Monday, May 3, 2010

Boney M. - Rasputin (1978)

It was so amusing when my cousin told me that her kids loved this song and liked to sing along with it. "You do know that Rasputin was a drunk rapist bastard, right?" Of course, she had no idea who Rasputin was, but was probably happy that her children didn't understand the English lyrics just yet. Of course, I was brought up believing that Men At Work sang "Do you come from a land down under, where women blow and make wonder", so I guess that my cousin doesn't have to worry too much about destroying her children's minds.

Anyhow. In 1978 the adorable sadomasochistic disco band Boney M. had a hit with this song about Rasputin, and I must say that they have managed quite well in summarizing this special human being in one little song. And what a catchy melody it is!

Although the song was popular in the Soviet Union and made Rasputin famous again, the song was deleted from their records sold there, and they weren't allowed to perform the song on their Moscow tour in 1978.

The real history behind:

Grigori Rasputin (1869-1916), aka "The Mad Monk", was at first a Russian farmer like everyone else: he drank vodka, beat his wife and plowed the fields. After a few religious revelations however he started a pilgrim voyage, and soon he was known as a holy man. He was introduced to the Tsarina of Russia, Alexandra Feodorovna (granddaughter of Queen Victoria) and became her personal adviser and healer. To return the favor of being allowed to roam the palace, he often got drunk in random pubs and bragged about his close relationship to the Tsarina and disgracing her mousy husband, Tsar Nicholas II.

There lived a certain man in Russia long ago
He was big and strong, in his eyes a flaming glow
Most people looked at him with terror and with fear
But to Moscow chicks he was such a lovely dear
He could preach the bible like a preacher
Full of ecstacy and fire
But he also was the kind of teacher
Women would desire

This bad behavior, his influence in politics via the Tsarina and the fact that the Tsarina refused to listen to any bad talk about Rasputin, insulted the Russian people and made them reluctant toward the Tsar. Of course, the situation in Russia was already turbulent with the Revolution about to break out, so a dirty monk in the palace didn't help the Tsar's bad reputation as a lousy ruler.

But when his drinking and lusting and his hunger
for power became known to more and more people,
the demands to do something about this outrageous
man became louder and louder.

Rasputin was assassinated in 1916 (a popular story on the verge of being a myth), and the Tsar, Tsarina and their four children were assassinated in 1918 by a group of hotshot Bolsheviks who wanted to abolish the Tsar in favor of Lenin. They succeeded.

You all heard the story about Anastasia, right? Disney film and all. She was one of the children of the Tsar family, and no, she did not survive - but she was however the last one struggling to stay alive after being bombarded with bullets from the murderers. The bodies of the Tsar family were later that day burnt in the forest by an abandoned mine in order to destroy evidence of the assassination. The family had however sown in valuable jewels into their clothes, fearing to be robbed by their capturers, and these did not burn up. Farmers living nearby found the jewels (among skeleton parts and fancy shoes), and realized that something terrible had happened their. In short: covering up the assassination of the Tsar family did not succeed. (Hadn't they watched enough CSI to know how to get rid of evidence? Jeez.)

Tsar Nicholas II and his family, all assassinated July 17, 1918.

Oh yes, and the assassination of Rasputin. He was lured to attend a party and was poisoned, shot, beaten and then drowned. They also cut off his naughty bits, which were unusually huge. For the morbid readers (I don't blame you), I give you a link to a picture of them in a jar.

Lover of the Russian queen
They put some poison into his wine
Russia's greatest love machine
He drank it all and he said "I feel fine"

Lover of the Russian queen
They didn't quit, they wanted his head
Russia's greatest love machine
And so they shot him till he was dead

I like the phrasing "they shot him till he was dead", even though it wasn't entirely true. When his body was hauled in for an autopsy, water was found in his lungs pointing toward a death by drowning. His body was supposedly frozen in a position that indicated that he had tried to claw his way through the ice, so obviously the assassins hadn't exaggerated when trying to kill him with poison, gun shots, beating and drowning.

But why was the Mad Monk assassinated? I don't understand, he seemed like such a nice man. I mean, he strongly believed in cleaning oneself from sin: and to do so, one had to sin to get rid of the temptation. He supposedly engaged in wild erotic adventures and drank Vodka like it was water. There are plenty of rumors about Rasputin, for instance that he once raped a nun, but the evidence is of course quite lacking.

Russia's greatest love machine
It was a shame how he carried on...

A love machine he was, even though it probably often was his initiative. He did however succeed in relieving the pain for Tsarina Alexandra's son, Alexei, who had haemophilia. He was never the Tsarina's lover, opposed to popular rumors.

He ruled the Russian land and never mind the czar
But the kasachok he danced really wunderbar
In all affairs of state he was the man to please
But he was real great when he had a girl to squeeze
For the queen he was no wheeler dealer
Though she'd heard the things he'd done
She believed he was a holy healer
Who would heal her son

"Mmm, glorious beard... Glasnost, perestrojka and wha'evva."


Matthew Coniam said...

I love the bit where it goes "Oh, those Russians!"

Lolita of the Classics said...

Matthew Coniam:
Haha, me too. I must also add that I love the beard and "kosack" dance movements!

Andreas said...

I've loved this song ever since I discovered it a few months ago.

Ridiculously catchy, and the sheer incongruity of discussing this bizarre historical figure in disco form makes it that much better - "Russia's greatest love machine."

Thanks for spreading the Boney M. love!

Danielle Crepaldi Carvalho said...

Great blog, Lolita. Congrats!