“Wham! Bam! My cat ‘Splash’ rests on my bed. She’s swallowed her tongue while drinking all my whiskey.” That’s the nonsensical opening line to the 1977 radio hit “Ça plane pour moi” by Plastic Bertrand translated from French to English, however, the lyrics don’t seem to make any sense in either language. Widely considered a caricature of the punk era, the three-chord rocker “Ça plane pour moi” (which loosely translates as “This Life’s for Me”) became an anthem for a generation and remains a cult favorite to this day. However, over 30 years after its deranged pop insanity sold millions of copies around the world Bertrand finally admitted that he did not sing the vocals himself, nor indeed any of the vocals from the four acclaimed albums he released as Plastic Bertrand before vanishing from sight in 1982. So how’d this Belgian prankster pull a Milli Vanilli on the world and get away with it for so long?
In summer of ‘77, Belgian producer Lou Deprijck recorded “Ça plane pour moi” at the famous Morgan Studios in northwest London very quickly over the course of a single night. “Two hours in the studio followed by three hours in the pub next door,” Deprijck recounted. He sang the vocal track himself as a pastiche to the punk movement and an appeal to the pogo-pogo dancing punks he’d seen at nightclubs. Guitarist & engineer Mike Butcher remembers that to speed up the tempo, he did a little bit of tampering in the studio to recreate Johnny Rotten’s vocal style. “The song was recorded at a slow tempo and then accelerated afterward, that’s what gave it that particular sound.” John Valcke from the legendary Belgian pop rock group The Wallace Collection played bass and a local from the Belgian jazz and blues scene named Bob Dartsch played the drums. They were all pleased with the final product when it was complete, however, Lou Deprijck feared the song didn’t suit his particular style or persona.
A longtime friend of Lou’s, Eric Rie, knew a punk band Hubble Bubble whose 23-year-old drummer Roger Jouret fit the profile perfectly. Roger was fashionable and wore extravagant outfits that were tacky but picture perfect, to them it was as if he fell from the sky at the exact perfect moment in time. He sang terribly, however, most artists at the time were using playback during TV shows. Determined to get his song its due recognition, Lou Deprijck brainstormed a daring plan to form a partnership with Roger. Roger Jouret was presented as the singer of the “Ça plane pour moi”, and thus Plastic Bertrand was born. “I went to London to buy him a jacket with zippers pierced with safety pins in Malcolm McLaren’s shop, the manager of the Sex Pistols” Deprijck recalls. “When I returned from vacation, three weeks after the album’s release, he was number one everywhere. Honestly, I never thought the song would trigger such a tidal wave. Looking back, I sometimes regret it.”
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