Boney M – Rasputin
Boney M. is a vocal group created by German record producer Frank Farian. Originally based in Germany, the four original members of the group’s official line-up were Jamaican-born singers Liz Mitchell and Marcia Barrett, Maizie Williams from Montserrat and Bobby Farrell from Aruba. The group was formed in 1976 and achieved popularity during the disco era of the late 1970s. Since the 1980s, various line-ups of the band have performed with different personnel.
German singer-songwriter Frank Farian (real name Franz Reuther)recorded the dance track “Baby Do You Wanna Bump” in December 1974. Farian sang the repeated line “Do you do you wanna bump?” in a deep voice (entirely studio created) as well as performing the high falsetto chorus. When the record was released as a single, it was credited to “Boney M.”, a pseudonym Farian had created for himself after watching the Australian detective show Boney.
I turned on the TV one day and it was the end of a detective series. I just caught the credits and it said Boney. Nice name, I thought – Boney, Boney, Boney… Boney M. Boney, Boney, Boney M. Nice sound. Simple.
After a slow start, the song became a hit in the Netherlands and Belgium. It was then that Farian decided to hire performers to ‘front’ the group for TV performances. The Katja Wolfe booking agency found model-turned-singer Maizie Williams (originally from Montserrat) and her Jamaican singer friend Sheyla Bonnick for him, along with a dancer known only as “Mike” for the first gigs. Also during 1975, a girl named Nathalie joined but was soon replaced by Jamaica-born Claudja Barry. Then Bonnick and Mike left, and Maizie Williams brought in Bobby Farrell, a male exotic dancer from Aruba. Singer Marcia Barrett (also from Jamaica) joined the group, which then went through another change in line-up when Claudja Barry left in February 1976 to pursue a solo career as a disco singer. Finally Liz Mitchell, former member of the Les Humphries Singers, stepped in. The line-up was finalised with Liz Mitchell, Maizie Williams, Marcia Barrett, and Bobby Farrell.
Take the Heat off Me
Boney M.’s first album, Take the Heat off Me, was released in 1976. It contained tracks that Marcia Barrett had already recorded with Farian, including the title track and “Lovin’ or Leavin'”, both of which were previously recorded in German by another Farian act, Gilla. As Maizie Williams’ voice wasn’t considered suitable for recording purposes by Farian, and a try-out with Bobby Farrell performing “No Woman No Cry” didn’t work, Farian decided to use only Liz Mitchell and Marcia Barrett along with his own studio-enhanced voice to create the Boney M. sound.
The album’s commercial performance was initially lukewarm. However, the group rigorously toured discos, clubs and even country fairs to earn a reputation for themselves. The group’s big break came when, at the end of summer 1976, German television producer Michael ‘Mike’ Leckebusch (of Radio Bremen) requested the group for his show Musikladen. Boney M. appeared on the live music show on 18 September 1976, after 10 pm and in their daring stage costumes, where they performed the song “Daddy Cool”. The song quickly went to no.1 in Germany, with the album following the success of the single. Another single, “Sunny” (a cover of the 1966 Bobby Hebb song) gave the group their second no.1 hit. The group’s popularity had also grown throughout Europe, with “Daddy Cool” reaching no.1 in Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, and Austria. Both singles were also Top 10 hits in the UK, which would become one of their biggest markets.
Love for Sale
In 1977, Boney M. released their second album, Love for Sale, which contained the hits “Ma Baker” and “Belfast”. The group embarked on their first major concert tours with a live band of musicians called ‘The Black Beauty Circus’ (given their name after Maizie Williams’ first band, ‘Black Beautiful People’). Love for Sale was certified Gold a year after its release in the UK. Both singles from the album reached no.1 in Germany and the UK Top 10.
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