The Zarsoffs were a great music band with lowbrow toilet humour and highlights like the Dance Of The Flaming Arsehole.
They continued to break attendance records at venues after forming in 1979 in Sydney.
Bassist/ singer Peter Knox, keyboard player Greg Deane and drummer Tony Verhoeven met in singer Robin Lee Sinclair’s backing band.
They changed their names to Izzy Foreal, Bernie Zarsoff and Terry Zarsoff.
Terry recalled it came together in Cairns, Far North Queensland, where they were booked for a six week residency at a disco called Caesar’s Palace, “located beside a dilapidated, deserted and condemned hotel, so it should come as no surprise to learn this is where the band stayed.”
They had a dozen vaguely disco songs in their set, “but with three hours to fill, we were struggling and the first week was horrendous.”
But they threw themselves into writing songs and rehearsing, and they soon had the danceheads queuing up.
Izzy Foreal meticulously kept diaries of every gig they did. In one year they played 360 gigs.
Releases included the Bumsweat And Other Popular Filth and Nose Pickin’ Boogie EPs and albums such as Rude Awakening.
“What we are about”, Izzy once explained, “is being the catalyst for a good time, with an irreverent approach to the whole idea of rock & roll as an industry.
“To the punters, we are just a bunch of looneys who happen to be able to play music, and who would be just as comfortable beside them at the bar.”
They went through numerous line-ups, with each member having to take on the Zarsoff name.
The official story was that they were the children of a Russian minstrel. Russia’s president saw them at a show and considered them so ugly they were such an embarrassment to all Russians he banished them to Australia.
Road crews too had to adopt the Zarsoff name.
But the band had a routine in their shows where they would call their sound tech Tim Novak and lighting tech Terry Good. You merged their names and got No Good.
“I loved their music, they were very good musicians,” Dracoulis relates.
“If I was in the same town as they, working with another band, I’d go out of my way to see them.
“I suspect they were probably music students at one point.
“They knew the songs backwards. They’d just wing it without a set list, they’d work off a crowd.
“They were always worth going to see, and have a laugh because they were very funny.”
Phil Dracoulis got the chance to work with them at Yella Rock, an invite-only festival for three whole days of bikes, booze, chemicals and music on a secluded property halfway along the Putty Rd to Singleton.
It was recorded for audio and video.
Acts included Dave Tice & The Headhunters (whose set was previously released as part of the Desk Tape Series), the late Phil Emmanuel and a series of hard rock tribute bands as The Last Stand Cold Chisel Show.
The Zarsoffs went on last at 10.30pm. Phil Dracoulis remembers the crowd rushed to front of the stage when they came on.
The songs range from the boogie of “Dogshit Boogie Blues” and “Nervous” to the up-tempo guitar rock of “Work It Out” and “Love Potion #9” to the country rock of “She’s Talkin’” to the more self explanatory “My Big Ten Inch” and the surf rock “Do The Clam” which introduces Elvis The Pelvis, Eunice The Penis and Britt The Clit.
They put their own touch on the covers. “Little Red Riding Hood” has lines about “what big tits you have” which weren’t on the 1960s original.
On “Do You Wanna Dance” they add “Wanna dance? No? I guess a fuck’s out of the question.”
Politically incorrect? Yes! Misogynistic? Yes! Puerile schoolboy toilet humour? Yes!
Yet the crowd —women and men –roared its approval and took it in the spirit it was intended.
The humour was never aggressive. As a result there were very few, if any, fights at their shows.
Cops called because of venue over-crowding and noise complaints, would stay on and chuckle over the onstage antics.
While Izzy was boisterous, crude, offensive and drunk-rowdy, Knox was quiet, kind, gentle, highly intelligent and neither drank nor smoked.
At university he studied English Literature and poetry, completed a Master of Arts with Honours, wrote and published The Errant Apostrophe, and penned science fiction short stories for magazines.
He encouraged his daughters Soz and Xanthe to be creative and open-minded, took them to the latest sci-fi movies and once bought a telescope so they could watch Halley’s Comet.
Soz would go on to become an aerospace engineer and, and Xanthe herself writes sci-fi stories and has won short story competitions.
After his death, his family had his ashes registered with US space travel agency Celestis to be part of the first mission to send human remains into deep space.
Also making the trip are the ashes of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and Canadian actor James Doohan who played Scotty in the series.
Xanthe recounts how Peter Knox was conscripted to fight in the Vietnam War.
“Being a pacifist and with Buddhism as a personal philosophy – he meditated every day and chanted mantras— there was no way he would have picked up a gun.
“So he changed his name to Peter Wilson and dodged the draft. He couldn’t vote until the 1990s.”
Knox kept changing jobs, including charity organisations for disadvantaged youth and people with disabilities, and at an animal shelter.
“Part of the job in the shelter was to tag the animals – white for new, blue for ‘after a week’, and red to denote they had to be put down.
“He got sacked after two weeks because none of the animals were being red-tagged!”
After a mild heart attack in the 2000s, Knox kept himself fit, running 5 to 10kms a day in the bush.
But on June 21, 2014, he suffered another heart attack, this time a fatal one.
At the funeral, they played his music, adorned the coffin with chalk paint and messages, and played the Zarsoff’s song ‘Mickey Mouse’ as he was being carried out.