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Ooh Woo Hoo Hoo! Ça Plane Pour Moi? Non, c’est Jet Boy, Jet Girl

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Elton Motello – Jet Boy, Jet Girl (Pinball Records)

Until last night I was unaware that Elton Motello had ever been captured by a television camera. It turns out, though, that they’d appeared on European TV a number of times and on mainstream shows at that. Even though the song they were performing contained unapologetic lyrics about a fifteen year old boy having sex with an older guy and the repeated lyric ‘He gave me head’.

I guess the language barrier worked in their favour here and this also likely counted in their favour with the singer’s Fuck You T-shirt.

Don’t you just have to love any act that gets their big chance on TV and the singer chooses that T-shirt and covers his hair and face in talcum powder. Which he proceeds to shake off by slapping his napper at various strategic moments. Very strange times.

  
Discussing the single’s prospects in Britain with Alan Walton in Sounds, singer Alan Ward was circumspect: ‘We knew it wouldn’t get any airtime, but we thought, what the hell, it’s a good song so we’ll put it out anyway.’

Elton Motello grew out of the band Bastard, a Crawley act that took inspiration from The Stooges, MC5 and Alice Cooper. And here I should mention that like the early Alice Cooper, Elton Motello is the name of the singer and band. Ward later described Bastard as a ‘pre new wave thrash band’. One of their songs, Dr Gong, has been called an ancestor of New Rose, Brian James being at the time the band’s guitarist.

The Bastard boys decided to decamp to Belgium when singer Alan Ward was offered a job as a recording engineer in swanky new Brussels studio Morgan. They had set out to find a more imaginative audience but although they performed in Belgium, Holland and France they were largely ignored, just as they’d been on home soil.

Brian James returned home and made connections with Mick Jones and Tony James, tentatively joining their band London SS before forming The Damned while Bastard morphed into Elton Motello.

Concocted in the studio with Ward and Brian James replacement Mike Butcher, together with a couple of session musicians, Jet Boy, Jet Girl is sometimes thought to be a cover version of international hit Ça plane pour Moi.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. It was recorded and released before Plastic Bertrand’s version. The two tracks, incidentally, also utilize the same galloping backing track.

 
Designed as a pastiche, a cash-in on punk, Ça plane pour Moi went on to be a big hit around the globe in 1978. Hollywood loves it and in recent years it’s made an appearance on Scorcese’s The Wolf of Wall Street (when Jordan Belfort is arrested) and in The Perks of Being a Wallflower during a party scene. There’s been a steady stream of covers too, including unexpected takes on the song from Sonic Youth, Thee Headcoatees, Richard Thompson and Nouvelle Vague.

Pepsi even used it for an ad recently, so, if the two songs had been adversaries and involved in a commercial mano a mano then Ça plane pour Moi really wins hands down. I do prefer Jet Boy, Jet Girl myself even though Plastic Bertrand does a good pre-chorus ‘Ooh woo hoo hoo’.

Okay, when I say that I should explain that for years there was a debate on who actually sang on the hit: Roger Jouret, the ‘singer’ who appeared as Plastic Bertrand or the song’s co-writer and producer Lou Deprijck.

After years of acrimony and threats between the pair, the argument ended in court, when a Belgian judge acted on the opinion of an expert linguist who, after hearing the 1977 hit attributed to Plastic Bertrand and the 2006 version by the producer concluded that Deprijck had sung on both.

Jouret later finally admitted that he is indeed not the vocalist on Ça plane or any of the songs on the first four albums released under the Plastic Bertrand moniker.

Wham Bam!

Strange how many feelgood songs have acrimonious stories behind them.

Prince of Players, Pawn of None

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T. Rex: Dandy in the Underworld (EMI)

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Like most 50-somethings I truly believe that I was lucky to grow up with some of the most exciting music imaginable.

Even before I’d reached my teen years there was Bowie, Roxy Music, Alice Cooper, Slade, The Sweet (yeah!), Mott the Hoople, Lou Reed, Cockney Rebel, Sparks and more who all seemed to routinely bring out a sparkling new album every year (or maybe even two albums in the same year) and make regular must-see appearances on Top of the Pops to be dissected at length in school the very next morning. Bliss it was in that glittered and feather boa’d dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven. Well, that’s how it felt at times.

Firstly though there was T. Rex fronted by glam rock trailblazer, Mr. Mark Feld, better known as Marc Bolan.

Bolan’s first words to manager Simon Napier Bell back in 1966 were supposedly: ‘Hi, I’m a singer and I’m going to be the biggest ever British star.’ Marc really did patholigically crave fame and although not many would argue that he achieved that particular mid-’60s prediction, for a couple of years at the height of T. Rextasy in the early 1970s, few would have totally dismissed the idea as his band let rip with a string of pure pop classics with crunching guitar hooks that instantaneously lodged in your brain – Ride a White Swan, Hot Love, Get It On, Jeepster, Telegram Sam and Metal Guru – that my fellow children of the revolution lapped up.

They all still sound fantastic today.

The world of pop was fast-changing back then and, by 1972, Bolan was already talking of how his success couldn’t last, that the fans’ tastes would change as they got older, how they would want to find new stars to adore and how pop music was all based on cycles anyway.

This proved to be a more accurate prediction. Soon there were no sell-out shows at enornodomes throughout the country, no ex-Beatles wanting to colloborate on films and diminishing sales returns. Bolan’s Zip Gun, released in February 1975, failed to even chart in Britain, although a single taken from it, Light of Love was a minor hit; the follow up, though, Zip Gun Boogie, stalled just outside the top forty.

Critics at NME and elsewhere loved to sneer, especially about the few extra inches that had been added round his waistline. By 1977, Marc looked to many like yesterday’s man, a little washed up, still capable of making some very good music but far from the sensation of his Electric Warrior days.

Yesterday’s man, though, had a few aces up his sleeves. He recorded an album Dandy in the Underworld, which was likely his best since The Slider and he notably became one of the relatively few elder statesmen of rock and pop to fully embrace punk, persuading The Damned to support him on his British tour and launching Dandy that March at London’s punk central, the Roxy in Covent Garden.

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He also agreed to host the late afternoon ITV pop show Marc where he showcased many of his own tracks as well as inviting on the likes of The Jam (or Jam as he introduced them), The Radio Stars and Generation X. ‘They have a lead singer who’s supposed to be as pretty as me,’ Marc cooed as he introduced that latter group while sniffing a flower. ‘We’ll see now.’ He didn’t look too convinced by the possibility.

In his new book, The Age of Bowie, Paul Morley describes Marc’s presenting style as: ‘a cross between kindly wizard, scatterbrained sweetheart and lapsed hipster, as though his years as pop star had made him possessed by a general sense of mind-altering cosmic jive.’

Marc, as you’ll see, may have looked kindly on the new breed and even went as far as to introduce a ripped T-shirt into his wardrobe but he wasn’t quite ready to completely ditch the satin, mascara and Tolkien.

Taken from Marc, here is Dandy in the Underworld:


The highlight of the entire series promised to be the duet with David Bowie that would close the sixth and final episode of the show. Since the 1960s the two men had been involved in a (usually) friendly rivalry, with Bolan winning the race for superstardom before Bowie came up on the rails, racing ahead in both the artistic and commercial stakes with Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane.

In fact, by 1977, the rivalry looked as lopsided as the footballing one between England and (West) Germany. By this point Bolan maybe wished that he had set himself up in competition against someone who didn’t quite possess the stratospheric capabilities of musical invention and consistent reinvention of Bowie; Ian Hunter, say, of Mott the Hoople or Steve Harley – who incidentally provided some backing vocals on the Dandy album.

The tour and album and even the TV series did though help rehabilitate Bolan but as you’ll know, his comeback was cut sadly short. On the sixteenth of September, Marc was killed instantly when his Mini 1275GT, driven by girlfriend Gloria Jones, crashed into a steel-reinforced fence on Barnes Common only a mile away from their home, before hitting a sycamore tree.

Recorded only days before his untimely death, the final episode of Marc was shown eight days after his funeral (attended by Bowie, Tony Visconti, Steve Harley, Rod Stewart, members of The Damned and hundreds of fans). Their race against the clock jam was an anti-climax and ended embarrassingly for Bolan, who tripped over a wire causing him to fall off the stage, although the incident is mostly hidden by the programme credits.

Better though is Bowie in his solo slot. This is “Heroes”:


Footnote.

Bolan had also taken on the task of penning a regular column for Record Mirror and, a month before his own death, Marc had commented that it was sad that Elvis was gone but that it was probably better that he went before he turned into the Bing Crosby of rock’n’roll. Bizarrely enough, not long afterwards Bowie agreed to bridge the generation gap by appearing on Bing Crosby’s annual Christmas TV special, the pair performing Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy.

Track One on Damned, Damned, Damned by The Damned

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THE DAMNED: NEAT, NEAT, NEAT

So far, in no particular, order, we’ve had Ignore Them by Eddie and The Hotrods, Ain’t No Surf in Portobello by The Valves, No Russians in Russia by The Radio Stars, XTC’s Radios In Motion, Space’s Magic Fly, Pirate Love by The Heartbreakers and Wire’s Three Girl Rhumba.

And now for the eighth in the series, the second single by The Damned, Neat, Neat, Neat which was also the lead off track on their debut album, 1977’s Damned, Damned, Damned.

The Damned - Neat, Neat, Neat Cover

A few weeks ago Captain Sensible turned 60 and celebrated by throwing a party at the Forum in London, where he performed with his band and support acts, The Ruts, T.V Smith, Johnny Moped and Eddie Tenpole Tudor.

Cost to punters?

£1.70 as the he wanted the ticket price to reflect what might have been charged in 1977 although when The Damned headlined the Glasgow Apollo that year, the concert ended up being free but that’s another story for another time.

Anyway, I ask you: ‘What’s not to like?’

Well one Guardian reader still felt that a moan was in order and this is what she had to say:

Yet another band that have become exactly what they set out to destroy.

In the 70s bands like the Slits, Gang of 4, the Raincoats, the Au Pairs and others focused on the burning issues of the day and helped out organisations like Rock Against Sexism and Rock Against Racism. The Damned on the other hand behaved like little brats playing practical jokes on each other and in the case of Captain Sensible dressing in a nurse’s uniform.

Sad to think that legions of fans (mainly middle aged men) still believe they are in any way, shape or form relevant.

They never were.

Okay firstly, this particular supposedly sad middle aged man has watched a lot of documentaries on punk over the years and knows there’s usually a point early on in most of them when archive footage of mountains of black plastic bagged debris strewn across London’s Leicester Square is shown to illustrate the unhealthy state of the pre-punk nation – although these images are actually from the so-called Winter of Discontent of 1978-79.

This is when the Captain tends to get wheeled out, wearing his trademark red beret, to berate the typical supercilious prog rock musos of the mid ’70s, intent as they were on fitting their latest ludicrous concept onto four sides of vinyl to be wrapped in some airbrushed fantasy landscape fold-out sleeve preferably designed by Roger Dean.

CUT TO:

INT. EMPIRE POOL, WEMBLEY

A ridiculously caped Rick Wakeman mauls his keyboard as part of his performance of The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table live on ice with accompanying ‘balletic’ skaters.

This was the kind of the thing The Damned set out to destroy.

As for politics, at the time, yeah, The Damned were more interested in snorting honkfuls of speed than reading up on Situationism and probably more likely to start a food fight with each other than fight any fascists but Sensible has claimed to have always been a socialist and, over the years, he’s become even more politically inclined.

His debut solo record was released on Crass Records in 1981, he’s been a member of the Green Party, a campaigning vegetarian, oh, and in 2006 he even founded his own political party, the Blah! Party, aimed at attracting protest votes.

Relevant? Well The Damned were at the forefront of the early London punk scene, playing the kind of fast and furious music that has influenced hundreds of bands ever since. They were also famously the first British punk band to be signed by a record label, the first British punk band to release single and the first British punk band to release an album. At least back then I think you’d have to say that, musically, they were undoubtedly relevant.

They were fantastic fun too, fun being something I suspect the person I quoted might have only a very passing acquaintance with. See what you think, here they are performing Neat, Neat, Neat on ITV’s Supersonic in the spring of 1977: