If you’ve been on the internet in the last five years, chances are you’ve heard Rick Astley’s dulcet tones; and it probably wasn’t by choice.
Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up”, if you haven’t been on the internet in the last five years, is part of something called ‘Rickrolling’ – when someone gives you a link to something seemingly relevant, but…nope. It’s the gloriously synthesised opening chords of the 1987 pop hit.
The popstar has no doubt been asked about the phenomenon by every single journalist since its inception, and the 80s pop sensation graciously answered a few more questions about it once again for Tone Deaf.
“It’s a bit odd obviously, because I’m the ‘Rick’ in Rickrolling,” Astley says, on the phone from the other side of the world.
He has a pretty good idea on why his song is used: “If I’m honest, it’s because the video is so cheesy,” he concedes. “It sort of has an ironic quality,” he laughs, adding, “putting it nicely.”
He draws on old heavy rock videos for comparison. “At the time, it was super cool to see Slash on top of a mountain with an eagle on his arm. That was rock’n’roll.”“It’s a bit odd obviously, because I’m the ‘Rick’ in Rickrolling,”
Still, he admits that he’s still proud of “Never Gonna Give You Up”. “When I play it live, it brings back some good memories, so I can’t knock the song.”
As for that pesky question – does he ever Rickroll his friends? – Astley swears he doesn’t. “I’ve Rickrolled people professionally, for a lot of money,” he explains, referencing 2008’s Macy’s Day Parade. “My family and I got a week in New York, which was quite nice.”
The man is more than that one song though. Besides “Never Gonna Give You Up”, which was a #1 hit in 25 countries, Astley is the only male solo artist to have his first eight singles reach the Top 10 in the UK, and was voted “Best Act Ever” at the MTV Europe Music Awards in 2008.
Not a bad track record for someone best known as the inspiration for ‘Rickrolling’ to people under 25.
The infamous internet meme did have its benefits for Astley’s career though – Rickrolling has been credited with allowing him to make a comeback – though he doesn’t call it that.
Viewing it as more of a weekend job, one where he chooses the gigs he wants, “which means I’m obviously very, very lucky.” Nowadays, he still dabbles with different instruments in his “little studio”, and plays in a band with his mates.
He doesn’t consider himself part of the “music scene”, but does have some thoughts on today’s industry: “[Musicians] play live a lot more to make a living. In my day it was the other day around; you went on tour because you had a new album. It’s switched around now, you make a new album so you can go out and tour it.” The changes are however, he feels, “for the better.”
Moving away from the music talk, he says “honesty, for my life for the most part, I was a stay-at-home dad.” Now that his daughter is 20 and studying in Denmark, he and his wife are considering moving from London and finding a new place to live.
“Basically, I’ve devoted myself to a family life,” the 46-year-old reflects, “with a new chapter in life. We’re thinking of going to live in the Mediterranean, which I know sounds ridiculous, as it makes me seem fully retired.”“When I play ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ live, it brings back some good memories, so I can’t knock it.”
He’s not retired just yet though. Astley will be making his way down to Australia, performing along the east coast, from Tweed Heads to Melbourne.
These shows are the first Astley’s had in Australia for 20 years, but it’s not the first time he’s been asked to come down. “To be honest, I said no to several [offers],” he admits.
The Englishman is not a big fan of flying, and the trip from Europe to Australia isn’t exactly a quick one. The previous schedules had flights “to New Zealand, then to Perth, we’re going to fly here, we’re going to fly there,” which didn’t appeal to him. “I can do it, but it’ll stress me out, and then it’s not enjoyable for me.”
Astley prefers to drive. “You get a sense of where you are and what you’re doing,” he explains. “What I used to do when I was younger is you’d get picked up in a big, black car, get taken to a nice hotel, go to a big, metal hangar of a place; do a gig, get back in the car, and then go to the airport. That’s it. Could be anywhere in the world.”
Driving isn’t “a cop out” for him. Rather, he sees it as a chance to do things that he didn’t get the chance to do the first time round. “I never got in the back of a van and toured around Europe,” he remembers.
“I went from a hit single to playing Wembley Arena for two nights!” Besides, the view is great. “Most people who tour Spain will fly from Barcelona to Madrid, but it’s one of the most incredible drives you’ll do – stunning!” he gushes.
There’s no word on whether Australia will match up to the Spanish countryside, but the east coast can rest easy knowing that Astley is sure that “even just the drive between Sydney and Melbourne will have highlights.”
In the meantime, fans can do as much Rickrolling as they like, knowing that it is completely Astley-approved. This certainly means a showing of his 1987 hit in his current tour. A song – it seems – Astley is never gonna give up.
Rick Astley is currently on tour around Australia. Full dates and details here.