The Story behind Boney M.

by Jon Ritchie
© Copyright Jonathon A Ritchie 2011
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In 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.

In 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.

Boney 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.

May 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.

Then 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.

Another 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.

1979, 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.

Germany 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.

During 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

Come 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.

The 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.

Then 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

Then 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.

1992 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.

After 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"

Along 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.

We 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.

Also 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.

In 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.

In 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.