Photo: krisez [Flickr]
All right, 'fess up: how many of you were Rickrolled yesterday on April Fools' Day?
With all the Rickrolling goin' on these past few months, most of us don't really know much about Rick Astley, the singer who enjoyed a resurgence in fame and unwittingly become the new face of Interweb prankery (is that a word? No? It should be!)
If you don't know much about Rick, here are some fun facts regarding the man behind the phenomenon (no Rickrolling, we promise, because Neatorama will never give you up and never let you down!):
1. Rick Astley was born Richard Paul Astley on February 6, 1966. It was a Sunday. Rick shares his birthday with Axl Rose (born Feb 6, 1962), Bob Marley (1945), Ronald Reagan (1911) and Babe Ruth (1895). No wonder he was destined for stardom!
2. Rick left school at the age of 16. He drove a delivery van for his family's business, a garden store.
3. If you think Rick is clean cut (okay, he did have long hair in Cry For Help ... ), that's because he is: heck, the guy was choir boy at his local church.
Oh, don't believe me? Here's a snippet from a 1988 Smash Hit interview:
Have you ever thought about getting your ear pierced?
"I haven't no. Never once. It used to be trendy and fashionable, but you see, when anything becomes trendy and fashionable, I don't like it. It's not because I want to be different, it's just that I don't want to be mega-fashionable. I never really fancied a hole in me ear anyway." (source)
4. Rick was a drummer for a local band called FBI. When the lead singer left, Rick volunteered to take on the role - it was a lucky stroke because pop mogul Pete Waterman of Stock, Aitken & Waterman saw him perform. Waterman made him (but not the band) an offer, but Rick turned him down out of loyalty to his friends.
The band FBI in 1984, from left to right: Kevin Needham, Rick Astley, Will Hopper, Peter Dale and Greg Smee. (Photo: Rick Astley's official website)
A year later, his bandmates felt guilty that they were holding Rick back and let him go to London to pursue his career ...
5. ... as a gofer for PWL Studios, Pete Waterman's production company. There, he learned the recording process and the record industry business before he resumed singing.
[Okay, this is only tangentially related: Pete Waterman is a phenomenally rich man. He bought 18 Ferraris at one go, was the first man to purchase the privatized British Rail, and once owned the legendary locomotive The Flying Scotsman (source). Don't know who he is? If you're in the UK, just check out Pop Idol - he's one of the judges]
6. Rick's first song was a duet titled "When You Gonna", with singer Lisa Carter. It was released under the simple name of "Rick & Lisa" and was a flop. Here's the YouTube clip (Pwnage at 1:25, 3:28 and 3:45!):
7. Two months after When You Gonna, Rick cut his first solo "Never Gonna Give You Up". The second time using "Gonna" did it for Rick - the song was a big hit. It stayed at number one for five weeks in the UK and was the best selling single of the year. Worldwide, it sold 15.2 million copies. It was 1987 and Rick was 21.
This one's not the rickroll video that most of you have seen before: it's a live performance in 1988. Well, you can consider it being rickrolled live!
In the (now famous again) music video, Rick sang in his trademark trenchcoat. Tech writer Mathew Ingram wrote in his column in The Globe and Mail, "In the video, he does his best to strike pop singer poses in a trenchcoat, but only succeeds in looking like a teenager performing in a high-school musical." But I think Mathew is just being jealous.
8. Rick Astley is listed in the Guiness Book of World Records for being the first male solo artist to have his first 8 singles reach the Top 10 in the UK. This feat has never been repeated since.
9. Tired of being hounded by the press and wanting to prove that "there was more to him than being merely a singer" (source) - though some say he developed a fear of flying and didn't want to tour anymore - Rick left Stock, Aitken & Waterman.
For much of the 1990s and early 2000s, Rick remained largely out of the spotlight, preferring to focus on his family life (Rick's parents divorced when he was four, and he feared that his career would wreck his family life).
Pete Waterman said this about Rick's retirement: "Rick walked away right at the height. People look at other artists like Simply Red and say they were big, but he out-sold them two to one." (source)
10. No, he's not gay. Rick lives with his Danish girlfriend Lene Bausager and their daughter Emilie. Actually, that's not the only popular misconception about Rick - when he was starting out, a lot of people assumed that Rick was a black man (because of his deep voice). Even after he made appearances, many people still thought that the skinny white guy was lip-synching to a song made by a black guy!
If you're still reading, my little confession: I actually like Rick Astley! Most of the time I got Rickrolled, I actually listened to the entire track. Why? I just wanna tell you how I'm feeling. Gotta make you understand ...