The Story behind Boney M.
by Jon Ritchie
© Copyright Jonathon A Ritchie 2011
The content on this page may not be used on any other site without permisson.
1974 Frank Farian a German record producer went into a music studio in
Offenbach Germany, and recorded a song entitled "Baby Do You Wanna
Bump" which he wrote under the pseudonym of "Zambi", and released this
under the pseudonym "Boney M". By the end of 1975, Television Channels
and Discos in Holland wanted to see Boney M live, since the single made
it to the top of the charts there. Unfortunatley Frank Farian did not
have the guts to go on stage, and so he used an artist agent to find 3
coloured girls and a bloke. Thus the first Boney M was born, with
Maizie Williams, Shaila Bonnick, Nathalie & Mike. This group
was used for press appearences, and live dancing. Soon after Claudia
Barry joined the group, and Nathalie, Mike & Sheila Bonnick
were replaced by Marcia Barrett & Bobby Farrell, shortly after
that Claudia Barry was replaced by Liz Mitchell.
1976 Frank Farian entered the studio again, and recorded their first
album, with himself & Liz Mitchell doing most of the singing,
but Marcia Barrett also did some of the vocals on some of the tracks,
with most of the backing done by other people known to Frank Farian,
including a German singer, Gilla. Boney M
released their 2nd single called Daddy Cool. This single did not make
it into the charts at all when released in April, and neither did the
album "Take The Heat Off Me" which was also released at this time.
However, according to Liz Mitchell in an interview "Every disco in town
wanted to have Boney M", and because of this they were boked to play
several discos over the summer period. After touring these discos they
return and in September the album and single hit the top of the German
charts at the number one spot.
M also released their first single in the UK, and Daddy Cool made it to number 6
in the UK charts, and a slightly differerent release of "Take The Heat
Off Me" came out, with track 4 "Baby Do You Wanna Bump" replaced with
"Help Help" - which is the rarest track by Boney M, as it is only to be
found on the UK release of "Take The Heat Off Me", and this only made
it to number 40, probably due to the cover of the album, which was
rather daring. Then later on that year in Germany the second single
"Sunny" made it to number one, and in March 1977 it made number 3 in
the UK. Boney M now released into the USA but still had an impression
to make in the US, since Daddy Cool made 65 in the charts.
1977 saw the first single from the second album called "Love For Sale".
"Ma Baker" made it to number 1 in Germany and number 2 in the UK,
missing number 1 spot by a whisker, and then in October "Belfast" came
out, which mad number 1 in Germany, and number 8 in the UK, The Album
"Love For Sale", then hit number 1 in Germany, and 13 in the UK, later re-entering
the UK chart at 60, which up until recently was assumed to be the highest UK placing for
Love For Sale.
comes 1978, the most succesful year for Boney M in the UK, first they
release "Rivers Of Babylon" in April, and that hits number 1, and stays
there for 5 weeks, "Rivers Of Babylon" then slides down the chart, but
remains in the top 20, for a large number of weeks, and UK radio
stations get bored of playing the same song, so they play the B side
instead "Brown Girl In The Ring", and it climbs back up the chart to
number 2. They also released the album "Nightflight to Venus" which
made the number one spot for 4 weeks, and was on the UK charts for 65
weeks. The came the single "Rasputin" which made into number 2, and
Boney M ended the year with the Christmas number 1 with the release
"Mary's Boy Child", meanwhile in Germany the 3 singles and album all
made number 1. In the US Boney M scored there first top 40 hit with
"Rovers Of Babylon" which made 30, this was the only single that made
it into the top 40, and they faded from view afterwards in the USA.
record that the band held was the fact they were the first western pop
group to perform in what was called the USSR at the time. Unfortunatley
they were forbidden from playing "Rasputin", however the last line of
"Rasputin" "Oh those Russians", was probably the best part of it for
them, according to Bobby Farrell.
and Boney M enjoyed more success with "Painter Man" reaching number 10
in the UK charts, quickly followed by "Hooray! Hooray! It's A
Holi-Holiday" making number 3, and number 4 in Germany. Then came
another number one in Germany "El Lute", with "Gotta Go Home" as the B
side, in the UK the sides were reversed and "Gotta Go Home" made it to
number 12. Meanwhile the album "Oceans Of Fantasy" made number 1 in the
UK. "I'm Born Again" made it to number 35 in the charts, and Boney M's
popularity started to decline in the UK as "My Friend Jack" reached 57,
"Children Of Paradise" reached 66 and "We Kill The World" reached 39.
was different, "I'm Born Again" made number 7, "I See A Boat On The
River" (with "My Friend Jack" as the B Side) number 5 and "Felicidad"
number 7. Boney M continued to release singles and albums, but with out
a chart impact except in 1980 when "The Majic Of Boney M" was released,
and made number 1 in the UK.
1981 their next album appeared "Boonoonoonoos", and a 2LP limited
edition also appeared. At Christmas their first Christmas Album
appeared called "Christmas Album" in Germany and "Mary's Boy Child -
The Christmas Album" in the UK, and to date they have also relased
further Christmas Albums - "The 20 Greatest Christmas Songs Of The
World" in 1986, "Happy Christmas" in 1991 and "The Most Beautiful
Christmas Songs Of The World" in 1992
1982 Bobby Farrell left the group, and was replaced by Reggie Tsiboe,
who sang on subsequent albums and singles. In 1984 Bobby Farrell
returned, after the group had released their best album (in my opinon)
"10 000 Lightyears", and the group released a single "Happy Song",
under the title of "Boney M - with Bobby Farrell and The School Rebels"
then to ruin it all Boney M released "Kalimba De Luna", a terrible
album, even though it has some rareites on it, becuase all except two
of the songs were shortend to last no more than 3 minutes in length -
the songs that wern't were Kalimba De Luna US Club Mix & Happy
Song Club Mix. This album was released as "Boney M with Bobby Farrell",
and In 1985 there last proper album "Eye Dance" came out as "Boney M
featuring Bobby Farrell", on the cover itself, and the now familler
Boney M logo ,which appears on everything else, dissappered.
only chart activity recorded between 1981 and 1988 was the release of
"The Best Of 10 Years" which made it to 35 in the UK charts during
1986. In 1986 Boney M called it a day and split up.
in 1988 Liz started to tour again, and formed a lineup with her and
Maizie Williams, she also added Curt Dee Daran and Carol Grey. Maizie
Williams was soon replaced by Celina Duncan, who was an artist off Ian
Levine's Nightmare-label on which she released two Hi-NRG-singles:
"Faster Than The Eye Can See" and
"Questions And Answers", and sang the Marcia Barret leads. Frank Farian
then got the orignal 4 back together for the Boney M Reunion. Their
first single they released, "Megamix" made it to number 52 in the UK
Charts. They also released 2 remix albums - "Greatest Hits Of All Times
Remix" & "Greatest Hits Of All Times Remix '89 Volume 2". These
albums contained all the popular songs, but they were remixed and
sounded different. However Liz soon refuses to work ever again with
Bobby and Maizie as she felt harrased by them
at the end 1989 an unoffical version of Boney M came onto the market
without Liz Mitchell, but with Maize Williams, Marcia Barrett, Bobby
Farrell and Madeline Davis (part of La Mama, who backed Boney M in the
late seventies/early eighties). They released a single "Everybody Wants
To Dance Like Josephine Baker". Then in early 1990 a new offical lineup
including Liz Mitchell & Reggie Tsiboe along with Patty
Onyewnjo & Sharon Stevens, but without Maize Williams, Marcia
Barrett and Bobby Farrell, released a new single, "Stories" on single,
but this group did not tour, instead Liz toured with the lineup of Liz
Mitchell, Carol Grey, Patrica Lorna Foster and Curt Dee Daran. During
these two periods no albums with new material were recorded.
herealded an upturn in Boney M's fortunes as the single "Boney M
Megamix" made it to number 7 in the UK charts, featuring a different
B side to the German version which had "Bang Bang Lulu" and
"Babysitter" instead (this charted in Germany) of "Mary's Boy Child".
It was also the start of the Frank Farian UK snub, where hardly
anything was released in the UK, as he must have thought it wouldn't
sell. At the end of 1992 the single "Christmas Megamix" and the album
"The Most Beautiful Christmas Songs Of The World" came out in most
places except the UK. Come 1994, and Curt Dee Daran has left the group
and been replaced by Tony "Tony Tony" Ashcroft.
their 1992 successes, in 1993 the two Gold albums "Gold" and "More
Gold" came out in Germany, and most of Europe. "More Gold" featured 4
new songs - "Papa Chico", "Time To Remember", "Da La De La", "Lady
Godiva" , and a remix "Ma Baker - Remix '93". Both these albums contain
freshups of Boney M Songs. Unfortunatley for the UK "The Greatest Hits"
was released instead (probably due to the fact that after 1980, Boney M
were not succesful at all, and people may not have known their later
songs) This album made it to number 14 in the UK charts. Also in 1993
the single "Brown Girl In The Ring Remix '93" came out in the UK and
reached 38, Also in Germany a further 2 came out as well - "Ma Baker
Remix '93" and "Papa Chico"
comes 1994, and the only releases are the original albums on CD - "Take
The Heat Off Me", "Love For Sale" "Nightflight To Venus", "Oceans Of
Fantsay", "Boonoonoonoos", "10 000 Lightyears", "Kalimba De Luna"
& "Eye Dance", released in most of Europe. Sadly "Nightflight
To Venus" was the only UK CD release.
move to 1997 and there are now 3 lineups of Boney M touring the world -
the one mentioned earlier with Liz Mitchell (the offical one), one with
Bobby Farrell, and one with Maize Williams, Sheila Bonnick (from the
original Boney M), Annis Peter, and a bloke called Kelly. Liz Mitchell
has been in the recording studio to record a new album, coming out at
the end of the year.
in 1997 the compilation album "The Best Of" came out in the UK, and
most of Europe. This CD is a mix of the Remix' 88 album, and some of
their greatest hit songs from the seventies. Finally for UK fans the 3
CD Collection which had been out in Germany for a year came to Tower
Records in London. This is a must have set of CD's if you are a fan as
it contains new versions of some of the songs, and will probably become
a collectors item as well.
1999 Sash was asked by Frank Farian to remix Ma Baker, and this was
released on single. Also on the same single was a remix of Ma Baker by
Horny United called Somebody Scream - Ma Baker. The tracks from this
single form part of the new Remix album, called 20th Century Hits, and
released under the group name of Boney M 2000 in November 1999. Frank
also had other remixers involved in the project - Nouri & Marek
who remixed Daddy Cool & Gotta Go Home, and some Sunny tracks
and Doug Laurent who remixed Sunny & Rivers of Babylon (Club
Mix). Farian provided on the CD inlay a list of all the musicians, and
mentioned that Liz & Marcia did the lead vocals with Frank
doing backing vocals. This album spawned 3 other singled - Daddy Cool,
Hooray! Hooray! It's a Holi-Holiday and Sunny.
2000 BMG Nederland released a brilliant 2 CD compilation album called
25 Jaar Na Daddy Cool. This contained the hit tracks, some Boney M 2000
tracks, including Going Back West (its first release in Europe as its
only available on the South African version of 20th Century Hits)and 3
tracks never before released on CD - New York City, Strange &
The Carnival Is Over. Although this compilation is only available in
the Netherlands & Belgium, I think it is a must have CD. Also
in 2000 Frank released a new Boney M compilation CD - Their Most
Beautiful Ballads. This CD contains some of the really good Boney M
ballad songs - Ribbons Of Blue, El Lute, I'm Born Again etc. On the
cover for this CD, Frank mentions that Liz & Marcia did the
lead and backing vocals, and he doesnt mentioned himself as a singer.
Frank also thanks Reggie Tsiboe for the lead vocals on My Cherie Amour.
We now come to 2001, and Frank Farian releases his first Boney M. DVD, Gold. This is simply a DVD version of the Gold Video from
1993. In the UK BMG Music, decided to release their own DVD, entitled The Greatest Hits, featuring all the tracks available on the
Gold DVD except for Kalimba De Luna. This DVD also featured some bonus tracks as well, Summer Megamix, Brown Girl In The Ring '93, Daddy
Cool '99 and Ma Baker (Sash Remix) along with a new remix of Daddy Cool - Daddy Cool 2001. To support the release of the DVD, a CD was
produced also called The Greatest Hits, and Daddy Cool was remixed by Jewels & Stone and released on CD single.
Come the end of 2003, BMG's contract with Frank Farian to release his material has expired and Frank is without a record label to
release his music. Frank Farian signed with Universal Music in 2005, but they got cold feet shortly afterwards, and Frank signed up with
the newly created Sony BMG Music. This led to the release of the compilation album The Magic Of Boney M. being released in 2006, featuring
a new track recorded by Liz Mitchell "A Moment Of Love" and a remix of Sunny by Mousse T. Frank also released The Magic Of Boney M on DVD,
featuring nearly all the tracks as on the Gold DVD, except for Nightflight To Venus, and includes the track Felicidad. For this release
Frank used some different videos to those used on Gold.
2007 brought the digital remastering of the original Boney M. albums, complete with 2 bonus tracks on each CD. Unlike the original
CD releases in 1994, where Nightflight To Venus was the only CD available in the UK, Sony BMG release the first 4 albums - Take The Heat
Off Me, Love For Sale, Nightflight To Venus and Oceans Of Fantasy to the UK market. One of the bonus tracks on the album
Take The Heat Off Me was "Perfect" a Liz Mitchell recording by Malcolm Magorian that was recorded before Liz met Frank Farian. A year later
the first in the Ultimate Boney M. series was released containing tracks not released on CD such as Help! Help! and long versions such as
the 12" of Gotta Go Home, Rivers Of Babylon & My Friend Jack. Also at this time Sony BMG music relased a few compilation albums with
different version of Boney M. tracks not yet released on CD such as the 7" version of Rasputin.
Frank also gave the fans a treat - a DVD featuring Boney M. live in concert from 1977, and a TV special from Jamaica in 1981, recorded for t
the release of the Boonoonoonoos album. The live concert from 1977, was not a playback concert, with Boney M miming to the records, but
all 4, members of the group singing, thus you get to hear Bobby singing Frank's parts and Maizie joining in as well. 2008 gave the fans another 2 CD's in the Ultimate Boney M. series, and more compilations, with some new tracks on.
Sadly for Boney M, on the 30th of December 2010 Bobby Farrell died from heart problem in a Russian hotel whilst on a concert tour. His
funeral which was held a few weeks later was attended by Liz, Maizie & Marcia and this was the first time they had been together in a
long while. It was rumoured that Bobby Farell was trying to get all 4 members back together, it appeared that Maizie and Marcie were interested
but Liz was not.
At the end of 2010 Frank Farian asked DJ Doug Laurent to remix some Boney M. tracks, following the sucess of Duck Sauce's remix of Gotta G
home called Barbra Streisand, and this album has just gone on sale, featuring 2 new medleys, containing songs by No Mercy, Eruption & La Bouche
as well as some Boney M 2000 remixes and tweaked vesions of Boney M. tracks.