Rick Astley: I genuinely don't get sick of Never Gonna Give You Up
Rick Astley is about to release a new album Beautiful Life, the follow-up to the platinum-selling record that returned him to the top of the charts. Andrew Arthur speaks to the singer who's almost synonymous with the 80s
AFTER topping the charts in 25 countries with one of the best-selling songs of the 1980s, you may have thought that success would have gone to Rick Astley head – not so, it would seem.
"I knew I wasn't cool. I just wasn't. Look at the videos!" a relaxed Astley (52) laughs.
The bequiffed singer seems totally at home reclining in an armchair when we meet. Throughout our conversation, Astley is friendly and self-effacing as he reflects on how much pop music has changed since his enduring classic Never Gonna Give You Up arrived 30 years ago.
"The sharp end of the business where I made my break still exists today. I think it is slightly different because I think pop is cooler than it was then. If you look at successful artists like Adele and Ed Sheeran, they are pretty cool as well.
"It's not like going back to the days where it was bright and breezy. They can sing really sincere, even dark songs with heavy lyrics and still be the biggest artist in the world.
"In terms of myself and how I would have fared now, I just think it was a very different time. I'm not saying that Never Gonna Give You Up is uncool. I'm saying I wasn't cool. I think there is a distinction there."
Under the guidance of production team Stock Aitken and Waterman the Lancastrian quickly shot to stardom.
When asked if he ever pushed back from the way he was marketed, Astley replies: "There was no time for that. The first time I went on Top Of The Pops, I turned up in a jacket I bought while doing a radio promotional tour in Scotland and found myself on TV in front of 12 million people. There was no kind of styling or strategy."
Astley is riding the wave of what many would have thought an unlikely comeback. His forthcoming album, Beautiful Life, is the follow-up to the platinum-selling 50, his first LP to reach number one in the UK since his debut Whenever You Need Somebody.
On his recent success, Astley again strikes a modest note.
"One of the main things I learned while touring the last record was people who get to a certain age still want to have a dance. It made me feel free to write some more uptempo tunes. It was a bit like my midlife crisis project and then we ended up having a number one album."
That Astley is still releasing new material is remarkable given that aged 27 he retired after selling 40 million records.
Disillusioned by the business side of the industry, he swapped the spotlight for family life to raise daughter Emilie with Danish film producer wife Lene Bausager. He was "happily invisible".
"It's is a daft and silly business. After doing it for five years I never fell out of love with music. I've always had a studio to potter about in. But the idea of having a major record deal and trying to have a worldwide hit record, knowing what that takes up of you as a person, I just wasn't willing to carry on.
"I got sick of it and the business and the public probably got sick of me. It was a good time to stop."
Yet despite having clocked up eight other top 10 hits, Astley doesn't resent his signature tune.
"I genuinely don't get sick of it," he says. "If it gets played in a bar here, it's not like it comes on and it sounds really naff. Well, I'm sure some people think that. But in terms of the general sound of it, I don't think it's uncool at all."
:: Beautiful Life is out on July 13.