Nikolai Rastorguyev used to perform at dance floors every weekend since his school years. His success was stupefying. However, it didn’t mean anything to Nikolai. He was getting ready to enter the technical institute like a proper son and could have been head of a shoe factory if not for one occasion. One day he went with a classmate to the cinema to see The Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night”. From that moment on, as Nikolai himself says, his “mind was blown forever”. He entered the institute, but instead of was doing rehearsals instead of studying. Once, as his mother Maria Alexandrovna tells, he came home saying “You know, I already have a profession. I’m an artist”.
In 1985, Nikolai Raastorguyev got acquainted with Igor Matviyenko and passed the audition for the bad called “Hello, Song!” Backthen, 27 years ago, Igor Matviyenko took on the new lead singer at his own risk. Nobody could imagine that soon he would be known across the whole country. As Matviyenko says, Rastorguyev “completely out of the image of a young singer in those times. Other guys were in back then: thin, gaunt, long-haired. He was tough, jowly.”
In 1989, Nikolai Rastorguyev and Igor Matviyenko founded the band “Lyube”. Nikolai came up with the name. “We had some words: ‘otle’ (awesome), ‘hore’ (nice),‘lyube’ (whatever). “What do you want?” — “Ah, lyube.” I think it’s a fine name. Very fine. It catches your ear straight away, just two syllables. Easy to remember”, Rastorguyev explains.
A tough figure in a military blouse, riding breeches, finely polished boots. That’s how Nikolai Rastorguyev appeared on stage. Many thought him to be a retired soldier then. In fact, Rastorguyev never even served in the army. Military uniform became an element of his image. It was Alla Borisovna Pugachyova’s idea. She once said at the “Christmas Evenings”: “What did they wear after the war? Zheglov, Sharapov… Blouses and high boots”. “We rented some from the Soviet Army heater and I took the stage in this uniform”, Rastorguyev tells.
The image they created predefined their repertoire. “Lyube” stood out against all the pop performers. “Laskovy May”, “Mirage” — all this, in Nikolai’s words, “bored everyone to death”, they wanted to step away from that. “It had to be totally another story, completely different. That’s what we actually achieved. We got noticed in an instant”, he says.
Nikolai Rastorguyev married early. Despite the groom being only 19, the family turned out fine. Following his parents’ example, Nikolai married once and for all. Of course, he couldn’t know that all this would end in 15 years. The first marriage left him his son Pavel, who recently became a father himself. The marriage fell apart after Nikolai Rastorguyev met Natalya on tour. She recalls it with a smile: “He looks very rough. I avoided running into him, but everyone usually keeps together while on tour — can't really escape! So we got each other’s eyes somehow”.
Tour romances are common for the artists. Rastorguyev, however, is an exception. Such relationships can last for years. But Nikolai acted like a man — he didn’t try to trick anyone and, on return from tour,divorced his first wife and consummated his relationships with Natalya.
Rastorguyev has a rigid principle: no matter what, don’t talk about your decease, don’t complain about your health. He considers it unmanly. In 2006, he was diagnosed with bilateral pneumonia, which led to chronic renal failure. A difficult transplantation was required. People’s Artist of Russia, honored on the highest level, could open any doors if he so wished. Nikolai never even thought of it – He waited just like everyone, in a queue, without any privileges. He’s been waiting for three years.
Patients about to undergo transplantation have two options: either to stay in hospital, or to keep strict regime at home. Rastorguyev picked the third: he left for another tour. “I told him: “Kolya, you don’t feel well, it must be hard to work”. He says: “Never mind. What about the guys? How can I leave them? Everything’s going to be okay””, tells the band’s sound engineer Sergei Korolkov.
“Lyube” kept on touring as before, but visited only the cities which could provide an “artificial kidney”. Before the concert Nikolai underwent extremely hard procedure of hemodialysis, blood cleasing, and performed the next day.
In spring 2009, the headlines appeared in newspapers: “Nikolai Rastorguyev back in action”. In spite of all of the doctors’ fears and broken regime, the kidney was successfully transplanted, and two months later, “Lyube” led by Rastorguyev performed at the Red Square on Russia Day.
Now Rastorguyev faces demand no less than 20 years ago. Tours are all planned for a year; he’s welcome on all the film and television sets. He has recently celebrated his 55th birthday. Rastorguyev treats his anniversaries as expected from his calm self. “These dates are just a lot of fuss”, he thinks, “It all just adds more unnecessary stress, unnecessary attention, which I don’t actually like. And, well… I was 50, now I’m 55. I don’t sense the age, which, I guess, is good”.