NEW YORK – How did Rick Astley manage to make one of his songs the biggest internet meme of all time? Of course it will start.
“Listen, let’s say ‘I’ll never give up’ has changed,” he said. “The video and the song got into a rage and became different, and I’m so grateful for that.”
The song celebrates 35 years this year and is still alive, inspired by the second chapter as a gentle comedy, where someone feeds you through a compelling online link, which instead focuses on a video for this dance-pop chart from 1987. It’s called Rickrolling. Thirty-five years ago, Astley sang it this summer on tour with New Kids on the Block, Salt-N-Pepa and En Vogue on the 57th date of “The Mixtape Tour 2022”. A remastered version of his 1987 debut album was also released with the course “Never Gonna Give You Up”.
“I’ve never had such a big song before, and I knew it when it happened. I thought, ‘We’ll never get over this.’ But I also thought, ‘Well, how bad is that?’ ”
Astley always has more than just that song. After an explosion in the late 80’s, she left the unsatisfactory show business and recently returned with fast albums “50” in 2016 and “Beautiful Life” in 2018.
“Most of the time, the second act can be more fun because you have more control and you enjoy every minute,” said Alistair Norbury, president of repertoire and marketing at BMG UK, who signed with Astley.
The passage of time – and the fact that Astley is a nice man – eased every sharpness. She said she understood what the past could look like with pink glasses. Rock stars recently told him they loved his voice.
“And I thought, ‘Really? I think you tied me to the square,'” he said with a laugh. “Maybe they could do it then, but I think over time, in your opinion, that has changed.”
Astley, 56, is the youngest of four to grow up in Manchester, England. His sister played a lot of progressive rock and adored David Bowie. One brother is a big Queen fan and thinks that Queen’s album “Night at the Opera” will be played in a loop. Astley inspired it, from Stevie Wonder to The Smiths.
He was sitting in a school band – they were doing “So Lonely” on The Police with Astley on drums and singing – and he was floating on the floor of opponents in a clash of bands. He goes to a show and dreams of becoming a music star. To this day, he remembers how surprised he was one day when he saw bassist The Smiths walk through the city. “Can it happen?” he still thinks. “Maybe you’re from the town I bought my records from, but you were in ‘Top of the Pops last week?”
Astley was in the 1920s recording his debut album “When You Have to Be a Man”, which featured a trio of songwriting and recording productions known as Stock Aitken Waterman, which produced songs for Bananarama and Dead or Alive.
“I sold a lot of records. I had so many hits, then it got to the point where it looked like touch and go – how come you have to make another record?
Burned and disappointed, he left at the age of 27. “I don’t think it’s just me. I just don’t have any. I don’t want to do it,” he said.
He admires pop stars like Madonna or Kylie Minogue for his desire. “I really don’t know how they did it,” he said. Being a pop star is in your head, and Astley says it happened to him. “I think my days are still numbered, but I think I just went out before they turned me down, you know?” He has not performed for 15 years.
Unlike other pop stars, it does not give the ego its appearance or the perception of others. “I’m not really cool. I’m not cool when I break records,” he said. Astley has nothing but compassion for those who have been deceived by the famous monster. “It must be an incredible pain.”
Astley returned from self-exile in 2016 with “50”, titled, with the tip of Adele’s hat, to her age, a solid album that changed from gospel to electro-funky.
Norbury recalls hearing the first few demos of the album and was amazed. He asked manager Astley to whom he was writing. The answer to “Rick Astley.” He asks who is the co-author of the screenplay? “The answer is no.” Who produces? “Rick.” Who then played all the instruments? “He played all the instruments.”
Norbury called Astley “probably one of the hardest working people in this business, and he will always do so with a good sense of humor and a spirit of cooperation and camaraderie.”
Rickrolling started in 2007 – still in its infancy on YouTube – and initially confused Astley. His song and video for “Never Gonna Give You Up” were used as part of Internet Ace-and-Switch, but what does that mean?
“I think about it, I worry about it and I ask myself what it is. And our daughter told me – she was about 15 at the time – it was just like, ‘Do you understand that it doesn’t concern you?’ “She also predicted, ‘There will be another week or tomorrow …’
“He’s a little wrong because it comes here and there,” Astley said. “But the feeling from what he said was, I think, really, very valuable. I accept my yesterday, but I don’t have to accept the Rickrolling thing the same way, because I accept the fact that it has nothing to do with me to some extent.
The song won 1.2 billion streams on YouTube and 559 million Spotify listeners. Time Out magazine has always been a little confused by Rickrolling when he asked why someone didn’t want to hear a loud megayam when he said it was “three and a half loudest minutes in the canon of the ’80s.”
Astley apparently sees “I will never give up” other than people trying to harass friends with it. He admitted that the video was “incredibly kitschy” from the late 80’s, but “it was a good memory. It was like a nice memory.”
For Astley, it was a song that brought him to Copenhagen, where he met his wife, Lene Bausager. Without that song, he wouldn’t have his daughter or travel the world. “I’ve been to some of the most amazing places in the world where most people are on the list.”
He recalls a time when he was just an artist looking at established works. He is now a seasoned professional with an arsenal of songs, including an instant crowd lover.
“At the time, I was green with envy and I felt dangerous and so on. Now, when I go on stage and sing songs, I think, ‘Yeah, how happy am I? It is beautiful?”