Lou Deprijck, who has died aged 77, was the co-writer and singer of the pastiche punk classic Ça Plane Pour Moi, a Top Ten hit around Europe in 1978; Roger Jouret, or “Plastic Bertrand”, was credited with the vocal, but it was entirely the work of Deprijck and his colleague Yvan Lacomblez, and had at least one famous fan, Joe Strummer, who described it as “a bloody good record that will get any comatose person toe-tapping, know what I mean?”
Francis Jean Deprijck was born in Lessines, 35 miles from Brussels, in French-speaking Belgium, on January 11 1946. When he was 18 he moved to the capital, where he worked for Belgium’s national phone company.
He began to make his way in the pop world, and his first band was Pop’ Liberty 6, who released Je Suis Pop et Tout à Fait Dingue (“I’m Pop and Totally Crazy”) in 1967. It went nowhere, but in the following decade Deprijck became a key figure in the Belgian music scene and had hits with the Latin-inflected trio Two Man Sound, alongside Lacomblez and Sylvain Vanholme, including the million-selling 1975 single Charlie Brown, and Disco Samba two years later.
Deprijck and Lacomblez (who was known as “Pipou”) established a reputation in Belgium as surrealist provocateurs, alongside the likes of the filmmaker Jan Bucquoy, who established a museum of underpants in Brussels. (Deprijck would later buy the collection from him and install it in a museum in his home town.)
The pair then began working on a project to launch the pop career of Plastic Bertrand. Most of the largely nonsensical lyrics to Ça Plane Pour Moi was written by Lacomblez, with Deprijck adding the title, which translates roughly as “everything’s going well for me”. As Deprijck recalled, “The lyrics are a sequence of unconnected things that a guy, who is stoned, thinks he sees.”
Deprijck wrote the music – a simple three-chord structure befitting the track’s punkish intentions – and hired session musicians to lay down the backing track. The plan was that Ça Plane Pour Moi would be the B-side of Pogo Pogo as Bertrand’s debut single – they were both recorded in two hours – but when DJs showed more interest in the flip side, the songs were reversed.
As well as its success in Europe, Ça Plane Pour Moi became one of the few French-language records to reach the Billboard Top 50 in the US. Another version, meanwhile, had already been released by Elton Motello: Jet Boy, Jet Girl used the same backing track but topped off with a scabrous account of a teenage boy’s relationship with an older man.
In 1978 Deprijck had another big hit, under the name Lou & the Hollywood Bananas, with the reggae/ska track, Kingston, Kingston. He went on to be the “voice” of Plastic Bertrand’s first four albums, but in the 21st century Bertrand – Roger Jouret – claimed full authorship of Ça Plane Pour Moi.
In 2006 he won a judgment naming him as the “legal performer”, and when Deprijck insisted that he was the singer, he was sued by the record company AMC. “I’m the victim,” Jouret claimed. “I wanted to sing but he wouldn’t let me into the studio. This is going to dog me till my dying days. I’m really fed up.”
Deprijck won his case in 2010 after a linguistics expert testified in a Belgian court that based on the accent of the original vocal, he was the singer.
Ça Plane Pour Moi went on to be covered, by, among others, Sonic Youth and Red Hot Chili Peppers, while Martin Scorsese used it in The Wolf of Wall Street when Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his colleagues are arrested.
In the 1980s Deprijck produced records for the singer Sonia Dronier, known as Viktor Lazlo, whom he had met at a nightclub. In later years he moved to Pattaya in Thailand, where his reworking of Kingston, Kingston as Pattaya, Pattaya became the seaside city’s unofficial anthem.
Lou Deprijck is survived by his partner, Vanessa Vanderkimpen.
Lou Deprijck, born January 11 1946, died September 19 2023