NEW YORK (AP) — How did Rick Astley handle one of his songs becoming part of the biggest internet meme of all time? Obviously, he went with the flow.
“Look, let’s face it, ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ has become something else,” he said. “The video and the song have floated into the ether and become something else, and I’m so grateful for that.”
The song is still very much alive at 35 years old, and the second chapter inspires you as a mild joke in which someone lures you with a tantalizing online link instead of a video to the 1987 dance pop. It’s called Rickrolling.
Thirty-five years later, this summer, Astley will perform the song for the 57-day “The Mixtape Tour 2022” with New Kids on the Block, Salt-N-Pepa and En Vogue. A remake of his 1987 debut album has also been released, which of course includes “Never Gonna Give You Up”.
“I would never have a song this big, and I knew it when it happened. I kind of thought, ‘We’re never going to beat this. But I also kind of thought, ‘Okay, how bad is that?’ “
Astley is much more than that song. After a breakout in the late 1980s, he left show business in dismay, only recently reemerging with 2016’s strong album ’50’ and 2018’s ‘Beautiful Life’.
“Usually the second act is more enjoyable because you’re in more control and you’re enjoying every minute,” said Alistair Norbury, president of programming and marketing at BMG UK, who signed Astley.
The passage of time – and the fact that Astley is such a lovely person – has softened any acuity. He said he understood how it used to look different with rose-tinted glasses. Rock stars recently told him they love his voice.
“I thought, ‘Really? I thought you’d hang me in the village square,'” he said with a laugh. “They might have done it at the time, but I think over time, I think it just changes your perspective.”
Astley, 56, was the youngest of four who grew up near Manchester, England. His sister played a lot of progressive rock and adored David Bowie. One brother, a huge Queen fan, remembers Queen’s “Night at the Opera” album playing on a loop. From Stevie Wonder to The Smiths, Astley is immersed in it.
He was in a school band – they used to perform the police’s “So Lonely” with Astley on drums and singing – and wiped the floor with opponents during band fights. He would go to gigs and dream of becoming a music star.
He remembers being shocked one day when he found the Smiths bassist walking through town. “Will this happen?” he recalled thinking. “You may be from a town where I buy records, but you were on ‘Top of Pop’ last week?”
Astley was in his early 20s when he recorded his debut album, “Whenever You Need Somebody,” and he teamed up with a songwriting and record-producing trio known as Stock Aitken Waterman to write songs for Bananarama and Dead or Alive.
“I sold a lot of records. I had a lot of hits, and then it got to the point where it was kind of within reach — how is this going to go now, because you have to set another record?”
Exhausted and frustrated, he walked away at the age of 27. “I guess I just don’t have it. I just don’t. I don’t want to do it,” he said.
He admires the longevity of pop stars like Madonna or Kylie Minogue. “I don’t actually know how they did it,” he said.
Being a pop star can mess your head up, and Astley said it happened to him too. “I guess my days are numbered, but I guess I just managed to get out before they kicked me out, you know?” He hasn’t performed in 15 years.
Unlike other pop stars, he doesn’t invest his ego in his appearance or the perception of others. “I was never cool. When I had my hit record, I wasn’t cool,” he said. Astley has only sympathy for those chewed on by the monster of fame. “It must have been unbelievably painful.”
Astley came back from self-imposed exile in 2016 with “50,” an album that pays homage to Adele at his age, a powerful album that transitioned from gospel to electro-funk.
Norbury recalls hearing the first few demos of the album and being impressed. He asked Astley’s manager who wrote it. The answer is “Rick Astley”. Who is the co-author, he asked? “The answer was “no one.” Who produced it? “Rick. “So who played all the instruments? “He played all the instruments. “
Norbury called Astley “probably one of the hardest working people in the industry and always does it with a sense of humor and a spirit of collaboration and partnership.”
Rickrolling started in 2007 — YouTube was still in its infancy — and it confused Astley at first. His “Never Gonna Give You Up” song and video were used as part of internet bait and switch, but what does that mean?
“I thought too much, worried about it, wanted to know what it was. Our daughter said to me — she was about 15 at the time — and she just said, ‘You know it’s not about you?’” she also predicted: “Something else will happen next week or tomorrow.”
“She was kind of wrong because it was still running around,” Astley said. “But I think the emotions she’s talking about are very, very valuable. I accept my past, but I don’t have to accept the Rickrolling thing in the same way, because I accept the fact that it has nothing to do with me in a way.”
The song has been played 1.2 billion times on YouTube and 559 million times on Spotify. Time Out magazine is always a little confused about Rickrolling, asking why anyone wouldn’t want to hear this energetic big traffic jam, saying it’s “the most exciting three and a half minutes of an ’80s classic.”
Of course, Astley’s take on “Never Gonna Give You Up” differs from those who use it to piss off friends. He admitted the video was “incredibly cheesy of the late ’80s,” but “it was a good memory. It was like a good memory.”
For Astley, it was the song that brought him to Copenhagen, where he met his wife Lene Bausager. Without that song, he would not have had a daughter or traveled the world. “I’ve been to some of the most amazing places in the world and most people are on their bucket list.”
He recalls his days as a new artist looking for mature behavior. Now, he’s a seasoned professional with tons of songs, including instant crowd-pleasers.
“At the time, I was green with jealousy and felt totally insecure and all that. Now when I go out on stage and sing those songs, I’m like, ‘Yeah, how lucky am I? That’s not great ?
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