There’s a common stereotype about the country of Belgium. For some reason, people seem to believe that there are no famous Belgians. It’s not quite an old wives’ tale, but more the sort of thing her boorish husband would trot out if you were unfortunate enough to get stuck talking to him in the pub.
I’m not sure where this misconception comes from. I suppose it’s partly to do with size perhaps – Belgium has quite a small population of around 11 million. The fact that it has three official languages (Dutch, French and German) could also contribute to the idea that it doesn’t have a fully-fledged cultural identity of its own.
And yet, the reality is so different. It’s the country that gave us Rubens and Magritte, Tintin and the Smurfs, Georges Simenon and Jacques Brel. It provides the location for one of my favourite novels, The Erasers by Alain Robbe-Grillet. It gave us Telex, Lio and Sandra Kim.
And of course, Plastic Bertrand:
Ça plane pour moi is Plastic Bertrand’s most famous song by quite a long distance, although he didn’t actually sing on the record. Nor did he actually appear on any of his first four albums. The voice you hear belongs to record producer Lou Deprijck who also wrote and produced the song. Plastic Bertrand was given 0.5% of the rights for jumping up and down and miming along to the song, and you have to admit he does that magnificently.
Today is Plastic Bertrand’s birthday. Regardless of who actually sang it, whack Ça plane pour moi on, turn up your speakers and enjoy three of the greatest minutes in pop music – if thoughts of that man in the White House are getting you down, this will cheer you up.
Happy birthday Bertrand.