Gay Rockers Elton Motello’s Queer Hit Single Was Taken and Straightwashed for the Masses
The song “Ça Plane Pour Moi” by Plastic Bertrand is surprisingly long-lived as a novelty single. It was a worldwide hit at the time — and it’s still beloved, popping up in movies and advertisements.
The song’s lyrics are mostly nonsense — and the fact that the original gay version of the song is totally forgotten? That’s nonsense too.
“Ça Plane Pour Moi” versus “Jet Boy Jet Girl”
In October 1977, “Jet Boy Jet Girl” by Elton Motello was released as a single. The lyrics, written by Elton Motello’s singer, Alan Ward, told the story of a 15-year-old boy who has a sexual relationship with an older man. The narrator is later rejected for a girl.
While a song in 1977 being frank about a gay relationship is surprising, what’s even more shocking is the explicit lyrics. The chorus is:
Jet boy jet girl
Gonna take you ’round the world
Jet boy I’m gonna make him penetrate
I’m gonna make you be a girl
Ooh, hoo, hoo, hoo
Jet boy jet girl
The lyrics also include lines about wanting to beat the older man to death: “She’s with him, it drives me wild / I’d like to hit him on the head / Until he’s dead / The sight of blood is such a high.” But the most memorable thing about the song is the pre-chorus hook: “He gives me head!”
A couple months later, the exact same backing track was recycled by the record company into “Ça Plane Pour Moi.” Elton Motello’s guitarist Mike Butcher explained how that happened:
What happened was that a producer asked us to do two songs for him — kinda punky songs. These two tracks were “Jet Boy Jet Girl” and “Pogo Pogo.”
And this same producer, a Belgian producer, wanted to do a French version, so that’s how Roger [Jouret; lead singer for Plastic Bertrand] came to the studio, and that’s how we met him … That’s why those two tracks, actually the backing tracks, are the same.
“Jet Boy Jet Girl” is also the same backing track that was used for “Ca Plane Pour Moi,” with a different mix, of course. And “Pogo Pogo” is the same thing. So anyway, that’s those two tracks — same backing track.
For whatever reason, the French version became a massive success, while “Jet Boy Jet Girl” was mostly forgotten.
Who Were Elton Motello?
Though Elton Motello had their debut single pulled out from under them, they kept going. In fact — the band had quite a pedigree. Alan Ward’s previous band was the glam-punk outfit Bastard. When Bastard broke up, their guitarist, Brian James went off to form legendary punk band The Damned.
Mike Butcher had been previously making music as Jet Staxx (also his nom de rock for Elton Motello). The two met in Belgium and formed the core of the band.
Elton Motello added two other musicians, Willie Change on bass and former Bastard Nobby Goff for their debut album, Victim of Time. Guests on the album included future Grammy-nominee Robbie Finkel and famed British percussionist Twink from the Pink Fairies. Oddly enough, despite his nickname and band name, none of the Pink Fairies were gay, but they were allies.
The album depicted the gay experience in late ’70s Europe, and it actually got some airplay in Europe. Unfortunately, the United Kingdom and America didn’t play the record due to the lyrical content — but it did get them a huge gay following. As it turned out, “Jet Boy Jet Girl” was a Canadian hit — most copies of Victim of Time you’ll see available nowadays are the Canadian version of the LP.
Two years later, they recorded the follow up album, Pop Art. Unlike Victim of Time, this time their American label was more on board. The label told Elton Motello they were very popular in the New York gay scene.
Unfortunately, even though they were given opportunities (including a planned Canadian tour with Jayne County) and a proposed promotional tour of America, these opportunities fell through. The band broke up; Elton Motello was no more.
Elton Motello’s Legacy
Despite being a short-lived cult band, the right people discovered them. There’s many covers of “Jet Boy Jet Girl” including versions by The Damned, Crocodiles and Laura Jane Grace. The original song also got a second life when John Waters put it on his 2007 A Date with John Waters CD.
The song still has the power to offend — in 1989, Jack Thompson, now known more for his anti-video game crusades, complained to the FCC about the song. Miami radio station WIOD played the song during Neil Rogers’ talk show; Thompson claimed it was obscene, and sadly the FCC agreed. WIOD was fined $10,000 for playing it — about $20,000 in today’s money.
As for Ward and Butcher? After Elton Motello broke up, both became recording engineers and producers. There’s obviously no hard feelings between Elton Motello and the band that ripped them off — Alan Ward produced the second Plastic Bertrand album J’ete Fais Un Plan.
Ward put it best when he told the Scottish Daily Mail:
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.