Never gonna give you up - Rick Astley - 80sneverend - The tea boy

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Rick Astley – Never gonna give you up

We've known each other for so long
Your heart's been aching but you're too shy to say it
Inside we both know what's been going on
We know the game and we're gonna play it
#RickAstley #NeverGonnaGiveYouUp

On July 27, 1987, the career of an icon of the 80s apparently began. One of those unmistakable voices destined, with a not huge number of songs, to remain in the memories of us dinosaurs anyway. That day, in fact, Never Gonna Give You Up, the first unforgettable single by Rick Astley, was released.

Why did I say apparently? Certainly this is the release date of the song, therefore it’s Rick’s debut on the market, and the official start of his career; actually the release of this song was the conclusion of a process of approach that lasted years, led by the three shady figures Stock, Aitken and Waterman, in order to launch this very particular emerging figure.

Certainly the song had been ready for at least six months, but the three authors of serial productions were convinced that it was not a good time, the winter season between 1986 and 1987, to launch the good Rick, and therefore they decided to wait for the right moment, which according to them came precisely at the end of July 1987.

In reality, the story begins much further back, at least a couple of years earlier. Stock, Aitken and Waterman were starting to gain visibility and fame, and they were developing their foolproof method for success: they had created a library of templates, of musical examples to take inspiration from, and depending on the artist and the song they wanted to launch, they used combined two or more of these templates together to create songs that were new but not completely alien to the ears of listeners.

The story of this song, as we said, starts when the three producers meet the good Rick. They immediately realize two things: he is a really nice person, kind, pleasant and polite. But he also has flaws, one above all: Rick is very shy. At this point the three music devils make their first decisions: Rick is a talent and they have to write something for him. But first of all, they have to help him overcome his shyness, so that when the right time comes, he will not be betrayed by emotion, and indeed recording the song will be for him the most normal thing in the world.

As we said, Stock, Aitken and Waterman at this point were not yet the absolute masters of British pop, they were rather pioneers who were experimenting with a new method and were looking for good voices to launch. So in Rick’s eyes they didn’t have to seem so distant from him, and playing on this they had a brilliant idea to overcome Rick’s shyness: they became familiar with him, and offered him to come and work in their recording studio, to get some experience.

And so for a couple of years Rick became familiar with the instruments and the reels of recording, he acted as backup singer for other songs, in short, he settled among machines and among people. By the way, legend has it that Rick had a particular distinguishing talent: he could prepare a faboulous tea. Which in England is much appreciated, of course, and therefore it seems that every afternoon, when the tea time finally came, Rick absolutely became the king of the studio thanks to this very special talent.

While Rick became familiar with the environment, the three guys also thought about the song to write for him. There was a time when good Rick was also Pete Waterman’s roommate. One night, Pete was on the phone for hours with the woman he was in love with. At the end of Pete’s phone call, Rick, like all roommates, was obviously exhausted, and made a sharp comment: “You’re never gonna give her up”.

Waterman, though intoxicated by the loving feeling, had the clarity to understand that this was really a catchphrase. He talked to his shady buddies about it, and they worked to build a song around it. They decided to use as a main template a song by a dance music and later house music performer, Colonel Abrams, called Trapped. Poor Colonel Abrams passed away in 2016 after spending the last few years ill and homeless.

And so, after many backup choirs and cups of tea, the day of good Rick’s debut arrives. Of course it’s a success. Meanwhile Stock, Aitken and Waterman have refined their method and have already launched their first songs at the top of the British hit parade. A few months earlier, for example, they had launched the career of Mel and Kim thanks to their songs Showing out (Get fresh at the weekend) and Respectable. The songs of the three producers were all different but also all a bit the same, but as we said, perhaps this too contributed to making their hits more catchy to the general public.

It was a success, we said. Never gonna give you up passed one of the most difficult tests: to reach the top of the hit parade not only in England, but also in the United States. Rick wasn’t particularly ambitious, but he was absolutely careful to many details, and he understood that American radios would be fundamental in sustaining the success of his song. So he tried to break through that environment, and he succeeded. To give an idea, the songs by Stock, Aitken and Waterman reached the top of the English hit parade thirteen times, in addition to Mel and Kim we also remember for example the very young Kylie Minogue of I should be so lucky; of these thirteen times, however, only three times did they even reach the top of the American hit parade. And of those three songs, two were by Rick Astley (besides this one, it will also happen to Together Forever). The third song, by the way, was Venus, in the Bananarama version.

We should also remember that, a short time later, Rick had the great merit of first doubting the three producers, and soon looking for a new label to produce his songs, and was followed by many, which triggered the slow decline of the three serial creators.

Never gonna give you up also had a video, of course, for which producers and directors came to discuss whether Rick should sing with his sleeves rolled up or not, but in any case a simple but nice video, a bit like him. As we said, Rick was good, kind, nice, shy, but he was not a fool at all! In fact, he was one of the very few artists who, when he realized that his career and his period of fame were ending (we are in the early nineties), he retired without problems, with a solid financial situation that allowed him and his family to live without problems. In short, he had managed not to waste anything and make the right investments to protect the future of him and his family. Well done Rick!

There is one last funny thing to remember. In 2007, for April Fool’s Day, a joke originated on the net that soon went viral. In those days internet was different from the one we know today; social networks were just emerging and YouTube was not yet a Google property. Well, in a few hours a joke called “Rickrolling” spread: on many serious sites (insurance companies, banks, companies) a link was changed, and for April Fool’s day whoever clicked on that link ended up on a YouTube video, an old video recording of Never Gonna Give You Up. Of course Rick had nothing to do with it, and he didn’t even have his own channel or an official version of the video on YouTube, but this pleased him and also allowed him to have some visibility again by returning to the scenes as a caricature of himself. So he made some fun of people being Rickrolled, and he did it mostly for fun and a sense of humour.

Even today Rick remembers those days of absolute madness, adding that it was weird for him to see in every corner the himself of twenty years before! In short, a great singer, but above all a great person. And an absolute icon of the eighties!

Rick Astley on Wikipedia

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