The musician now manages a record label: «Three fantastic years then darkness. We were best friends. The revival saved me.”
Stefano Righi and Stefano Rota. So two unknown, but very famous as Johnson and Michael Righeira, the couple who with two songs remained engraved in the bronze of the time of pop music. From “Vamos a la playa” to “Summer is ending”, an eternal parable that lasted only two seasons. High school in Turin, Stefano plus Stefano are in class together, they become lifelong friends, but today they no longer speak to each other. «Ex punk, now sold» is the disparaging writing that stood out on a wall and which he has made into a music collection: Johnson Righeira62 years old, today has his own label, la Kottolengo Recordings & Wines. Music and wine, another evergreen couple.
You were in high school together…
“I ended up in class with him on my first fail and we bonded instantly, we instantly bonded. Music was the glue.”
Who was worse at school?
“Both. We also failed together. Or rather, Michael dropped out of fourth grade twice. He changed and went to the masters in an attempt to be admitted directly to the last year but the imponderable happened and in practice he was demoted to the third year of high school: I think he is the only one in the world to whom something like this has happened ».
How do you get from Righi to Righeira?
“I was in first grade, I didn’t know Michael yet. We had a 68-year-old teacher who only let us play soccer and for fun we changed our last names in the Brazilian way. As a first name instead I had looked for something assonant with Hamilton Bohannon, one of the key figures of disco music, an idol of mine. In my mind Johnson Righeira must have been a native of Italy, the first biographies stated that I had been abducted by aliens and then mysteriously reappeared years later; I dreamed of palm trees, I had a tropical but also technological imaginary in my head».
The imagery of «Vamos a la playa», year 1983…
«That song is to all intents and purposes the evolution of the first things I wrote, inspired by the 60s, as an autarchic and futurist as I felt. Vamos a la playa was yes a beach song but post-atomic, it imagined an apocalyptic scenario made of bombs, radiation, contaminated sea. The La Bionda brothers became our producers, took us under their wing and sensed the potential of the song. But my version was much darker, new wave, very gloomy, the idea was the contrast between going to the beach and exploding bombs; they made it much brighter, so much so that the text was not spoken of for many years, nobody paid attention to it, it was obscured by the melody».
An overwhelming success, but in the meantime you were doing your military service.
«In fact, it is a success that we did not enjoy. Indeed it was psychologically devastating because we were first in the standings but we had to stay in the barracks. I used the licenses to go and host premieres on TV. In mid-summer, with the piece at the head of the hit, I snapped and got sent to the neuro to take the classic convalescence from a depressive crisis. I identify them as a sliding door in my life because at first they sent me back to the barracks; in the corridor, however, I stopped the civil psychologist: I asked him if he knew Vamos a la playa and I told him that I needed 20 days to prepare for the Festivalbar final. A captain arrived and gave me a big pippone about the fact that the military was a serious matter. But he gave me the 20 days. And I realized that something had changed ».
«Summer is ending» (1985) was published before the summer, a contradiction…
«In fact, the record company was worried, they feared that people might take this inconsistency the wrong way, but a summer piece couldn’t come out in September! It went well because then we won the Festivalbar».
How did you experience this sudden slap in popularity?
«With extreme recklessness: I went from not having a lira to being able to take planes and taxis without thinking about it, I could choose the most beautiful hotels, I lived in residences. I wasted a lot of money.”
“I don’t have the slightest idea, also because I don’t even know what I’ve earned”
Three fantastic years and then what?
«Sanremo 1986 was brutally our swan song, we arrived among the last. There we found ourselves displaced, we weren’t used to it. We had created the fame of those who churned out catchphrases, they expected that from us, but we were performers and situationists more than musicians. We had delusional ideas and pressure that was not easy to manage. We entered a negative vortex that gradually made us let go».
From the boom to normality, how did you live it?
«With the same recklessness and serenity. I’ve never been with our hands folded, then the 80s revival arrived and with it the awareness of having marked a historical period of Italian pop music».
«At the beginning we were snubbed, considered two imbeciles both as characters and musically. The music critics struck us down and I suffered a lot, this thing really bothered me. I don’t want to sound presumptuous but we were ahead».
In 1993 you were arrested, along with 37 other people, for drug dealing. You remained in prison for 5 months, only to be completely acquitted.
«I was put in the middle because the usual local news that they had arrested some pusher, with my name became of national importance. The world collapsed on me, I spent five shitty months in which I feared they could condemn me. I saw everything black.”
The nineties are marked by separations and reunions. The definitive closure of the Righeiras is in 2016.
«With Stefano there was a progressive estrangement which culminated in a dispute which sanctioned the separation. I continued to have evenings alone and we haven’t heard from each other for some time ».
«A scazzi due to a progressive increase in incompatibility, nothing specific, but we couldn’t stand each other anymore ».
January 14, 2023 (change January 14, 2023 | 07:27)
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Stefano Righi of Righeira: «I wasted a lot of money, Sanremo is our swan song. Today I no longer speak with Rota»
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