Zhanna – the Legend – Take Two !

Hi Folks ! This month we will continue with the story we began last month, about the amazing rock’n’roll life of Zhanna Agurazova, maybe the most famous Russian rock’n’roll star of all time.

Just to re-cap briefly the details I gave you last month, Zhanna Agurazova is best known as the front singer of the group Bravo, whose greatest years were in the 1980s. It is hard to over-emphasise the importance of Bravo in Russian rock’n’roll history. By the mid-1980s, Zhanna and Bravo were the biggest names in Russian rock music, real mega-stars. And the real star in the band was unquestionably Zhanna.

She became known as the “Goddess of Shocking”, linked to her behaviour on stage and her eccentric outfits and makeup. She invariably behaved unpredictably during her performances. She would also come out with bizarre ideas. For example, she claimed that her origin was extra-terrestrial and that she was still in contact with Martians. She took to wearing bright, outlandish sunglasses, to enhance the “Martian image.” She continued to make these claims, that she came to this World from outer space.

As a result of this, for a long time there were rumours about her being on drugs. The rumours went along the lines of, “How else could one explain her wild behaviour?” Other stories circulating the rounds sought to explain her eccentricities by saying she had a drink problem. But all these rumours and stories were bogus. All the friends who were close to her confirmed that her originality had nothing to do with drugs or drink. For example, one of her ex-husbands described her drinking habits thus, “On holidays, Zhanna could take a sip of gin or drink a glass of champagne. And that was it! ” On the same subject, a close friend of hers, music critic Artemy Troitsky confirmed, “Zhanna has never used anything! She did not even get drunk, unlike many other artists. I understand how such rumours appeared. People think that in order to behave on stage like Zhanna did, one must necessarily smoke something or throw themselves into some kind of pills. But not Aguzarova, she was just herself on stage”.

In 1988 Zhanna made a seminal decision. She decided to leave the group Bravo and pursue a solo career. Her motivations for this are still not clear, given her phenomenal success with Bravo. She then studied and graduated from a College of Music and this was followed by her issuing her first solo record. 

At the same time, she got an obsession to go abroad. With the collapse of the USSR in the early 1990s, Aguzarova went to the United States. But she was not able to achieve anywhere near the success she had had with Bravo. She performed at an up-market restaurant in the States for two years, called the “Black Sea”, which catered to foreign immigrants including Russians. The story goes that eventually, due to her constant absenteeism, lateness and crazy antics on stage, the restaurant management dismissed her.

Speaking personally, I came to Russia to live and work in 2004 and thus missed seeing her in her best years. But I do remember seeing her on Russian TV in later years and can testify to her charismatic and eccentric character when performing, either in interviews or on stage. 

In 1993 Bravo re-united for an anniversary tour, ten years after their founding. So Zhanna again fronted Bravo. In 1996 she moved back to Russia and gave concerts as part of Boris Yeltsin’s election campaign for Russian President. 

In 1998, she again performed with the group on the “Bravomania” tour. But the 1990s were marked by her continuing her solo career, dividing her time between Russia and America. She decided to experiment with new styles – new songs were performed in the then-popular electro style in America. But this new style was not successful and she returned to the Bravo brand of music.

She continued performing, but inevitably never reached the heights of popularity that she had achieved with Bravo. In recent years, she rarely goes on stage. According to reports, now she spends a lot of time in Los Angeles, having settled there for a long time. But now and again she sometimes comes to Russia, to perform at various clubs.

Her love life has also been colourful. She never had children, preferring her career to a family life. 

Her first husband was an oceanologist who loved her very much. It was he who helped the artist to get out of prison. As I wrote last month, early in 1984 the Soviet authorities had arrested her while she was performing at a concert, for allegedly falsifying her personal documents. As a result she spent more than a year in the Butyrka prison. At this point, while in the prison, she apparently tried to pose as some crazy woman. She did this quite convincingly, as she was then forced to undergo psychiatric tests regarding her mental health. Following this, the convicted singer then was declared sane by the authorities, but was ordered to work for a year and a half doing forced labour in a timber industry enterprise of the region of Tyumen. In any event, later on after she had decided to go to America, she separated from her first husband.

With her looks and charisma the extravagant and unpredictable singer always attracted men, who found her beautiful and mysterious. Her next choice was the bassist of the Bravo band Timur Murtuzayev, with whom she dreamed of conquering America with her music. But very quickly this romance came to naught, and the lovers broke up.

The second husband of Aguzarova was Nikolai Poltoranin, who then held the post of director of the A-Studio group. They met in 1988, when they arrived in Almaty, Russia, at a rock festival. The man soon became smitten with the “Martian beauty” and in the early 1990s they moved to Los Angeles. But Zhanna could not take root there at that time and six years later returned to Russia. This marriage lasted 10 years. Before she returned to Russia she linked up with the American music producer Brian Eno, who became very interested indeed in the eccentric star. But by all accounts Zhanna went a bit too far. She claimed to be in love with him and pursued him with a passion. Eventually Eno’s wife made it clear to Zhanna that she had to back off or else !

This is indeed an amazing story of a phenomenal rockin’ star. My thanks to two of my Russian friends, Sergey K and Mila A, for their help in writing this article. Stay tuned Dear Readers, for some more rockin’ tales from the East in this column !