It Was a Shame How He Carried On (Or, What I Learned From Boney M…)

There was a certain time, not so very long ago, when you couldn’t walk into a house in Ireland without tripping over vast piles of James Last or Boney M records. My family home had them. Your family home had them. Homes that didn’t even have record players had them. You’d find them in fields and car-parks, just sprouting out of the ground.

Most ubiquitous of all Boney M releases was (the delightfully named) Night Flight to Venus.

One of my earliest musical memories is of falling over a coffee table while wobbling along to “Brown Girl in the Ring”. About 12 years after that I fell into a Christmas tree while “dancing” to The Pixies. Plus ça change…

It wasn’t all about pain with Boney M, however, it was also about…education. If it hadn’t been for Frank Farian and the gang it might have been many years before I learned that Grigori Rasputin was both “a cat who really was gone” and “Russia’s greatest love machine” (an insatiable, and unkillable, early-20th century disco stud). Thus, while still in short trousers, I became seduced by the impossible sexiness of all things Russian and revolutionary. It’s most likely Boney M’s fault that I find the sight of an embalmed Lenin sexually arousing.

So potent were such memories that when I stumbled across the below a couple of years ago I almost fell over a coffee table (again) with excitement (even though none were nearby).

OK, first of all, there’s that sleeve. And second of all…there’s that sleeve. It’s like Smell the Glove – only real. The reverse is less jaw-dropping, but excitingly reveals that track 3 of side 1 is “Belfast”.

Those who (like me) had experienced their first history stiffy listening to the goatish exploits of the bould Grigori might be drooling at this point. Wondering what nuggets of sex-disco wisdom are about to be laid upon us RE: The Troubles. The results are disappointingly non-lurid and blandly nonsensical.

Here was a golden chance to create something spectacularly tasteless. Something that would attach an erotic charge to their tanks and their bombs and their bombs and their guns. Disco Semtex. Conflict porn. But they fucking blew it.

Ah well. I’ll always have sexy dead Lenin.

(by fústar)

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9 thoughts on “It Was a Shame How He Carried On (Or, What I Learned From Boney M…)

  1. nlgbbbblth says:

    My mum had Night Flight To Venus. I think it was the first record I physically put on the turntable. A couple of years back I picked up a Boney M tribute album at a record fair. How the wheel turns. As for James Last – well let’s just say he’s got his own shelf in my house.

  2. Paul C says:

    The song was originally called “Londonderry”!

    • fústar says:

      Would have been, er, interesting to hear the Boneys struggle with both the multisyllabic and political complexities of that name. Also, I’m sure Night Flight to Venus was so named because of “Venus” rhyming with, well, you know….

  3. Nam Citsale says:

    Blandly nonsensical? A meticulously wrought lyrical matrix of Beckettian repetitions and elisions, adumbrating an aporia borne of profound socio-political trauma, blandly nonsensical? And surmounted by an album image brilliantly and transgressively reclaiming AND interrogating the problematic sexual ethnographic semiotics of the ‘Mandingo’ era? No, blandly nonsensical, i won’t have that. The most splendidly incendiary political pop since ‘Lebanon’ by The Human League or ‘Russians’ by Sting, perhaps?

  4. Nam Citsale says:

    At least, unlike myself, messrs herriman and sachs would have known what they were talking about. Still, there may be the germ of a music hall gag there, ‘eeh i were wi’ t’ doctor t’other day and he says ooh i don’t like the look of that son i’m afraid i’ll have to adumbrate your aporia (i don’t know what you’re laughin’ at missus)…and do you know what ever since i don’t know if i’m comin’ or goin’, i tell thee…’

  5. fústar says:

    Mr. Paul Tarpey has been struggling to get a comment on this thread for some time. WordPress gremlins or some such. Anyway, Paul emailed it to me so here it is:

    “Sometime in the 80s Boney M did a PA in The Travellers Friend hotel in Castlebar Co Mayo. Although booked just for a PA their profile, due to radio and TV, suggested the traditional format of a full show for an audience in Castlebar. How could stars of their calibre do nothing but a spectacular night of their own and others hit songs.

    The concept of a 15 minute PA was unknown and a then most unwelcome addition to the menu of a night out in Mayo as the rhythm of the night dictated courtship rituals around the pace of the lounge bar. A band had better be there for those who arrived early and be prepared to be in a full flight of hits for those who had stopped off in other spots before gracing the venue in question for courting. The Travellers Friend was a familiar watering hole on the showband trail and no matter who was billed the format was securely set.
    Even an exotic vist had better conform to this template. The entertainment would always remain secondary.

    After 3 songs and a goodnight there was a brief silence as it dawned on the full crowd that 15 minutes of Boney M was all they were going to get. Then, more or less, a riot occured with the management struggling to convince the act to ‘finish’ the gig. The act struggled to explain to the management that the gig was all the music that they had just heard on tape. A contentious solution was found as the tape was audibly rewound and the PA began again. This playing with temporality or stripping of artifice did not register well with the crowd or add any thing, even humour, to the established set up. The transgression is still mentioned in Mayo.

    The Travellers Friend is still in operation. One of its biggest gigs ocasionally is the Joe Dolan video night. Here, a video of Joe in concert is shown and fans who travelled to see him before his death, regroup for a night of hits.

    There are also DJ nights there where one can be sure to hear the Duck Sauce hit, ‘Barbra Streisand’, a song I believe that samples Boney M.

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