15
Aug 08

BONEY M – “Mary’s Boy Child/Oh My Lord”

FT + Popular69 comments • 6,759 views

#430, 9th December 1978

Christmas is a time for the kiddies, but I can’t say Boney M made much impression on this five-year-old: “Mary’s Boy Child” was never quite a first-division carol for me, and as for Frank Farian’s unique contribution to the mythology of Christmas, “Oh My Lord” just didn’t register.

Much though I’d love to be writing a hearty defence of Boney M here, this second No.1 shows them at their worst: self-editing doesn’t seem to be a Farian skill and at almost six minutes this is cripplingly long. It’s a frothy bubblebath at first – the girls’ creamy vocals and the rippling steel drums ushering you into a grotto festooned with Christmas tack – but by the end the water’s getting cold and your toes are looking horribly crinkly. The problem is that the group do the entire of “Mary’s Boy Child” – not in itself a short song – and then go into the “oh my lord” routine. Everyone seems to be on autopilot, and the vim which makes their good songs good is mostly absent (Poor old Bobby Farrell looks unimaginably bored in the video). Go back and listen to “Rasputin” instead.

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Comments

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  1. 31
    Waldo on 15 Aug 2008 #

    My family possessed the Harry Belafonte version of this from 1957, the year my brother was born, and as I grew up, I fell in love with it, along with the B-side “Eden Was Just Like This”. I was thus perfectly primed for Boney M to revive MBC and correspondingly had a quota of affection for it, which I otherwise would not have had.

    Unlike Harry B, Boney M segue the song into “Oh My Lord”, an offering which Doctor King would have labelled a “negro spiritual”, a term which simply would not be used today. Certainly it was nice having such an overtly Christian hymn at number one at Christmas, but again, this today would also now probably be hit on the head by the BBC and the Church of England, whose Guardianista leaders would jump up and down and insist that the record offends citizens of other faiths and one faith in particular, despite no protest at all coming from the good people these white middle class loony tunes claim that they are “protecting” against the evils of life in the very nation in which they have chosen quite freely to live.

    Merry Christmas.

    Oh, sorry…Happy Holidays!

  2. 32
    Conrad on 15 Aug 2008 #

    Tom, can you try and time it so that when we get to this Christmas you are covering a Christmas Number 1?!

    It would be a nice touch and, more to the point, I’m confused by the sunshine outside….

  3. 33
    Tom on 15 Aug 2008 #

    Last year I reviewed “Lonely This Christmas” on Xmas Eve and I think was a lot more generous about it for that reason!

    I doubt – even with my current decent pace – I’m going to hit the next really Christmassy Christmas No.1 by Christmas, sadly.

  4. 34
    Mark G on 15 Aug 2008 #

    There was one year, the highest “christmas” record in the chart was “No Christmas” by the Wedding present.

  5. 35
    Billy Smart on 15 Aug 2008 #

    Looking at the 1978 chart, there are only 2 other Christmas themed records in the Top 40; Father Abraham & The Smurfs, ‘Christmas In Smurfland’ and The Eagles, ‘Please Come Home For Christmas’

  6. 36
    LondonLee on 15 Aug 2008 #

    God this is horrible. My main memory of it is working at WH Smith that Xmas and we had boxes and boxes of the bloody thing piled up everywhere behind the counter. We sold them all too.

    Records like this are why people who work in shops hate Xmas, we had to listen to this sort of rubbish all day (with the only joy being when I could get Phil Spector’s Xmas album on the turntable).

  7. 37
    Malice Cooper on 15 Aug 2008 #

    Boney M could really do no wrong. Farian found a formula and stuck to it and this definitely worked. They did look hilarious dressed as snowmen however…

  8. 38
    Waldo on 15 Aug 2008 #

    I don’t know anything about being trapped behind a counter in Smiths but surely piped Xmas music in shopping centres is the truer evil. I can recall being dragged around the Bentalls Centre, Kingston, by t’other half one yuletide and being subjected to “Stop The Cavalry” three times on the bounce. I turned to Lizzie (who being a bird surrounded by shops was obviously completely oblivious to my torment) and told her that all I wanted to do at that point was “stop fucking Jona Lewie”. She looked at me quisically and said: “I suppose this means you’re going to start drinking now”, which was a peculiar bolt from the blue but not acually unadjacent to the truth. It was the spare room for me that night.

  9. 39
    rosie on 16 Aug 2008 #

    What exactly was the point of Bobby Farrell in Boney-M?

  10. 40
    wichita lineman on 16 Aug 2008 #

    I assumed Bobby WAS Boney M when they first appeared, as I’m sure a few others did. Daddy Cool and Rasputin wouldn’t be much without him.

    On MBC, they sound bored stiff, which comes across in the grooves and makes for possibly the dreariest Christmas no.1 ever. Harry Belafonte’s version has a genuine sparkle and feeling of hushed wonder, especially on the “Hark now hear…” line (I’m a humanist so any religious reference has to REALLY work to get me). It’s steamrollered in the Boney M version.

    Oh My Lord was presumably a cheap trick to earn Frank Farian 50% of the writing credit.

  11. 41
    Malice Cooper on 16 Aug 2008 #

    “Oh My Lord was presumably a cheap trick to earn Frank Farian 50% of the writing credit.”

    How cynical Wichita ! My German friend said it was well known that Farian did the voice of Bobby and probably the girls too. (what was she suggesting?). Is it really more dreary than Johnny Mathis ?

    Boney M’s first single “Baby do you wanna bump” is actually superb. Sadly time has proved you often have to make dross to make it big.

  12. 42
    mike on 17 Aug 2008 #

    Oh My Lord, that’s 5 minutes and 40 seconds of my Sunday afternoon that I’ll never get back. In marked contrast to “Rivers Of Babylon”, this is even worse than I remembered… which takes some doing, in this instance.

    Is this the first instance of the dreaded “Turn it into a medley with some throwaway piece of self-composed toss (*) in order to bag 50% of the royalties” phenomenon? Obviously we can’t talk about any chart-topping future instances (which is just as well), but I’d be hard pushed to think of any earlier instances than this.

    (*) I’ll make an exception for Amii Stewart’s sparkling “137 Disco Heaven”, which improved that dreary old Doors song no end…

  13. 43
    mike on 17 Aug 2008 #

    P.S. Interesting to see a brief clip of the group boogying on the balcony of St Basil’s in Red Square – which has been copy/pasted into the promo video a few times over, rather in the manner of Bela Lugosi’s precious few seconds of footage in Ed Wood’s Plan Nine From Outer Space. How DID they sing the Lord’s song in a strange (and militantly secular) land?

    (Looking at the way that the body movements fail to synch with the track, I suspect that it was by getting the group to sing a different song altogether. Such bold entryism! Beat that for subversion, punk rockers!)

  14. 44
    wichita lineman on 17 Aug 2008 #

    Re 41: J Mathis enlivens his xmas no.1 with the splendidly non-pc “Black White? YELLOW? No one knows”, as if he’s said “MARTIAN?” No fun like that on the M’s festive effort.

  15. 45
    Pete on 17 Aug 2008 #

    Mathis has style, this is just by the rote sleigh-bell machine on auto and mumble through the track interminably. Mathis does the full on Jackanory with the spoken word and as a nipper I was captivated by the nativity J.Mathis style.

    Looking at the wrtiting credits of Dinosaur Jr albums in a later life I often wondered what they would sound like if it was J.Mathis not J.Mascis. Until I realised they would probably sound like Johnny Mathis. Duh!

  16. 46
    DJ Punctum on 18 Aug 2008 #

    In reality they would sound like “Johnny Mathis’ Eyes” by American Music Club.

    As I said apropos Ken Dodd’s 1981 hit “Hold My Hand” (chorus: “Hold my hand, hold it tight/Hold my hand if you’re yellow, black or white”; went on TOTP with lots of children, wouldn’t happen now), what about the Red Indians you prejudiced c**t?

  17. 47
    Billy Smart on 18 Aug 2008 #

    ‘Johnny Mathis’ Feet’ surely, DJP?

    There’s a fantastic Divine Comedy cover version of that song.

  18. 48
    DJ Punctum on 18 Aug 2008 #

    Yeah, “Feet” – what was I thinking?

    (“Bette Davis’ Eyes” that’s what)

    Did you hear POTP yesterday? 1980 – how to turn a great chart into a crap one in one easy lesson.

  19. 49
    Billy Smart on 18 Aug 2008 #

    Playing Sheena Easton and Billy Joel in preference to ‘Bankrobber’ and ‘C30 C60 C90 Go!’ is not a decision that I would take, certainly. That said, Tom Browne/ George Benson/ Gap Band was an impressive run.

    Next week a one hour Olympics “special” which is clearly going earlier and later than usual as it “Features hits from Johnny Ray and Gary Barlow”!

  20. 50
    Billy Smart on 18 Aug 2008 #

    TOTP Watch: Kenn Dodd performed ‘Hold My Hand’ on the edition transmitted on December the 10th 1981. Also in the studio that week were; Showaddywaddy, Dollar, Bucks Fizz and The Police, plus Zoo’s interpretation of ‘Yellow Pearl’. Jimmy Saville OBE was the host.

  21. 51
    Tim on 18 Aug 2008 #

    Mike (#42) – the whole-side-of-an-LP version of “Knights In White Satin” by Giorgio splits down into three tracks (though the listener wouldn’t know it):
    1. Knights In White Satin
    2. In The Middle Of The Night
    3. Knights In White Satin

    A certain Mr Moroder is credited with writing track 2. I assume that was a royalties grab, and that was 1976, I think.

  22. 52
    Mark G on 18 Aug 2008 #

    I have to say though, the “Oh My Lord” bit at least livens up the track a tad. Imagine how dull it would have been without it.

  23. 53
    DJ Punctum on 18 Aug 2008 #

    No, it just makes me wish more fervently that they’d hitched a ride on Jim Jones’ wagon.

  24. 54
    Malice Cooper on 18 Aug 2008 #

    I’ve never forgiven them for the LP sleeve of “Love for sale”

    http://img443.imageshack.us/img443/4651/1977frontrd8.jpg

    I should mention that my mother loved Boney M and made a rare excursion into “Kelly’s Radio” (our local record shop) and asked for LPs by “those nice black people”

  25. 55
    Chris Brown on 24 Aug 2008 #

    Well, I hate ‘Bankrobber’ and ‘C30…’ but I also hate whatever that awful ELO track they played was.
    Today’s Bottom To The Top managed to pick a (mostly) decent chart from 1980, although for some reason the only Top 20 hit they missed was Cliff.

    As for this – it’s another in the long long list of tracks that were endlessly repeated through the medium of cassette at various school events. Or at least I assume it is, as I haven’t the energy to revisit it. Oh my Lord indeed.

  26. 56
    intothefireuk on 6 Sep 2008 #

    Oh my Lord indeed. The fact that it’s a Christmas song does mean it’s almost forgiven for being very dull. Almost but not quite. The only things I can find in its favour are that it is suitably festive and it did feature a mad man in a Santa suit.

  27. 57
    Mark G on 8 Sep 2008 #

    Wasn’t Roky Erikson, was it though?

  28. 58
    DJ Punctum on 8 Sep 2008 #

    #55: They didn’t miss Cliff; “Carrie” was at #19 and was played.

  29. 59
    Brendan on 25 Sep 2012 #

    As with ‘Rivers/Brown Girl’ inexplicably popular seasonal tune (90% of which are utter dross anyway). I have to say though, I did like Liz Mitchell’s vocals which could make even the worst of their songs palatable. But still just a 3 – dull, dull, dull.

  30. 60
    Mark G on 25 Sep 2012 #

    Yes, check the recent TOTP repeat of “Belfast”, Liz does make the ‘can actually sing’ claim there.

  31. 61

    Since everyone is talking silly smack about the ‘M, I direct your attentions to

    (a) their version of In a Gadda Da Vida, which is terrific (and silly, but it is not exactly a song with unsilly versions)
    (b) Boonoonoonoos, which is a chirpy confection of a concept alb about slavery, cultural genocide, pollution, armageddon and other world destructions — and it’s great, even more psychotically serene than michael jackson in similar mode

  32. 62
    Lazarus on 25 Sep 2012 #

    ‘Gotta Go Home’ is probably my favourite of theirs. Can’t remember the last time I heard it on the radio, though – it could well have been 1979.

  33. 63
    rabbitfun on 25 Sep 2012 #

    Lazarus – …but you must have heard Duck Sauce’s ‘Barbra Steisand’ not all that long ago.

  34. 64
    rabbitfun on 25 Sep 2012 #

    make that ‘Streisand’.

  35. 65
    wichita lineman on 25 Sep 2012 #

    Re 60: Wha…? How’d I miss Belfast? Was it on TOTP2?

    And of course the ‘M covered UK art-psych-freakbeaters the Creation (Painter Man) and the Smoke (My Friend Jack).

  36. 66
    Lazarus on 25 Sep 2012 #

    #63 I probably have, without knowing what it was. I saw the comments on YT and thought that Babs had recorded a song called ‘Duck Sauce!’ Perhaps she should.

    Actually, having just heard it, I don’t think it’s the sort of thing that would have been played on Radio 2, even by Steve Wright.

  37. 67
    rabbitfun on 25 Sep 2012 #

    She most definitely should! But you did recognize your favorite Boney M song in there, right?

  38. 68
    Mark G on 26 Sep 2012 #

    #65, I guess it must have been TOTP2 unless my memory of Oct 1977 is just being very clear (so, will soon be on)

  39. 69
    MikeMCSG on 8 Mar 2015 #

    # 50

    Just been writing about Hold My Hand
    http://clarkechroniclerstv.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/109-top-of-pops.html

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