up in the Damned's repetoire). Here's The Damned doing a live version of "Jet Boy Jet Girl" from YouTube:



According to the "Elton Motello" page on the great British website http://www.punk77.co.uk/, Alan Ward took his Bastard band to Belgium when he got a gig there as a recording engineer at Morgan Studios. Bastards came and went (as they usually do in rock bands!), with James going back to the UK to join Joe Strummer & company in the pre-Clash group The London SS and ex-Pink Fairies drummer Twink joining on the skins for a spell. When Twink left, his replacement was one Roger Jouret who promptly changed his name to Nobby Goff. The Bastards also changed their name at this point to Elton Motello. Guess who Roger Jouret/Nobby Goff became next? Yup: Plastic Bertrand!

But wait, let's backtrack. In 1978, Elton Motello released their frisky punk single "Jet Boy Jet Girl" b/w "Pogo Pogo" on Lightning Records. In the words of the Punk77 website, "From here it all goes a little strange." I'll let them pick it up at this point:
...a French version of the song is created by Lacomblez. Lou De Pryk and Lacomblez were producer and lyricist at RKM publishing at the time and with lyrics too controversial to be adapted Lacomblez created the meaningless stew of words that became 'Ca Plane' Pour Moi' to the tune of 'Jet Boy Jet Girl.'

Interestingly the front person and name for the artist performing this version is Plastic Bertrand. Plastic Bertrand is Roger Jouret, Elton Motello's drummer (that's him on the far left opposite). Even more interestingly it's claimed that Plastic Bertrand was just a front person and did not even sing on any of his records up until 1980 and that the producer of said single called Lou De Pryk again with RKM was responsible for the vocals. A court case in 2006 settled that Plastic was indeed the singer.

So where did that leave Elton Motello and Alan Ward? He seems remarkably sanguine about the whole thing and I think tongue in cheek.
Alan Ward: We have all been ripped off at some point in our lives but judging by the emails I receive my lyric has touched many more people and seems to ring a chord in many more hearts than the French one will ever do. That's why I wrote it. If I was meant to be rich it would have happened. But I am rich in the knowledge that my thoughts will never disappear.

All of this is fishier than a tin of pilchards. Such a blatant steal would have led to a court case. Even more so as the flipside, 'Pogo Pogo', is also done by both artists. Interesting that the Bertrand connection doesn't end at 'Jet Boy' as the second Bertrand single was 'Sha La La La Lee' featured on the Motello album Victim Of Time. Lastly who is the producer of Bertrand's second album, J'ete Fais Un Plan? You guessed it. Alan Ward.

Judging by the amount of foreign sleeves for the single it had a fair crack at the European market not least because they wouldn't understand the true meaning of the words.

Elton Motello went out to record two albums, 1979's Ramonesy Victim of Time (a collection of singles and other items recorded during 1977 and 1978, including a 7-minute version of "Jet Boy Jet Girl", "Teen Pimp" and covers of "Pipeline" and the Small Faces' "Sha La La La Lee") and 1980's Pop Art. According to Ira Robbins' Trouser Press review, "Pop Art is a wholly different affair — synth-pop that aspires to be weird for weird's sake, but with occasional success. The best track is a totally syncopated version of the Who's 'I Can't Explain'; other numbers work New Musik/M dance-pop terrain to good effect." Jet Boy Jet Girl, an 18-track compilation CD of the two Elton Motello albums put out by the Belgian label AMC Records is available stateside from Portland, Oregon's CD Baby Records and as an import CD from Amazon.com and cduniverse.com. But unless you have the original Victim of Time LP, the only other place to find the 7-minute "club version" of "Jet Boy Jet Girl" is on Hardest Hits Volume 5, a New Wave compilation CD from Toronto's SPG Music Productions Ltd. label.

According to Wikipedia, Plastic Bertrand's "Ca Plane Pour Moi" has also been covered by Thee Headcoatees, Leila K, and Sonic Youth. There is also a German version entitled "Bin wieder frei" performed by Benny. In addition to The Damned's version, Elton Motello's "Jet Boy Jet Girl" has been also been covered by the late '70s Brit punk band Chron Gen.

Plastic Bertrand on YouTube:


"Ça Plane Pour Moi" lyrics:
Wham
bang
mon chat "Splash" gît sur mon lit a bouffé
Sa langue en buvant trop mon whysky
Quand a moi peu dormi
vidé
brimé
J'ai du dormir dans la goutière
Où j'ai eu un flash
ouh
ouh
ouh.
En 4 couleurs
Allez hop!
un matin
Une louloute est v'nue chez moi
Poupée de cellophane
cheveux chinois

Un sparadrap
une gueule de bois
A bu ma bière dans un grand verre en caoutchouc
(Ouh
ouh
ouh) comme un indien dans son igloo

Ça plane pour moi
Ça plane pour moi

Moi
moi
moi
moi
Ça plane pour moi
(Ouh
ouh
ouh) Ça plane pour moi

Allez hop!
la nana
quel panard
quelle vibration
De s'envoyer sur l' paillasson
limé
ruiné
vidé
comblé
You are the king of the divan
qu'elle me dit en passant
(Ouh
Ouh
Quh) I'm the king of the divan

Ça plane pour moi
Ça plane gour moi
. . .

Allez hop!
t'occupes
t'inquiètes
touches pas ma planete
It's not today que le ciel me tombera sur la tête
Et que la colle me manquera
(Ouh
Ouh
Ouh) Ça plane pour moi

Ça plane pour moi
Ça plane pour moi
. . .

Allez hop!
ma nana s'est tirée
s'est barrée
Enfin c'est marre
a tout cassé
l'évier
le bar
Me laissant seul ,comme un grand connard
(Ouh
Ouh
Ouh) le pied dans l' plat

Ça plane pour moi
Ça plane pour moi

"Jet Boy Jet Girl" lyrics:
Can you tell what's on my mind
She's with him it's driving me wild
I'd like to hit him on the head until he's dead
The sight of blood is such a high
Ooooohhhh
He gives me head

We made it on a Ballroom Blitz
I took his arms and kissed his lips
He looked at me with such a smile my face turned red
We booked a room into the Ritz
Ooooohhhh
He gives me head

Jet boy jet girl
I'm gonna take you 'round the world
Jet boy I'm gonna make you penetrate
I'm gonna make you be a girl
Ooooohhhh
Jet boy jet girl

I know I'm only just fifteen
I like to kick I like to scream
And even if I had a kink or two in bed with him
You know it's just a dream
Ooooohhhh
He gives me head

Jet boy jet girl
I'm gonna take you 'round the world
Jet boy I'm gonna make you penetrate
I'm gonna make you be a girl
Ooooohhhh
Jet boy jet girl

The other day what a surprise
I saw him with some other guys
God he was dressed up with a girl around his neck
I could have cried with both my eyes
Ooooohhhh
He gives me head

And if and when I make it though
Or if my brain is stuck on glue
And when the world tries to forget all that I said
You know I'll still remember you
Ooooohhhh
You gave me head

Jet boy jet girl
I'm gonna take you 'round the world
Jet boy I'm gonna make you penetrate
I'm gonna make you be a girl
Ooooohhhh
Jet boy jet girl


Elton Motello on YouTube:





Related Links:
Elton Motello (www.77punk.co.uk)
Elton Motello (Wikipedia)
Plastic Bertrand (Wikipedia)
Plastic Bertrand (David Gibbs website)

Plastic Bertrand (Official Website)
A Date With John Waters (Amazon.com)
Elton Motello CD
The Presidents of the United States of America (MySpace)

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3 Comments:

Anonymous Big Tom said...

Tom, thanks for the definitive story about the song(s).

I'll always remember Richard Thompson, as an encore for an acoustic solo performance at the Senator Theatre (1991?), stomping on a previously unused fuzzbox and knocking out a rendition of "Ça Plane Pour Moi." It cracked me up (and probably the two other people in the audience who recognized the song).

1:23 AM  
Blogger javiercrasher said...

a pop song
with a real punk lyric!

a marvellous song
and a great article!

1:38 AM  
Anonymous LARZ GUSTAFSSON said...

http://attackingthebeat.blogspot.com/2009/03/interview-alan-ward-and-mike-butcher.html

1:06 PM  

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