N is for Never Gonna Give You Up

N is for Never Gonna Give You Up (and no, this is not a Rickroll).

For the uninitiated, Never Gonna Give You Up was a 1987 song by British singer Rick Astley. It’s the song that catapulted me into listening to pop music. We all have that song, yes? Think back, and tell me which song it was for you.

Those were heady days back then, as I think I’ve mentioned in another post. The mid to late 80s were an awesome time to be young. There was a lot of good movies, a lot of good music, and a lot of great TV. I was breaking the mould of my childhood then. I was the child of an Hons Degree music teacher mother and a father who was just becoming more eclectic in his taste by discovering (and trying to foist on me) classical composers like Glazunov, I found the bubblegum, upbeat pop music of the day much more to my taste! And Never Gonna Give You Up came out at just about the right time to be the vehicle of my ride out of my parents opinion into my own.

Never Gonna Give You Up” was written and produced by Stock, Aitken & Waterman. The song was released as the first single from Astley’s multi-million selling debut album, Whenever You Need Somebody. The song was a worldwide number-one hit, initially in the singer’s native United Kingdom in 1987, where it stayed at number 1 for 5 weeks and was the best-selling single of that year. It eventually topped the charts in 25 countries, including the US and West Germany. [Wikipedia]  The song rode the airwaves like a bucking broncho back in those days. And then, like most of its counterparts, it slid into the annals of pop history. 

Until the internet picked it to be the song to be used whenever you wanted to Rickroll somebody. This is an internet based prank whereby you point somebody to a link and tell them that the link is about something they may be interested in. For example, you may know your friend is keen on Brad Pitt, so you send them a link and say it’s the latest about Brangelina. But when they click on it, it takes them to a youtube video of Never Gonna Give You Up.   Due to this phenomenon, in 2008, Rick Astley won the MTV EMA awards for “Best Act Ever” with the song “Never Gonna Give You Up”. Click here to read more about Rickrolling

There is another pop culture related phenomenon about “Never Gonna Give You Up” though. It’s become synonymous with an era where things were perceived to be good, honest, and innocent (I lived it, so I know it wasn’t always like that!) But the song itself tweaks the golden thread of humanity which is partly what this blog is about – the ability of musicians, artists, etc to be able to touch on the emotions of humans across all generations with their work. I don’t think this was Rick Astley’s intention when he made the song. I think he has unknowingly done it – and today the song signifies the good that people feel is lacking in today’s society. As long term fans of his, Rick never did give us up. He was always there, his music was there to see us through thick and thin where other people certainly did give us up, run around and desert us. That is the magic of music. That’s why it means so much to me. That song has strongly drawn the golden thread through generations, and if there’s one thing I’d like people to take from this post, is that if you find one day that there is nobody around, music is around. Music will never give you up. 

There is a well known internet meme about it: 

Interestingly, while Never Gonna Give You Up was initially my favourite Rick song, today I still think he has a fantastic voice but I prefer some of his slower tracks. I guess I’m getting older! Rick Astley would lend you any of his Pixar movies, but he’s never gonna give you Up. I will never give Rick up. 

A is for Astley – Rick Astley!

This post is dedicated to all the RICKETTES across the world!

For me, as a pop culture fundi, there can be no compromise on this one. Rick Astley is my be all and end all when it comes to pop music, and I’m not ashamed to admit it! He was my teenage crush deluxe, he was to me what Justin Bieber is to the screaming mass of teenage girls today. It’s got something to do with when you first become a teenager – you fall in love, and there’s nothing you can do about it, no matter who thinks who is cheesy and uncool – if you adore your idol, then you adore them.

Look closely at the pic I’ve shared here. I’ve shared a lot of pics with signatures on them, but not all of them have been signed specially for me. This one, Rick sent to me back in 1989!

Something about Rick Astley though. A promise he makes is a promise he keeps (yes, I know, it’s from a TV jingle). He never did give us up, run around or desert us. He took a break from music – it’s well known that he said he became fatigued with the travelling, the crazy bustling life when he was at the height of his fame, and the allure of his baby daughter and girlfriend at home were more appealing. Now though, his daughter is grown, his wife is busy with her own career, and he has been making music again, the most recent being a duet he recorded with Kim Wilde of Kids In America fame – a remake of the classic Christmas carol Winter Wonderland. If anyone knows where Rick finds his Elixir of Youth, please let me know as well!

As part of Stock Aitken and Waterman, who were known for good reason as “The Hit Factory,” and wrote and produced artists such as Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan, Bananarama, Big Fun, Mel and Kim and many many more, Rick was part of a steamroller of bubblegum pop that ruled the late 80s and early 90s. There was a headline published in South Africa’s Top 40 music magazine at the time that said “Music is a SAW point”. I loved most of SAW’s productions. I was mad for Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan, and found the beats that pumped out of my radio to be happy music. However, amongst all these acts – which, let’s face it, did produce a pretty generic sound, Rick’s deep soulful voice did stand out, and he was able to find longevity which did elude a fair number of the other acts. Top 40 music magazine also wrote that although Rick looked like the typical handsome, wholesome boy next door, his voice had staying power which meant that he was GOOD.

He still is. Because of apartheid and the politics of the day I waited until 2012 to get my chance to see him live – a wonderful experience I finally got when the Rewind Tour came to South Africa. I, together with many many other fans who had also waited this duration to see him, I was like a teenager again when he came. I knew the music would be good, but there was an added surprise. I’ve seen a few shows in my time, and Rick has a stage presence and the ability to captivate an audience with his jokes and personality that’s right up there with the best. You’ve got to see him, on stage.

All of you know Never Gonna Give You Up, Whenever You Need Somebody and Together Forever. You may not know Sleeping, Keep It Turned On, One Day at a Time or any of the other many songs Rick has released over the years. You’d be well worth checking them out on iTunes and buying them. Rick’s a dark horse with many surprises in store for you.

If you want to keep up with what he’s doing on a day to day basis, check out his official website. And if you’re in London you can catch him every Sunday on his own radio show on Magic!

Part of the premise of this blog is to celebrate the golden thread of humanity which every artist, musician, poet, writer, etc can tweak. And for me Rick Astley’s music has been the music I’ve turned to in so many trying situations, so many desperate times – to see me through, to lift me and to carry me. It’s connected me to so many friends on the internet, friends who I now share moments in time with. We’re the Rickettes and we’re proudly so. Rickettes, this one’s for you, and that’s pure gold.

This post forms part of a blogging challenge I’m doing, and for following posts, please search this blog as well as my other blog Typewrite Transcription.  Posts will come out on this blog on a Thursday, and on Typewrite Transcription on a Monday. Please comment and give me feedback.