Interview with Frank Eberlein (16th February 2008)

We have succeeded in getting an interview with Frank Eberlein, the compiler of the two new Boney M. compilations “The Collection” and “Rivers Of Babylon”. We hope that you’ll enjoy the interview.

Frank, can you tell us how you got involved in the work with the two new Boney M. releases?

In December 2007 I was asked by SONY/BMG if I could arrange tracking lists for two new Boney M. releases. I was then given a couple of ground rules to follow and started at once to work on the lists. A few days later I got the chance to rework the lists once again, because we were given the approval of including more top hits than originally confirmed. The new tracking lists were sent to Frank Farian for approval and we were excited to see if all tracks would be approved – especially the long versions. Frank Farian approved both lists.

What kind of work followed after the appoval?

When we received the approval, the person from the archive could start searching for the tapes. It was a phase with a lot of e-mails going forth and back, because it wasn’t always possible to find the tapes during the first search. Then we found the original HANSA catalogue numbers, which made the searching much easier. And finally in January 2008 the mastering studio started to digitalize the tapes. Then a lot of e-mails and calls went forth and back again regarding which version from the various tapes, that should be used. It’s very exciting and you find a pleasure in it when thinking of that many fans have been waiting for these versions for years and will be happy for the result of this work.

When working on the compiling of “The Collection” and “Rivers Of Babylon” are you then in the archive at SONY/BMG or at Farian’s archive?

First of all I have to say that it’s almost impossible to figure out all those thousands of master-tapes in the archives. A part of them is to be found in Frank Farian’s archive, but the greatest part of the tapes is however to be found in the huge BMG archive in Gütersloh.

How was it, searching for a certain song/version in the archives?

When looking for a certain song, it happens that you find two or three different tapes with the song. Each tape then includes three or four different versions of the song. After all these years, no one knows (and no one has a chance to) how to tell one version from another. That was actually the case with “Rasputin”. One day the mastering studio called me and said, that there were at least six “Rasputin” versions: 3:30, 3:50, 4:05, 4:20, 4:40 etc. I knew, that the 4:40 version was the original single version and was therefore able to help. Otherwise they might had used a different version. On the other hand there are also songs or versions which we haven’t been able to find on the master-tapes. And that means that we have to deal with some compromises, as you can imagine. It wasn’t easy at all to compile these tracking lists. As you often can read on the internet, then many fans often believe it’s easy when you are well informed about everything and then you just pick this and this song, and of course always the six or seven minutes versions of the old promo records from U.S.A. and then you have a box-set.

Were there any issues you had to deal with, when compiling the compilations?

There are some issues, that I had to deal with. There are the contracts between the firm and Frank Farian as well as marketing aspects. It means that you for a price about 10 EUR just can’t get a full package of CD’s with all the big hits and previously unreleased material. Here I had to use some of the normal album versions, which already can be found on the new CD-remasters. Furthermore it has to be said that the included versions on the new CD’s were the longest versions that we could find in the archives. Most of the long versions, which often were found on the first editions of LP-releases are unfortunately not on tape anymore. Then there are the versions that Frank Farian will not release. And what can you do then?

Can you tell us if the included versions of “We Kill The World” and “Boonoonoonoos” are the original single versions?

”We Kill The World” is not the original single version. It was of course the plan to include it, but the archive couldn’t find the tape including the original version. We just couldn’t find another song instead (as I recommended at once), because the contract already was finished. Therefore we had to use the album version. It was a special case with ”Boonoonoonoos”. Here it was also planned to use the original single version, but that was not to be found in the archive as well. Instead the person in the archive found a 6:26 version. On the box with the tape it said: ”fading possible after 4:20”. Maybe they made the single version that way? I don’t know. I told them to use this tape, but of course without fading it. Who knows, we might have an exclusive version here? The fans would know it much better than I, when they listen to it. The included version of “Boonoonoonoos” consists of 2 minutes of “Boonoonoonoos”, then followed by “That’s Boonoonoonoos/Train To Skaville/I Shall Sing”.

Can you tell us about the inclusion of the long versions and some of the other tracks on the box-set?

I have actually tried to include as many long versions as possible on the box-set. On the third CD I was only allowed to use eight tracks. That means that eight of the ”real” 12 inch versions with exciting instrumental parts and typical maxi-effects are to be found. CD two includes ”long versions” of ”Children Of Paradise”, ”Going Back West”, ”Consuela Biaz”, ”Bang Bang Lulu”, ”Somewhere In The World” and ”The Carnival Is Over”, which basically aren’t maxi-versions, because you can create them yourself on basic of the short versions. It would have been a pity to include then on the third CD as ”The Best 12” versions. It was however funny, that the real 12” version of ”Consuela Biaz”, which has a running time of 4:57 and the one I had on the list, not was on the tape with ”Consuela Biaz”. Instead we discovered this 5:19 version. Well, I think that’s better than 4:57, right? ”Living Like A Moviestar” will for the first time be included on CD with the complete intro. On earlier CD releases a fraction of a second has been missing from the intro compared to the vinyl release and because of that reason, I have included the track on the box. Some may not even have noticed the error, but it shows how insignificant it actually was. The track has therefore been mastered from a different tape.

I Feel Good” has been included on the box, because it for me as an East German, was a secret wish. The song was composed by the East German composer Franz Bartzsch, who I appreciate very much, because he has written so many extremely beautiful hits for several famous DDR-singers. He also played in several bands. He escaped to West Germany in the beginning of the eighties and has since worked with many famous artists like Bolland & Bolland, Roland Kaiser and not to forget Boney M. The inclusion of “I Feel Good”, even though it’s not the most popular Boney M. song, is my little homage to Franz. “Brown Girl In The Ring” is my little homage to Michael Cretu, whom I am one of the biggest fans of. A couple of years ago I made an interview with Michael, where I asked him about his time in the studio with Boney M. He told me many exciting incidents from the co-operation with Frank Farian, Stefan Klinkhammer and all the other colleagues. One of the things he told me, was a story from the time when they produced “Rivers Of Babylon” and its B-side. Stefan Klinkhammer was at that time ill for a couple of days and then Frank Farian said to Michael, that he should arrange “Brown Girl In The Ring”, which he did. When the song was finished Frank Farian said, that it was even better than if Stefan Klinkhammer had arranged it. Originally I had planned to include ”Help Help” on CD no. 1 and Frank Farian had approved this. But it wasn’t to be found on tape in the archive any more. That’s the reason why we picked ”New York City” as an alternative. As you can see, then I have tried to make space for some rarities for fans like you, even though I had to make sure that the record company’s ground rules were followed. There will always be some sorts of compromises to deal with. And if the CD sells well for the company, then I’m sure that they will make further releases in the future.

Is there anything you would like to explain to the fans about “The Collection” and “Rivers Of Babylon”?

I would like to explain shortly, why a couple of tracks/versions are included on both CD’s (“The Collection” and “Rivers Of Babylon”), which has been criticised in some forums on the internet. You’ll have to know that these CD’s aren’t belonging together (as one could think, now that they are released so closely), but they are released on totally different markets and therefore aimed at various groups of customers. As said, then there will be a kind of compromise all the time, and you are trying to satisfy both groups of consumers. To make all satisfied it simply impossible, as always in life. But I have to say myself, that there is actually a very good relation between price and product if half the box is previously unreleased material.

Every fan will naturally find something on the tracking lists, which he could have made better. It’s the old story: Let 10 fans compile a tracking list and you will end up with 10 different lists. I can only say that I have tried to do my best and hope that many fans will appreciate to hold these CD’s in their hands.

Special thanks to Frank Eberlein for taking the time to do this interview