With Just A Hint Of Mayhem

Music trivia, useless info, extra added random stuff and the odd rant from me

12 Days To Christmas – Day 11 – Grigori Rasputin December 23, 2017


This is the penultimate twelve days to Christmas post for the blog and we are clearly on day 11. Who is the famous character from history that is the subject of today’s song? well it’s the Russian mad, mystic monk known as Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin. He was born in January 1869 into a peasant family in Siberia and was assassinated by a group of disgruntled noblemen in 1916 aged 47 who were a tad unhappy with his close relationship with Tsar Nicholas II. This was not the first time someone had attempted to assassinate Grigori, a peasant woman tried to kill him with a knife in 1914, but he survived after surgery. In the early 1900’s he effectively became the leader of a small, but growing, religious cult. It is alleged that this is how he came to the attention of the Russian Royal Family. The Royals believed that Rasputin had healing powers which he practised on the Tsar. Rasputin’s daughter Maria once worked as a lion tamer in the USA. In one X-Men story Rasputin was revealed to be an ancestor of Russian mutant Colossus.

Mastodon had a song about Rasputin on their ‘Crack The Skye‘ album from 2009. He was also depicted on the cover of albums by Electronic and the Smashing Pumpkins among others. But none of those are the source of todays song, for that we are going back to 1978 with Boney M; a classic, kitsch Euro Disco band. The single “Rasputin” went to number one in the charts in Germany, Austria, Belgium, France and Australia. It made it to number 2 in the UK. I don’t know if it ever made the Russian charts. Bobby Farrell the male member of the Boney M four piece has a strange and coincidental link with Rasputin. Bobby’s death occurred on the anniversary of, and in the same city, St. Petersburg as, the death of the mad monk, albeit 94 years later. German music artist Frank Farian effectively manufactured Boney M after he began to have some success with his own recordings under that name. He put the band together to front his songs. They went on to become mega successful hitting number one in album and singles charts across the world from 1976 to 1979. The song was included on the band’s 1978 album ‘Nightflight To Venus’.

Boney M get festive!

 

“While shepherds watch their flocks by night, they see a bright new shining star” December 22, 2010


So very nearly there now and definitely onto Christmas songs in my UK Christmas Number Ones Advent Calendar, it’s December 22nd people, are you excited yet? You’re not? Why not? Maybe checking out NORADs Santa Checker will help, click here to find it. In the meantime let me take you back to Christmas 1957, another one from before I was born. This is one of only three songs to reach the Christmas Number One spot more than once. It was also the first song to achieve it. The song in question is “Marys Boy Child” and at Christmas 1957 it was number one in the UK courtesy of the supremely talented Harry Belafonte.

Harry Belafonte with Martin Luther King Jr and Sammy Davis Jr

I remember my Uncle Ben, who incidentally had nothing to do with rice, playing “There’s A Hole In My Bucket” to me on his ukulele. Harry Belafonte had a hit with the song in 1961 as a duet with, according to Wikipedia, Odetta Holmes. However I thought he did the song with Eartha Kitt. My first experience of Eartha Kitt was as her sultry performance in the camp 60s TV version of Batman where she played Catwoman. With hindsight maybe that was the seeds of my sexual awakening!

Anyway Harry’s version of “Mary’s Boy Child” was number one for 7 weeks. Harry first recorded the song in 1956, although it wasn’t released as a single until the following year. The Caribbean island of St Kitts issued postage stamps featuring the song in 1983. It has been covered by many acts, including; Andy Williams, Roger Whittaker, Bryn Terfel, Harry Connick Jr, Three Degrees, Nat King Cole, Jim Reeves, Rolf Harris, Charlotte Church, Juice Newton and of course Boney M.

They didn't have much of a clothing allowance did they?

It was Boney M who took the song back to the Christmas number one spot in the UK at Christmas 1978, their version which formed a medley with “Oh My Lord” was number one for 4 weeks. Boney M were an incredibly successful band in the late 70s, but I really disliked them. They came to prominence when I first started out as a mobile DJ with my good friend Glen Voisey. Thanks to Glen’s brother Gary we were known as Bill & Glen the Disco Men. The group were really the brainchild of German record producer Frank Farian. Their first big hit was “Daddy Cool” which was just about ok, but for me “Brown Girl In The Ring” still resonates as one of my least favourite songs. What do you think of Boney M?

 

 
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