Updated: Dec 17, 2020
Artwork by Justine Eby
In 2015 a friend from Spain came to visit me here in Kansas City, Missouri for the summer. Over the course of that month or two we shared so much music with each other. I showed her Ty Segall, Tyler the Creator, Low, Jonathan Richman, and Hinds among others. She introduced me to Soko, Perota Chingo, Lola Wolf, Los Coronas, and most importantly Plastic Bertrand’s 1977 classic Ça Plane Pour Moi. This song literally has it all: 1950’s rock revival, complicated French lyrics, some slappin’ early punk guitar, a repetitive chorus and a boat load of drama behind the scenes. It’s music is perfectly danceable and the nonsense lyrics are hilariously hedonistic, which is why I consider it one of my all-time favorites.
Despite his worldwide fame, Plastic Bertrand did not write or even record the song. Dutch musician Lou Deprijck actually wrote and recorded the song but chose not to release it because he felt like it didn’t fit his aesthetic. A friend of his knew a 23 year old drummer named Roger Jouret in a band called Hubble Bubble who wore wild and perfectly tacky clothing. Knowing this song would be a hit, Deprijck reached out to Jouret to ask if he wanted to be the front person of a new band to perform the song. Jouret agreed and together they created Plastic Bertrand. While Deprijck on holiday to the tropics Jouret had a television appearance on a program called Rendezvous Sunday and the next day riots broke out all over Europe from people trying to get their own copy of the record. Literally overnight Plastic Bertrand became a global sensation, topping the charts in 6 countries and selling millions of records. While Plastic Bertrand was touring and making countless public appearances, Deprijck was recording vocals for the band’s next songs.
Before Ça Plane Pour Moi was released Deprijck let another musician, Elton Montello, use the same music for a track called “Jet Boy, Jet Girl” a song a boy having sex with a trans teen. This song was pretty shocking for the time and it’s English lyrics made it unwelcome to the radio stations in Belgium who all wanted French-language music to play. While “Jet Boy, Jet Girl” fits the punk aesthetic more genuinely, Plastic Bertrand’s song rose to fame because of its parody of the punk movement.
I recently have decided to try and learn the words to this song, in the original French, which sort of renewed my interest. First off, I only speak some Spanish and a few words in Norwegian, so it is really quite the challenge, but it’s endlessly entertaining and the incredible lyrics really drive home the song’s characterization of the punk movement. It starts with “Wam bam, My cat Splash is lying on my bed, ate his tongue while drinking my whiskey”, which is probably one of the best opening lines ever written. The lyrics are full of exciting nonsense, it’s iconic line “I am the King of the divan” for example, no one really knows what that means, and there isn’t much for context clues in the surrounding lyrics, but it’s such a fun song that no one really cares. I think it rather adds to the wonderful chaos, especially for people who don’t speak French, it is one the few lyrics we can actually sing along to which is why it is sort of brilliant. If you also choose to try and learn the lyrics, or already speak French and have a hard time keeping up with the impossible pace, don’t feel bad. The vocals were actually sped up during the production, Deprijck didn't even sing them that fast!
Ça Plane Pour Moi is a cult classic whose popularity will never end. It has been covered by countless artists such as Sonic Youth, Thee Headcoatees, The Presidents of the United States of America and my personal favourite, Liela K, a swedish musician who released her cover in 1993. Plastic Bertrand, though not the actual singer, performed this song so well that 43 years later it is still a karaoke go-to for millions, as well as a perfect addition to any danceable Spotify playlist. It’s perfect for cruising in a car with your friends, almost any bar ever, or even those at-home dance parties we’ve all become so accustomed to in this world of social isolation. If you haven't listened to it yet, crawl out from that rock you’re living under and go listen!