35 years later, Rick Astley on why he never cared about being ‘one of the cool guys’ and why he never gave up

35 years later, Rick Astley on why he never cared about being ‘one of the cool guys’ and why he never gave up

35 years later, Rick Astley on why he never cared about being ‘one of the cool guys’ and why he never gave up

Rick Astley performs during the 2022 Mixtape Tour. (Photo: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

Rick Astley performs during the 2022 Mixtape Tour. (Photo: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been a beloved holiday tradition for nearly a century, but surely the most awesome meta-moment in its history occurred in 2008, when the parade was “Rickrolled” by none other than Rick Astley himself. The once reclusive British pop star, who was mostly retired at age 27 after a three-month life crisis, has been experiencing an unexpected resurgence thanks to “Rickrolling” — a bait-and-switch meme made by Internet pranksters. used to trick people into clicking hyperlinks in Astley’s funny old music video for “Never Gonna Give You Up”. But Astley had the last laugh.

As Astley rushed the Cartoon Network float, interrupting his puppet show Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends with the screech of a turntable needle and then screaming his massive signature song, he orchestrated the ultimate Rickroll, took control of his narrative and created his own fully realized viral moment. And his career has gone from strength to strength since then.

The singer, who celebrates the 35th anniversary of “Never Gonna Give You Up” this week, tells Yahoo Entertainment that he wasn’t familiar with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, so when he got the call from Cartoon Network, he yelled a few from his American ones. friends to ask if he should accept the offer. “Every single one of them she screamed put the phone down,” he recalls. “They said, ‘You I have To do this!’ So I went out and Rickroll the Macy’s Parade. It was a little strange, to be honest, in many ways. I was like, “What the hell is going on?” But listen, don’t get me wrong: I got paid a ton of money to do this. I’m honest enough to admit it. I tried really hard not to embrace the Rickrolling thing, but to be rude, there were times when people just offered me so much money. And maybe I had a leaky roof that week or whatever, so I just went, “Oh, I’m telling you.”

Astley explains that he tried not to capitalize too much on his unexpected internet fame “because, let’s face it, the person who started the whole Rickroll didn’t necessarily choose my video because beloved the song, but because it worked as an annoying thing to fool people.” And yet, he freely admits, “I was never one of the cool kids. I was never cool. I wasn’t even cool when I had the No. 1 record at the time, in 1987.”

However, many fans would beg to differ – and there is plenty of recent evidence of Astley’s composure. For example, six years ago, a YouTube video of him playing drums while singing AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” at Los Angeles’ Troubadour club made him a viral sensation again. “I learned to play drums in Full speed to hell album, and it’s never far from my mind, I want to be a drummer. when I get on a drum kit, I just transform into someone else,” Astley explains.

And Astley was even embraced by world-renowned drummer Dave Grohl, performing a genius “Never Gonna Give You Up”/”Smells Like Teen Spirit” with the Foo Fighters (“one of my favorite bands, period”) on several rock festival. Astley says that the first time he made a surprise appearance on stage with the Foos, he thought, “Oh my God, when my friends see this, my phone is going to flux.” And then it went viral again again in 2020, with his poignant pandemic-era cover of the Foos’ “Everlong.”

But most notably, it was around the time of his first collaboration with the Foo Fighters that Astley’s seventh studio album, 50, which was independently recorded in his garage, became his first UK No.1 album since his debut in 1987. “I played every note. I wrote it all down. I produced it. I made it in my garage and I think that’s really weird, but I think it translated into the music in a way,” he says. “I think there was a bit of empathy for me. I think the audience liked the little story and the message that I had done it for me, not for anyone else. I didn’t even have a record deal back then. I just started making music because I thought that instead of buying a convertible, this would be my 50th birthday crisis moment. I’d make a record instead.”

If people know anything about the now 56-year-old Astley’s early history — that is, before he signed with unstoppable production powerhouse Stock Aitken Waterman (SAW) at age 19 and began recording slick pop-soul bangers — they’d understand why he felt so comfortable to be garage-rock. He was actually playing with the soul band FBI, driving to pubs and clubs in his van and playing both originals and covers, when SAW discovered him. At first he resisted the producers’ offers, since they only wanted him as a solo act, but eventually curiosity got the better of him and he headed to London from Lancashire. “I honestly thought, ‘I’m going to do a single, I’m going to see my name on a single cover, on a vinyl record, and that’s going to be great.’ I didn’t believe in my wildest dreams, at that point, that they would become one of the biggest pop producers in Europe — if not the world,” says Astley.

By the time Astley was 21, he was a superstar after the SAW-produced “Never Gonna Give You Up” topped the charts in 17 countries. it was actually a No. 1 single in the UK and a No. 4 single in the US for the whole year of 1987. “Honestly, from being in a band with my friends, I signed a deal where the first song we put out right it became the biggest record in Britain,” marvels Astley. “It was just crazy, just crazy. I think I got carried away with it all, but it was pretty amazing. It’s a really cool feeling to have a No. 1 record everywhere, you know.”

Most critics at the time assumed that Astley was a SAW puppet, not realizing that he wrote or co-wrote four of the tracks on his 1987 debut album. Whenever You Need Someone. “I don’t blame them for not realizing it. if I was looking in from the outside, that’s exactly what I’d think too,” says Astley. “And I have no problem with any of that. If I thought I could have beaten “Never Gonna Give You Up,” I might have been jumping up and down saying, “Listen to my stuff!” But this is a very special song, you know what I mean?’

However, after his first album, Astley had enough with producers Mike Stock, Matt Aitken and Pete Waterman, as one of their previous signings, to have the freedom to submit his own material. “I just kept writing and kept trying and kept doing my demos in their studios at night or on weekends – even though I had hits by then,” he says. “And I was one of the lucky ones, in terms of spending a lot of time in their studios before I made my hit, so I got to do a lot of demos and get a feel for what they were doing. I’m not saying I could ever emulate that, because they were very good at what they did, but I got a little bit more into the mindset of what Pete Waterman wanted. So I wrote a song called “She Wants to Dance With Me” and put it in Pete’s office on a tape. He played it and then walked through the building saying “Rick just wrote his first single!” And so I got a single. And I got two on the next album. … Pete said to me over the years, ‘I always thought you could write songs one day, but you were a kid at the time and you needed help.’

Astley continued to earn hit after hit, but eventually the fame and fast lifestyle took their toll. “I was about 27 when I really stopped. I just said, “I’m done. I don’t want to do this anymore. I have no interest,” he recalls. “I was in a car with my manager, going to the airport and I had a little tear in my eye. I had developed a fear of flying and just felt like this was the time the plane wasn’t going to make it. And I thought, “Why am I doing this?” I think for a lot of artists that have been in those situations, they have someone around them, a manager or a road manager, who gives them a couple of drinks or two pills and says, “You’re going to be fine, we’re going to get you there.” But my manager wasn’t like that. He looked at me and said, “Okay then, let’s not do this again. Let’s go home.” So we went home instead.”

Astley continues: “I knew that if you call your record company and say, ‘I don’t want to do it anymore,’ chances are they’re not going to say, ‘Well, come back next year.’ They might do that if you’re Peter Gabriel, but not if you’re a pop singer.” And yet, he “never regretted, not once” his decision to take so many years off. “I thought if I was going to make hits again, I’d have to do it all over again, bust my ass again. But I just didn’t have it in me anymore, so I thought it was best to leave it where it was and say, ‘Well, I was good for a while,’ and that was it.”

But now that he thinks back, Astley smiles at the irony that his nerdy, boyish, ginger image—which shockingly clashed with his sonorous R&B vocals—earned him so much ridicule in the ’80s and ’80s. 90— in his favor all these decades later. “I’m kind of thankful I looked 12 back then, because I don’t look enough [my age] these days!” he quips. And while he’s clearly accomplished enough in his career so far to be considered “cool,” that’s still not his concern.

“I am beyond caring. I was past care in my twenties,” Astley — who released the Weeknd-esque disco banger “Unwanted” last year, recently formed a Smiths cover band with buzzy British indie band Blossoms and is currently part of the nostalgia tour Mixtape with the New Kids. on the Block, En Vogue and Salt-N-Pepa — he says with a shrug.

“Yeah, I’d like to be a drummer in a cool rock ‘n’ roll band, of course, but I’m not. And sure, it’s cool if someone thinks, “He’s really a real artist, he’s a musician,” but I can appreciate where I am in life and not be bothered by that “coolness.” I feel very lucky to have gotten into my situation, even though people have said all kinds of things about me that weren’t particularly nice. I don’t think after all these years because my life was so easy because I sang that song.”

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