The year was 1978 and at the age of 9, i was starting out on my voyage into music. At what age are the seeds of your future adult music preferences sown? They say the most informative years are found in your early youth, and for my generation, who did not have access to any type of music, you basically had to listen to what your parents were listening to as we did not have remote controls or youtube or any entry level to music. All you had on TV was Top Of The Pops as music videos had not been invented in 1978, we had to wait on this side of the world for Video Killed A Radio Star to air as the first Video played on MTV in 1980. My Dad was an Elvis fan and I remember playing Elvis on the old 8 Track tapes that preceded the Cassette Tape in the car radio unit of his old Hillman Hunter car. There is a deleted scene from Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction movie that referenced people taste in music at that time “there are only two kinds of people in the world, Beatles people and Elvis people. Now Beatles people can like Elvis and Elvis people can like the Beatles, but nobody likes them both equally. Somewhere you have to make a choice. And that choice, tells you who you are.” I was an Elvis man.
Elvis has just died a year earlier in 1977 and a huge void was left in the musical world the swagger and magic had gone. American disco was sweeping in across the atlantic due to the success of the movies Saturday Night Fever and Greece, which were released in 78 alongside the classic Si-fi movies Star Wars and Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. With the invasion of American Disco, German singer-songwriter Frank Farian put together a group to cash in on the disco craze and named it Boney M. Rather than being one hit wonders, they released a number of huge international hits and sold over 80 million records. They were based in West Germany, and its four original members were Liz Mitchell and Marcia Barrett from Jamaica, Maizie Williams from Montserrat and Bobby Farrell, a Dutch performer from Aruba. It was Bobby that had the style and moves, he could not sing which suited Farian who was the voice behind Bobby’s good looks and dance skills which can be seen in the video we feature today – Rasputin.
It was the cold war era between Russia and America with Germany trying to break away for the Soviet bloc’s infulence and power which they won after capturing Berlin and ending WW2, ensuring victory for the allies. It was the Russians that first liberated the concentration camps and provided food and water for those that survived the Holocaust. The track poked fun at a central figuer of Russian political life, Gregori Rasputin, an infamous Russian Priest who was said to have magical healing powers and influenced the Russian court of Tsar Nicholas II. It referenced the rumour that Rasputin had an affair with the Czars wife while he was away fighting in WW1. “Russia’s greatest love machine”, “to Moscow chicks he was such a lovely dear”, words that today would cause an international crisis. Due to his power and infulence in Moscow, a hit was put out on Rasputin’s life and after a number of failed attempts, they made no mistake by ambushing him in a safe house, shooting him in the head at close range three times. It was not the only politically motivated track that Boney M recorded as they also sang about the IRA campaign in Belfast.
The song itself was quite a catchy track and had an infulence on me personally due to the mystery and intrigue that surrounded Rasputin. Critics labeled the track “the oddest, most unusual and interesting combination of musical elements” referring to its Turkish Folk song roots using balalaikas to create its distinctive guitar hook. For a nine year old, it was an exotic sound emanating from the East, a region we knew very little about musically. Maybe that is where my interest in Ibiza came from – the search for the exotic. While it was a popular hit in Russia, the Kremlin banned the song from being performed there and in a strange coincidence, Bobby Farrell, the male lead of Boney M, was found dead in a St Petersburg Hotel room on the anniversary of, and in the same city, as Rasputin’s death on December 20th 2010.