Rich Ristagno What Would It Be Like To Be Rich on LP
Detroit is, as ever, a mystery wrapped in a wasteland. After Motown blew out of town, as if on the last chopper out of Danang, the volatile periphery remained intact - minus its binding barycenter. A young Richard Ristagno was there, naively participating in the riots that cancelled Detroit's application to the echelons of the modern American cities. After hearing about the riots on the radio, he and his Midnight Riders garage band ventured into the periphery, only to get busted for looting. He would be detained again, a year or so later, by Selective Service. Narrowly escaping an uncertain fate in Vietnam, Ristagno served his time in sleepy zones like Fort Knox in Kentucky and German outposts.
Returning to Michigan in 1971, without an education or a plan, he found work in the galley of an iconic banquet club named The Rooster Tail. While working the line, slopping sauce on overpriced hunks of meat, he plotted his first recordings. With two original songs in mind, he hit the phone book and found a vanity operation just over the border in Canada. He stamped out what was to be an initial pressing of 500 copies, nearly all of which were sent to radio stations nationwide. After the world failed to beat a path to his door, the initial pressing became the only pressing. He moved on, finding union labor at Wyatt Services, a steel treatment plant, he managed to accumulate the largesse for a more grandiose scheme.
What Would It Be Like to Be Rich was to be an autobiographical concept album. In 1981, nearly ten years after his ill-fated single, Ristagno saw an ad in the Detroit News for a recording studio called Soular Sound, and submitted an inquiry about availability. To complete his vision, he would need to hire a band. Not surprisingly owner/engineer Conley Abrams was the bassist of a local funk band called Soular Flight. The studio only existed to immortalize the work of the band, who proudly declared they were 'so high they could touch the sun.' The recordings occurred quickly in 1981. The fusion of Soular Flight's disco tendencies with Ristagno's angsty delivery seemingly anticipates industrial and techno, and reflects contemporaries like The Contortions or DNA.
In reality, Ristagno remained blissfully ignorant, and cites influences such as Aerosmith, Fleetwood Mac, and the perennially influential Beatles. Despite a cover concept, Ristagno took the completed LP to Archer Record Pressing and manufactured 100 copies. He had, perhaps, jumped the gun, though he had a cover concept, he didn't have the means to execute the artwork. His initial pressing remained in his parents' basement, completely undistributed, underclothed in just frail paper sleeves. It was the 45 single, strategically planted randomly outside Ristagno's domicile, that saved its doomed younger brother. Michigan rock specialists Daniel Schlosser and Ben Blackwell approached Ristagno and freed his personal opus from private imprisonment. Although the grim worldview presented within seems to beg for isolation, it's not the work of music lovers to enable further isolation.